“Religion” has become a bad word. It embodies everything that’s wrong with faith. It’s mere mention conjures up images of teetotaling, no-fun-having, isolated people who look down the end of their nose at mere mortals who do things like play cards and go to the movies. Religion – and its more accusatory adjective: religious – has become the “segregation” of the church, the dated way of thinking that shames and mortifies us when we think about it, forget the idea of talking about it. “How could we have been so foolish?” is the cry of those who have “been set free” from the shackles of religion. Of course that question of foolishness leads to regret, and ultimately, to resentment. Many people are suffering with resentment issues regarding the “religious” past the church dragged them through. When you’re stricken with resentment, there is no joy in the fact that the church has seen the error of her ways and repented. There is no joy in any recovery of the true center of our faith. There is simply anger. There is blame.
Some of the angry, resentful people still show up for worship on Sunday mornings. They might even tithe! Of course, many have abandoned the church house and opted for the increasingly popular, “I love Jesus but hate the church” lifestyle. In some situations it’s nice and easy to take an everyman for himself approach, and let the disgruntled figure things out for themselves. In other instances, the resentful individual is a close friend or a family member and our love for them compels us to help them. Or most painfully, maybe the angry soul is a child, and as a parent, your overwhelming sense of guilt (again, think segregation) drives you to rescue a wandering son or daughter.
No matter what the specifics may be, we know that God loves people! God’s intention is that humanity would live in a loving relationship with him and with each other. And of course, we must remember that by “loving” I’m referring to biblical, self-denying, God-honoring love, NOT the “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” kind of love. This is a messy subject, filled with complex angles and nuance, but it’s a very real issue that not only affects the individual afflicted souls, but their family and friends (especially parents). So what I’m intending to do is talk about the nature of religion and the nature of the human heart. I’m thinking that neither one is nearly as bad nor good as we tend to think they are. Of course, when I phrase it that way, most will probably agree with the statement, but our unplanned, reflexive attitudes towards the two are usually quite different. In the end, my desire is discover a more wise, God-like perspective on what the (Pentecostal/fundamentalist) church has done in his name, AND why we struggle so ineffectively to deal with it.