Thursday, April 02, 2009

Faith v Religion

I admit it, church-people sometimes drive me crazy. I have a much harder time loving people that have gone to church their entire lives, than I often do the pot-smoking, social alcoholic freshmen we sometimes work with at Ohio State. I'm not alone; want to guess who the people Jesus was constantly in debates with? The same people that crucified him, the religious people!
The difference is faith vs religion I think. Melissa and I have talked about this for quite some time with a great deal of people. Faith is what makes you move and think and be. It stirs your heart and is the core of who you are. Religion is just something you do. It's a hobby, a part-time thing that has no bearing on your inner-self. We most likely all know some religious people. They love to claim Christian values (usually no smoking/drinking type values which aren't Christian per se, but that's neither here nor there). They love to be seen at church and seen as important people in the church. They love to thump you with the Bible, though they've usually failed to search it for themselves, they're simply passing on information they've heard before. Often they belong to a particular denomination or sub-division within Christianity, and preach it to others, though really they've not researched, explored, or sought out anything other than their particular group.

I hesitate to say this, but they remind me of Muslims a great deal. When Melissa and I spent a year in Central Asia we daily ran into this type of Islam. Not the fanatical, but the kind that was based more on culture and religion than based on faith. They were Islamic because that's what they were raised. They adhered to it because, well, everyone else did. Few people prayed five times a day; fewer still took part in ramadan, the 40 day fast. Very, very randomly would we ever meet someone who desired and planned to journey to Mecca in their life (which is one the five pillars of Islam). Those people I loved interacting with. I would think, "finally, here is someone that is not completely hypocritical in their religious convictions."

Don't be religious. Be faithful. Don't go to church, be it Catholic, Assemblies of God, Methodist, Lutheran or whathaveyou. Go to church because you believe it to be true or you're a lying hypocrit before you even walk in the door. Or go because you're curious to know and explore what they believe. Or if you've stumbled across this blog, talk to me, I'd love to show you some faithful people, and talk of true faith in the risen Christ.

I'm going to post the next couple days on a few things that irk me about religious people and religious churches as opposed to faith-driven people and faith-driven churches.


Miche said...

This post really hits home right now. I've pretty much always been a faith based person but being religious as you discuss it has always been a challenge.

This past Sunday I went back to church because I need to feel closer to God right now and felt like praying and believing wasn't enough that maybe I needed to be in church again.

As I sat through the service I was reminded of why I have a hard time going to church in the first place. It was exactly as you described so now I'm in limbo again.

Anonymous said...

I totally understand Miche. Part of my deal, too, is being essentially born again and built in a para-church ministry, I sometimes downplay (in my heart at least) the importance of church. I think I've grown a bit since then.

I'm praying for you. We do need community, so seek out the genuine people in your church. They're usually easy to spot. They will help you find the depth with Christ you seek.

Bart said...

That comment was from me, by the way.

The Williams Family said...

Bart, as discouraged as I get with hypocritical, "religious" people, I am just as encouraged by folks like you who desire to truly reflect Him to others. I just wanted to add a thought ... and I know the heart behind what you were trying to communicate but wanted to make it clear to others reading this.

I think of the first page in Philip Yancey's "What's So Amazing About Grace?" where the prostitute wanted to know where to go and when advised to go to church, she was horrified and said, "That's the last place I would go." I would love for our churches to be safe places where people "come as they are" ... whether or not they are certain or doubtful about their faith.

I know that your line "Go to church because you believe it to be true or you're a lying hypocrite before you even walk in the door" was intended for those who SAY they are believers but aren't walking the talk. But I have friends who are afraid to go to church because they don't yet believe it to be true ... but would like to learn more. COME. Don't hesitate ...come as you are ... bring your questions, doubts, frustrations about God, etc ... God is not afraid of them, He wants to hear them and walk you through them. "Believing Christianity to be true" is NOT a prerequisite for coming to church. I know you added the tag that it's also for curious people. I'm glad ... one of my desires is that people feel safe to explore their beliefs at church (as opposed to alienated because they don't feel like they have their ducks all in a row). Anyhow, Bart, bravo on some great posts, your attitude is sooo needed ... and I'm loving the photos of your wife & son. We sure do miss the Shadles around these parts! ;)