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Why does "religion" get such a bad name?

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  • Why does "religion" get such a bad name?

    Several days ago, Tim Keller (whom I have a lot of respect for) posted this on Twitter:

    "Religion makes us proud of what we have done. The Gospel makes us proud of what Jesus has done."

    http://wp.production.patheos.com/blo...2.03.53-PM.png

    That reminded me of how people often say that Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. The thing is, James doesn't seem to agree with this. James 1:27 (ESV) says "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." Where did this "religion is bad" concept come from?
    "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

  • #2
    I've heard of two possible Latin etymologies of the word "religion"-- one, from the word meaning "to bind," the same root as, say, "ligament." The second being from the word that means to read-- from which we get "legible". In the first case, religion ties us to something, to a set of ideas or to a way of life. In the second, it involves re-reading-- that is, of committing the written word to memory, allowing it to form and shape us.

    Neither etymology, in my view, leads to an unflattering definition in the context of Christianity. The Evangelical disdain for the idea of "religion" may well have to do with the continual puritanical reaction against all things that seem even vaguely Romish.
    Don't call it a comeback. It's a riposte.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
      Several days ago, Tim Keller (whom I have a lot of respect for) posted this on Twitter:

      "Religion makes us proud of what we have done. The Gospel makes us proud of what Jesus has done."

      http://wp.production.patheos.com/blo...2.03.53-PM.png

      That reminded me of how people often say that Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. The thing is, James doesn't seem to agree with this. James 1:27 (ESV) says "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." Where did this "religion is bad" concept come from?
      It's most likely tied up with the Protestant obsession about works righteousness as well as the concept of 'personal relationship' that apparently didn't exist before Christ.

      Comment


      • #4
        Any order that you join that helps you resist the World, the Flesh, and the Devil is probably going to be one that people are going to be proud of to some degree. Anyone who attacks 'religion' unreservedly is almost guaranteed to have an anti-human and, eventually, anti-Christian philosophy.

        Originally posted by Spartacus
        The Evangelical disdain for the idea of "religion" may well have to do with the continual puritanical reaction against all things that seem even vaguely Romish.
        The Evangelicals who used to use this rhetoric tend to have their local churches as greater centers of their existence rather than lesser. Given its popularity as an offhand Christian kitschphrase for the last few decades, it's generally most useful to consider who exactly is making the claim, and under what context. Most actual evangelicals tend not to take the phrase to its logical extreme (no more than the rulers of the US believe in democracy or disinterested representation, of course) and assuming anti-Catholicism as the primary motivator makes about as much sense as assuming anti-semitism in The Passion of the Christ.

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        • #5
          I've pointed this out before, I'll point it out again. I've seen "religion" used in a way that's pretty much defined as a legalistic system of rules. You have to follow these rules exactly in order to "go to heaven". Basically, it's become a term that describes a faith based almost exclusively on what you do and how you do it. In Christianity you do good deeds because you love God, and want to please Him. You don't do them simply because you want to avoid hell. This definition of religion seems to be used a lot in other places I've been.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
            Several days ago, Tim Keller (whom I have a lot of respect for) posted this on Twitter:

            "Religion makes us proud of what we have done. The Gospel makes us proud of what Jesus has done."

            http://wp.production.patheos.com/blo...2.03.53-PM.png

            That reminded me of how people often say that Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. The thing is, James doesn't seem to agree with this. James 1:27 (ESV) says "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." Where did this "religion is bad" concept come from?
            I think the impetus for a negative connotation is two-fold. Many Protestants equate religion with a liturgy or system of rules to follow, a Roman Catholic legacy which the Reformation (especially the radical Reformers) sought to downplay in favor of emphasis on a personal relationship with God. Secondly, the unchurched people whom Evangelicals seek to convert tend to have a disdain for religion in general, so distancing oneself from religion is seen as a useful outreach method.
            Enter the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent. – St. John Chrysostom

            Veritas vos Liberabit<>< Learn Greek <>< Look here for an Orthodox Church in America<><Ancient Faith Radio
            sigpic
            I recommend you do not try too hard and ...research as little as possible. Such weighty things give me a headache. - Shunyadragon, Baha'i apologist

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
              Several days ago, Tim Keller (whom I have a lot of respect for) posted this on Twitter:

              "Religion makes us proud of what we have done. The Gospel makes us proud of what Jesus has done."

              http://wp.production.patheos.com/blo...2.03.53-PM.png

              That reminded me of how people often say that Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. The thing is, James doesn't seem to agree with this. James 1:27 (ESV) says "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." Where did this "religion is bad" concept come from?
              I think a lot of it comes from the Christian revival of the Jesus Freak Movement of the 60s and 70s. The 50s Beat, and 60s counterculture saw Christianity as total squaresville. It was dry, boring, oppressive, and very legalistic. When you thought of Christianity you thought of hell and damnation preachers, giant, empty, cold cathedrals, old men speaking Latin, old gossipping wives, and judgmentalism. The church, in a lot of young people's minds, was dead or dying. It had no heart, no soul, nothing compelling about it. So young people instead flocked to Eastern religions that seemed deep, mystical, and universal. They found acceptance, lack of judgmentalism, lack of strict legalism, and a sort of communal unity with their freaky long haired, long bearded gurus. At some point though, the Jesus Freak Movement began to make waves. It attempted to show that Christianity, too, was a deep, mystical, eastern religion that was overflowing with power, and love and intimacy. That Jesus wasn't some distant being far far away that could only be accessed through a priest in some cold empty church building, but that we, ourselves, are priests, and that he is near, and desires to know us, and to love us as we desire to know him and love him. It was really mindblowing stuff.

              Like all good things, though, the message of Christ's love for us was abused, and eventually morphed into the buddy Jesus stereotype, and in the last decade or so we've been witnessing a strange desire by young people to reject the intimate portrayal of Christ that their parent's accepted, and they're moving back towards that cold, legalistic, dry intellectual Christianity. Its a strange phenomena. Really, the truth is someplace in the middle. We ought to recognize Christ's love for us, and his nearness to us, while retaining a deep intellectual and theological awareness. But people by nature tend to go one way or the other, and rarely do they meet in the middle.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by One Bad Pig View Post
                I think the impetus for a negative connotation is two-fold. Many Protestants equate religion with a liturgy or system of rules to follow, a Roman Catholic legacy which the Reformation (especially the radical Reformers) sought to downplay in favor of emphasis on a personal relationship with God. Secondly, the unchurched people whom Evangelicals seek to convert tend to have a disdain for religion in general, so distancing oneself from religion is seen as a useful outreach method.
                It's not just Protestants, it's been many atheists/agnostics who think "religion" means nothing more than a set of rules and rituals. At least, that's been my experience.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I think this whole "religion" vs "relationship" thing is because so many times, religion just seems to be "going to church, sitting there listening to a sermon, singing a few songs, and going home", along with a list of things you can't do "because you're a Christian".

                  The "relationship" aspect came along because it better fits the model of the disciples actually walking with Jesus, traveling, being involved in his ministry, and not just passively "being religious".

                  Before Jesus became a man, there wasn't the concept of eating a meal with God, talking to Him face to face, seeing him physically touch a diseased person, etc.

                  I don't really have a problem with the "personal relationship" thing - I think it just tries to express the "being a doer, not just a hearer" thing.
                  "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
                    I think this whole "religion" vs "relationship" thing is because so many times, religion just seems to be "going to church, sitting there listening to a sermon, singing a few songs, and going home", along with a list of things you can't do "because you're a Christian".

                    The "relationship" aspect came along because it better fits the model of the disciples actually walking with Jesus, traveling, being involved in his ministry, and not just passively "being religious".

                    Before Jesus became a man, there wasn't the concept of eating a meal with God, talking to Him face to face, seeing him physically touch a diseased person, etc.

                    I don't really have a problem with the "personal relationship" thing - I think it just tries to express the "being a doer, not just a hearer" thing.
                    I don't have a problem with the "personal relationship" thing as long as it's not watered down into "Jesus is my buddy." There needs to be some awe of Him involved. IMO "religion vs. personal relationship" is a false dichotomy.
                    Enter the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent. – St. John Chrysostom

                    Veritas vos Liberabit<>< Learn Greek <>< Look here for an Orthodox Church in America<><Ancient Faith Radio
                    sigpic
                    I recommend you do not try too hard and ...research as little as possible. Such weighty things give me a headache. - Shunyadragon, Baha'i apologist

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by One Bad Pig View Post
                      I think the impetus for a negative connotation is two-fold. Many Protestants equate religion with a liturgy or system of rules to follow, a Roman Catholic legacy which the Reformation (especially the radical Reformers) sought to downplay in favor of emphasis on a personal relationship with God. Secondly, the unchurched people whom Evangelicals seek to convert tend to have a disdain for religion in general, so distancing oneself from religion is seen as a useful outreach method.
                      I personally found this true in Haiti, where the locals would actually ask "are you Catholic or Christian"? They had seen some abuses from the Catholic Church, and had seen Catholicism and Voodoo blended together to control the populace.

                      I was puzzled, at first, by the question, but came to understand it the more time I served in Haiti.

                      Our Missionary to the Czech Republic sees it even greater there. The vast majority of people he meets are anti-religion because of the history of religious wars and manipulation. They practice a "lifestyle evangelism" or "friendship evangelism" which is obviously intended to be different than "religion".
                      "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by One Bad Pig View Post
                        I don't have a problem with the "personal relationship" thing as long as it's not watered down into "Jesus is my buddy."
                        EGGzackly -- there was the "spread a little Jesus around" mentality, which I thought was a bit much.

                        There needs to be some awe of Him involved. IMO "religion vs. personal relationship" is a false dichotomy.
                        I'd agree. In fact - I do.

                        He's not "my buddy", He is my Lord, Savior, Creator, King, Master.....
                        "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
                          I personally found this true in Haiti, where the locals would actually ask "are you Catholic or Christian"?
                          I found this to be a distinction on the other half of the island as well, but I don't recall why.
                          Our Missionary to the Czech Republic sees it even greater there. The vast majority of people he meets are anti-religion because of the history of religious wars and manipulation. They practice a "lifestyle evangelism" or "friendship evangelism" which is obviously intended to be different than "religion".
                          As an introvert, that's about all I can manage.
                          Enter the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent. – St. John Chrysostom

                          Veritas vos Liberabit<>< Learn Greek <>< Look here for an Orthodox Church in America<><Ancient Faith Radio
                          sigpic
                          I recommend you do not try too hard and ...research as little as possible. Such weighty things give me a headache. - Shunyadragon, Baha'i apologist

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by One Bad Pig View Post
                            As an introvert, that's about all I can manage.
                            If the Holy Spirit is in it, it works! I posted elsewhere that the locals (Czechs) come to the Americans to learn American English, and, in the process, learn about Jesus!
                            "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by One Bad Pig View Post
                              Secondly, the unchurched people whom Evangelicals seek to convert tend to have a disdain for religion in general, so distancing oneself from religion is seen as a useful outreach method.
                              Observing such extreme examples of cultural capitulation have me reconsidering what Tertullian may have meant by his (in?)famous quote about Jerusalem having nothing to do with Athens.
                              "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

                              Comment

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