The “R” Word

Religion is bad, but how we are trying to deal with it is wrong.

Hypocrisy, legalism, judgmental attitudes and many of the other traits associated with the “R” word are wrong, evil and sinful.  Followers of Jesus should work against these things. However, the current status quo of how we try to deal with these issues is backwards and futile.

The current status quo is to decry the horrors of religion and then point it out in the lives of others, often even as we are blind to and ignore the religion in our own hearts for a variety of reasons, possibly including the two I have just identified.

This situation is enabled because it seems no matter who you are, or how religious you are, one can always find someone more religious than you to point a finger at.

Self-righteous atheists attack all religious people…

hypocritical Pentecostals point a finger at Evangelicals…

graceless Evangelicals attack Protestants…

judgmental Protestants throw rocks at Anglicans..

and everyone hates Catholics, etc.

Not only is this status quo a form of self-righteousness, one of the very traits that most people would lump under the R” word, but it is completely pointless because it does not change anything.

The underlying issue crippling this approach is not hypocrisy but what psychologists would call projection.

In this situation we are prone to take something that we do not like about ourselves and, instead of dealing with our own junk, we project it onto other people and hate them for it. We all know that the negative traits associated with religion are bad and no one wants to be religious, but it is easier to point it out in others than it is to admit what is in our own hearts. We all know that being a hypocrite is bad, but it is way easier to find a grain of hypocrisy in someone else and call them out on it, than deal with the catastrophic hypocrisy in our own hearts. This has been with humanity for a long time and Jesus spoke to our desire to fix the speck in our brother’s eye while we still have a plank in ours a very long time ago.

Some of my readers might point out that my second page, where I decry the religion I see in so many other Christians, is exactly what I am talking about here.  And you would be right. Even if I am correct and other people are very religious and blind to it, that does not guarantee that I am not religious. Aside from highlighting the problem (which may serve a purpose) it really does not deal with eliminating any of these traits in my life or anyone else’s. In addition to this, I am sure people could dig through my blog and find old things I have written or remember old conversations with me or old status updates that reveal just how religious I was or still am.

You’re right and I echo the words of George Whitefield who said, “[In response to critical hate-mail.] As for what you and my other enemies are saying against me, I know worse things about myself than you will ever say about me.”

Whatever someone could find on my blogs or my Facebook or remember from a conversation they had with me, that pales in comparison to what I know about my own heart. I am all too aware of my own failings more than anyone else will ever know. I know how quickly I judge people, how I extend grace imperfectly, how self-righteous I can be on even the smallest thing, and I catch and am grieved over the slightest hypocrisy in my life. From all this I fully acknowledge that I am still too religious and want to see the fruits of the Spirit, (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control) flow more naturally and freely in my life than they do now.

This is all part of my point. The solution to the “R” word is not pointing fingers at the religious people “out there” but dealing with the hypocrisy, legalism, judgmental attitudes, homophobia, political compromises, self-righteousness and other disgusting darkness in your own heart and in your own community.

I cannot deal with the religion in my own heart by pointing out the religion in other people’s lives and I do not expect to. I am going to get there by continuing to deal with my own issues.   I am going to get there by admitting what is wrong in my own heart, confessing it to someone else, and then changing the way I think and act.

At the end of the day I think the prophet Joel said it best and my generation would be wise to listen to him.  Joel called for the people of God to rend their hearts and not their garments. In those days tearing one’s garments was a sign of deep grief.  The point Joel was making, was  call for them to really change and not just an outwards show of repentance.

If you really think these traits are bad an incompatible with loving Jesus, stop talking about how much you hate religion, and be honest with the ways in which you are graceless, judgmental, hypocritical, nationalistic, homophobic, self-righteous, selfish, unthinking, controlled and controlling. Then change your ways.

About Speakfaithfully

I am figuring out life and faith and taking other people along with me on my journey. Sometimes as fellow travelers, sometimes as hostages.
This entry was posted in Faith, Personal Commentary and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The “R” Word

  1. jrlookingbill says:

    ‘Captain Obvious’ can be very much forgiven so long as he admits to his own failings, which you have done eloquently. What’s more, others are challenged by this to do less work ‘hating religion’ and more looking in the mirror. I hope other people make us of this because I must not be the problem. 😉

  2. Phil Bjornberg says:

    Reinforces what I learned in a community of broken folks participating with God’s grace to practice daily progress not perfection: “Today I know that I am the problem.” Thanks for laying yourself out there Kevin.

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