I believe in God, but I really struggle with believing in organized religion.
If I didn’t believe in God, Someone who loves me in spite of who I am, not because of who I am, I don’t think I’d be able to keep my footing.
Neither drugs nor drink “does it” for me. I don’t have a desire to be high or out of it; though from time to time I want to run and hide, running really isn’t my modus operandi. No, I like to look my Goliaths in the eye and challenge them to try and crush me.
Sometimes, they almost do …but there is something about believing in God and in God’s son Jesus that gives me a weird ability to find another breath, not necessarily a second breath, but perhaps a sixth or seventh one.
It is my faith that God IS that keeps me afloat. God’s presence is a source of empowerment and encouragement, a nudge at times and a shove at others, moving me from a place that I definitely need to leave to a place where I definitely need to be.
But organized religion…that’s another story.
Anne Rice says she’s left Christianity but not Christ. I have written that I understand, and I do. From where I sit, religion, in this case Christianity, has been horrible at practicing the tenets of God. Rather, Christianity (and probably all religions) has succumbed to the desire for power, money and control. Prelates from the beginning of time have used religion to control people and manipulate them into supporting their desire for power, leaving their “call” to teach people about God pushed disrespectfully to the curb.
We humans have what might be called the “Lucifer Syndrome,” a name for pride that I have coined. Lucifer, you remember, lost status in heaven because he wanted to be God. Lucifer was an angel who fell from grace because he didn’t want to follow god. He wanted to be God, to usurp God’s position.
God’s “way” seems relatively simple and straightforward: Love everyone. Be obedient to God. Do those two things and we will find peace.
But we are forever adolescents: we want our way and we fight authority. Seeing as how God is invisible to the human eye and can only be verified as a real entity by the faithful, we humans do what any teen without supervision does: we go wild, doing our own thing, going our own way.
Religious leaders know us; they devised a system of laws and rules designed to keep us in place and keep us beholden to them. People get so involved in following the rules of humans that they (we) forget to follow the directives of God.
Getting so caught up in rule-following does a couple of things: it makes it easy for us to develop a sense of superiority which in turn allows us to be horribly unkind to each other, and it effectively keeps us from being in communion and communication with God.
It is the communion and communication with God which makes one spiritual.
Spiritual living makes us breathe differently. We desire to breathe our humanness out so that we can make room for the spirit of God within us. Religion makes being able to do that very hard.
Then, adding insult to injury, we non-spiritual religious types get involved not in loving and accepting each other, but in denigrating and criticizing each other. Why would a church put a young boy named Ryan White out of the church (or maybe even prevent him from coming in)? Why would a church burn copies of the Koran, the holy and sacred book for Muslims? Where is the compassion described in the gospels, stories where we see a man talking and mingling with “the least of these,” letting them know how special they were in the eyes of God?
It is this hope for redemption that even religious types preach and present as they attempt to “get souls for Christ.” People want and need to be redeemed, forgiven, accepted. But once the people are “in” the church, they become lost in the rules, laws, doctrine and dogma of their church, things which allow and perhaps encourage those who are religious to look down upon those who are not.
I suggested to someone that as I read the Gospels, and even parts of the Book of Acts, I feel that were he alive, someone would call him a Socialist or a Nazi. We want God on our terms, so that we can do what we want but run to God for cover and comfort when things go awry.
Like we did when we were teens, or perhaps wanted to do.
Sometimes I want to scream out, “Hang religion!” but then I think of the people who still come with hope and yearning in their eyes. Rice said she refused to be “anti” so many things that apparently make people appear “religious.” The emphasis is on the word “appear.” Appearance is not truth. Everyone who says he or she is Christian is not. Maybe that’s a reason Jesus said many are called but few are chosen.
Maybe five people come with the yearning eyes. We have to minister to them. That part of this pastor thing is great …
But rules, doctrine and documents, combined with our tendency to push God the Father and Jesus the Christ aside… is only going to make people more and more skeptical about that to believe. They will remain members of Christianity but they will have the honor of joining a religious person, a so-called Christian …but “the Christ” will be nowhere in proximity.
And that is a candid observation.