I’m Not Religious, I’m Christian

26Jan08

We have all heard the statement, “Christianity is a relationship, not a religion”. The fact is that Christianity by definition is a religion. But as a Christian, I understand what this statement means. It is very much about who Jesus is in my life. Some people don’t understand it. The definition of the word religious says that I have a set of beliefs that I adhere to. This is true, but it is so much more than that.

As I was browsing around the blog world tonight, I ran across a blog by Ally Simpson. He had a quote by U2 front man Bono. I think it speaks perfectly to how I feel about whether or not I am involved with a religion.

“Religion can be the enemy of God. It is often what happens when God, like Elvis, has left the building. A list of instructions where there was once conviction; dogma where once people just did it; a congregation led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit. Discipline replacing discipleship.” What do you think?

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35 Responses to “I’m Not Religious, I’m Christian”

  1. Although “religion” and “religious” have become dirty words in our time, I am reluctant to throw them out altogether; I think that the problem is how we practice our religion. Our practice of religion has created so much strife over “right” ways to do things. Even worse, the strife saps all of our energy and attention leaving us with nothing left to apply to what James describes as true religion: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (1:27).

  2. I agree to a certain extent with that quote. I believe that man has stepped in more than once and took over the Holy Spirit’s job. Why that happens I’m not quite sure, but it has something to do with man’s pride and lust for power.

    There was a point in my life where I realized that I am a Christian. I am not a Lutheran or a Baptist. I pick those because I grew up in a Lutheran church and am now a member of a Baptist church. I am defined by the fact that I am a Christ follower and that I follow the teachings of the Word of God. I can’t allow myself to be defined by people, programs, or places. If I do then I can easily get worked up over issues that don’t matter. We tend to focus more on the music, who can serve communion, and who gets to lead than who have found salvation and if they are going in their relationship with the Lord.

  3. I don’t know – isn’t the opposite of being religious being agnostic? One is either atheist or theist and within the realm of theism one is either religious or agnostic. The truly agnostic person believes that ‘something’ bigger than us likely is out there but is open to all possibilities, refraining from a life of devotion. But a religious person would seem to have a clearer idea as to what God might be (although not necessarily too clear) and would tend to order their lives around this ultimate importance. You wouldn’t need to join a ‘religion’ to be religious about God.

    And I think most of the people that we would call religious actually are not, in that the idea of God is not ever present in their lives. Creatures of habit might be a better description. And part of the problem is that the ‘religions’ have been very successful in usurping God’s role in the lives of the religious, replacing his presence with ideas and ‘truths’ that have been dictated by men, which tends to obscure individual revelation. We are discouraged from working out our own understanding of God (who we can not completely understand) and instead we are told to accept an understanding that others have worked out and agreed upon in the past. The adherent must adhere to protocols, customs, creeds and behavior patterns or else they are ‘outside’ of the religion.

    Is there ever an instance where organized religion does not devolve into some type of legalism?

  4. 4 Jason

    “And part of the problem is that the ‘religions’ have been very successful in usurping God’s role in the lives of the religious, replacing his presence with ideas and ‘truths’ that have been dictated by men, which tends to obscure individual revelation. We are discouraged from working out our own understanding of God (who we can not completely understand) and instead we are told to accept an understanding that others have worked out and agreed upon in the past. The adherent must adhere to protocols, customs, creeds and behavior patterns or else they are ‘outside’ of the religion.”

    What?

  5. 5 Jason

    And how do equate legalism with tenets of biblical faith?

  6. 6 christi

    Inworship,
    I agree that there is a huge difference. I read your blog that you wrote when torn up about what the label “christian” has come to represent to most. When I claimed Christianity, I came to a point where I was also torn up about this. It is definitely something to mourn, right along with the abandon of true Christianity for pure “religion.” This may be off subject for this particular blog, but it goes with your other one I was referring to: I was deeply moved one time when I was watching a televised Beth Moore lesson and she offered apologized to everyone for wrongful actions and attitudes that Christians have attached Christ’s name to. Then she asked everyone in the audience to turn to their neighbor and do the same, if they felt so moved. No, this doesn’t change what’s happened…. but it’s an exercise of attitude. Her point was that even if we weren’t the ones to individually do something, somebody somewhere needs to mourn over this kind of stuff and apologize to people, so that they can see what it really looks like. This doesn’t just apply to the issue of the label of Christianity, though. When somebody shares with me something awful that has happened to them, abuse or whatever it be, I try to remember to let my very first response be to look them in the eyes as sincerely and tenderly as I can and just simply say “I’m so sorry that happened to you.”
    Sorry to get off topic… your other blog just struck me late last night (without time to comment), and this one connected with it in my mind.

    Christian, that second paragraph…
    I might have to quote you on that… beautifully and wisely said.

    And Jason, I think the point Christian was making was that legalism indeed does not equate with the tenets of biblical faith (at least not as it’s focus), but that organized religion, unfortunately, too often “devolves” (good word, Christian) into this.

  7. 7 Jason

    In isolation, I completely agree that there is no religious bureaucracy, Christian or otherwise, which did not start out or end up, or will end up, legalistic. But too often biblical faith, the receiving and giving of the gospel of Jesus Christ and doing those good things which God has laid out before us, is said to be legalism.

    So perhaps Christian wasn’t making a straight line between superimposed dots of religion-tenets-organization-legalism.

    But more often than not, in this discussion, tenets = The Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is presented as a hindrance to some vague spirituality. Which is a consistent theme in just these sorts of discussions. But maybe I’m wrong.

    So, what do you mean, C?

  8. I think Christi said it well. It’s not about having any problems with Christian tenets (although I am not convinced all of them derive from the Gospels) but the idea that someone is being told that this is what they must believe in order be in right standing with God. I don’t think you can force yourself into believing certain things, even if compelled by established authority. Instead what we have are large groups of people claiming to believe certain things about God but developing little faith in God. (In my admittedly limited observation.)

  9. 9 Jason

    Movin on.

    I appreciate aspects of the quote, but bumper stickers always leave out something.

    For instance, conviction in what? Convicted by our thin gruel of goosebumps and bees-in-our-bonnets, or by God’s word? Would a conviction lacking, or in opposition to, biblical grounding be related to being led by the Holy Spirit? What would lead us to believe this?

    Discipine replacing discipleship? Who could possible imagine one without the other? In fact, the bible is insurmountably clear that God does not view one and the other as anything but two sides of the same coin. But if one could imagine such a relationship, what of the passages in which the two are unavoidably linked?

    It is doubtless that religion can and is very often the enemy of Jesus Christ. But in our current culture, in which words are either attributed no meaning or meaning via the sample size of one, no matter what is actually there, a quote such as that, which I would affirm in certain settings, may leave me affirming something to another person which I would never, ever say if I understood their paradigm.

  10. 10 Jason

    So you did or didn’t equate biblical tenets with an actual Christian faith, including the gospels in their entirety?

  11. The ‘discipline vs discipleship’ line is a little bit confusing. I think that maybe he was touching on the fact that for a lot of people discipline has been presented in a (here we go again) legalistic fashion. For example, how is fasting a discipline when performed one time a year at the behest of the church leadership (I’m talking about when someone tells me that they’re giving up MTV for Lent and then asks about my intentions.) Perhaps this is an example of misplaced energy.

  12. The ‘discipline vs discipleship’ line is a little bit confusing. I think that maybe he was touching on the fact that for a lot of people discipline has been presented in a (here we go again) legalistic fashion. For example, how is fasting a discipline when performed one time a year at the behest of the church leadership (I’m talking about when someone tells me that they’re giving up MTV for Lent and then asks about my intentions.) Perhaps this is an example of misplaced energy.

  13. Of course Christian faith must include an acceptance of certain Biblical tenets. But there is confusion within the church on many of these. For example, a personal anecdote;

    My wife and I were both baptized as infants. We never really had any sort of faith until we both accepted Christ in our early forties. Now,after immersing ourselves in the Bible, we felt that we were ready to be truley ‘baptized’ – to partake in an open and outward symbolic act announcing our committment to Christ. We were told by our pastor, however, that the denomination we belonged to did not recognize ‘re-baptism’ and this could not be permitted. Now, our pastor held this to be a strongly held tenet of the faith. We felt that it was more like a denominational doctrine that (at least at that particular time) obscured the Gospel.

  14. 14 Jason

    “The ‘discipline vs discipleship’ line is a little bit confusing”

    That is veyr interesting. I went to Church discipline, not Spiritual disciplines, and the reason was that, with the former, the commonality is some facet of a relationship, and with the latter, I can’t actually see a commonality.

    But where you went with it C, especially considering that, though Christ said, “..when you fast”, not fasting is not, to the best of my knowledge outside of national Israel, not a sin apart from just the sort of additional rules about which I think we can agree. Not fasting, perhaps can be seen as lacking a positive, but I can’t see how it could be considered a sin.

    And the giving up something for lent thing puzzles me, but whatever, if such a gesture brings one’s mind back to Christ and him crucified, great. I can’t see how, but, great. But I would agree, that take is a great example of “misplaced energy” if such a practice is dogmatized.

  15. 15 Jason

    “Now, our pastor held this to be a strongly held tenet of the faith. We felt that it was more like a denominational doctrine that (at least at that particular time) obscured the Gospel.”

    I’m gettin all warm inside.

    I would broadly agree with the second statement. There are, of course, individual examples, in that, there are many Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Catholics who do not view their faith as a forgone conclusion because mommy got em wet. But I would agree that, in the quite common absence of quality discipleship of children, paedo-baptism does obscure the Gospel for many.

    And I would love to pull the skin off the denominational rule and see what meat was underneath. As, I presume, you would, too.

  16. Well that was my experience with fasting at my old church. It was presented in a communal fashion, which was fine by me, but the end result was that people made a point of being very open about their ‘sacrifice’ (it was not presented as spiritual discipline). I got the distinct impression that peer pressure was the driving force here, not an effort to find closer communion with God. I actually thought that perhaps my wife and I were alone in this understanding until I discovered that Buddy had come to the same conclusion. And I need to stress that both of us were hesitant at first to discuss this openly with each other, each afraid to rock the boat. We both felt that to engage in something, not because it was on our hearts but instead to please the majority, was a form of legalism.

  17. I grew up from the age 5-15 in a religious home, deacons, elders, pastors at my home alot..what I saw was a business and alot of selfish acts and putting on masks before church, and I rejected it and was on my own at 15. Religion called it tough love, let her out there til she breaks. I have forgiven them, but now feel sorry for them..relationship is what it is all about, and the Lord does want a relationship, not religious rite. The church is important also in this picture for teaching, fellowship, and accountability (just to name a few), but individually there has to be more than just bulletins, and music and teaching on Sunday..relationship, I don’t know where I would be with out it, but I know it wouldn’t be good.

  18. Very cool discussion gang. I’ve been at church and with family all morning and it is really encouraging to come home and find this.

    I won’t try to respond individually to people here, but I do want to take a second and welcome Christi. Thanks for stopping in and making yourself at home. I appreciated meeting you on Mandy’s blog the other day and I am excited you came by here.

    Odgie and Amy I know you guys lurk most the time, but I love it when you jump in 🙂

    It’s always interesting to take a statement like this and not be able to understand context or tone and try to understand it completely. Obviously when I read it, it made me think about how I would try and define the difference.

    I think the key is that I am religious in my relationship with God. But it has nothing to do with a set of rules or process, it has everything to do with what my heart desires. I desire to prove my life to Him. I desire to take on lifestyle changes and routines that will take more of me out of the equation and fill me with more of Him.

    Fasting came up and is a good example on the good and bad of our relationship with God. It can become meaningless. There are things we do everyday to deepen our relationship with God, but over time if the intent is to just do instead of to honor, they become meaningless.

    What are the tenets of faith? This is a good question because Christian you said it well when you brought whether it was a tenet of faith or denomination. We are watching th Word of God taken daily and changed from honest relationship even honest ritual and changed into rule. I think there are absolutely wonderful religious routines in the Christian faith, but they always lead us closer to God, not farther away(Take a simple daily Bible reading time as example).

    I think as Odgie said, I would not throw out the “religious” title. in fact I thin it fits nicely as it defines a style of living that I have committed to to prove my love to my Savior.

    @Christi thanks for your thoughts on my other post regarding the title of “Christian”. It hurts to see it damaged as it is so often. Look at what these Westboro Baptist freaks are doing with the name right now. It saddens me. The example you gave of listening to someone and making a habit of responding to them is a wonderful example of grace. this mornings message at church was on grace and it was excellent to be challenged to look at our behaviors as we relate and respond to people.

  19. “I am religious in my relationship with God” that is so it!! That is a phrase I will adopt..thanks for saying it so well!

  20. I have been a church goer for over 60 years, taught Sunday School for 45 years – teens and adult classes. Church board member most of those 45 years. I have seen the best with the worst. I have been well received at times and also a “trouble maker” at times. The church has been the football field where I developed my relationship with Christ. Sometimes I score touch downs, but I have to admit at times I get called with a personal foul. So far my coach, “JC” keeps putting me in. I keep asking him for a sub, or let me retire, but He just keeps pushing me out on the field! I am getting tired.

  21. Uh-oh, Brent. I’ve got a feeling someone is going to bustin’ you on your intolerance of Fred Phelps and friends. 🙂

    Hey, Papa – play on, dude. The Coach knows how much jazz you’ve got left in ya. I just finished watching the movie “Amazing Grace” and what you said reminded me of how Wilberforce kept pluggin’ away and pluggin’ away. When he thought it was all over not only did he help win the game but he kept on doing God’s work for another 30 or so years.

  22. Please coach! Let me set out 1 quarter, please??? No ??!! Here I go again!! I’ll try my best!!

  23. Haha!!

    I love this. Indian Lake Papa, there will be time to rest “someday”. Just keep going for it!

    Christian, Am I going to have to stop the car and tell you and Buddy to knock it off 🙂

    You know, Wilberforce’s life is a good example of religion for purpose…you think?

  24. Bono Rocks. The man is gifted with talent (singing), wisdom, and heart (mercy). The “discipline replacing discipleship” part is a zinger.

    A friend of mine once said, “I feel like a human-doing… no longer a human being.”

    And Eugene Peterson’s interpretation of Galatians 5:6 in The Message speaks volumes: For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.

  25. Sorry, dad.

  26. bono can preach

  27. Or as Brent might put it; “Bozo can peaches”

  28. Hahahahaha!!!!!!

    Yes…I can laugh at myself…

  29. “I feel like a human-doing… no longer a human being.”

    ric, that is a great quote.

  30. “Or as Brent might put it; “Bozo can peaches”

    HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

    AAAAAAAAAAAAA

    HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!

    That caught me off guard – that is some fine funny!

  31. I’ve always liked the thought of being of faith…not religious. Anyone can say they believe in Christ, but how many can say they worship Him?

  32. Hey blessed1, I think you hit it on the head for me. In our action, God is most interested in our heart. If there is no heart in our action…they are “filthy rags”

  33. You like the coffee cup?? Nice huh? It’s taunting this time of night. 😉

    Thanks for “visiting” 😉

    I’ve decided to keep it up, it will come in handy with the grandparents once we leave.

  34. 34 Jason

    hi b,

    “If there is no heart in our action…they are “filthy rags””

    Aren’t they filthy rags regardless?

  35. Hey Jason, Isaiah 64 says that “we are filthy” because of turning away from God. But the implication in verse 5 for me, is that at one time God was pleased with “us”.

    5 You come to the help of those who gladly do right,
    who remember your ways.
    But when we continued to sin against them,
    you were angry.
    How then can we be saved?

    6 All of us have become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
    we all shrivel up like a leaf,
    and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

    I don’t see anything we bring Him as perfect…in a sense everything we have to offer is “filthy”. But He is pleased when we offer our selves in honest surrender. And in turn I believe He accepts our offerings, not as filthy, but as true worship.



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