I was reading an article yesterday called, “Losing Faith: 21 Percent Say ‘Religion Not That Important.” Apparently, America is losing her religion. In the article they mention that this apathy toward organized religion is steadily rising.
This made me think about the countless conversations I’ve had over the last few years with the 20 and 30-somethings who pretty much don’t resonate with our typical Western churchianity.
My question is, should we lament or celebrate?
It probably depends on what you’re defending.
Here’s what I’m seeing. Traditional Christianity, especially the traditional evangelical and fundamentalist variety, is in a state of crisis whether we want to admit it or not. Especially, if we’re talking about reaching anyone under 35.
And as an evangelical “charismaniac” pastor, I say this is probably good. 🙂
So, I will celebrate.
We all need to lose our religion.
We need to find our life hidden in Christ, not hidden in our denomination.
Jesus said this to the religious leaders of His day…
“What sorrow awaits you experts in religious law! For you remove the key to knowledge from the people. You don’t enter the Kingdom yourselves, and you prevent others from entering.” (Luke 11:52 NLT)
What’s the point here? It’s that these religious leaders put following their rules–their accepted behavior requirements and sin-management–over intimacy with God, over seeking and bringing the Kingdom of God on the earth like they were supposed to be doing.
Why? Because they didn’t enter in themselves.
They were like the “elder brother,” who had everything the Father has, but didn’t avail themselves to any of it. They were religious orphans (Luke 15:25-32).
Their relationship with God was only in studying about Him, worshiping their traditions, going out of their way to make converts so they could teach them to parrot their judgmental disposition of those not like them (Matt.23:15).
They talked constantly about being holy, being separated, and they railed constantly against the evils of the government in their day–the Roman Empire.
They sought wealth and honor instead of the Kingdom, their own comfort rather than showing compassion for the outcast.
They were divisive and sectarian in the name of truth and constantly argued with each other about who had the correct interpretation of their sacred Scripture.
They sang their hymns every time they congregated, honoring God with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him in their actions (Matt.15:8).
Is this beginning to sound familiar?
The religious people of Jesus’ day didn’t know love because they never received love (1 John 4:19). You can’t show someone something you’ve never received, lead someone where you’ve never been yourself.
Oh, you can talk the talk, but in the end it just leads to a guilt trip.
And there’s nothing more cruel and mean than a religious spirit.
So why are young people leaving our churches in droves? Why are they “losing their religion,” if you will? Do you think it’s because they’re just rebellious and self-centered?Did the evil media and secular universities poison their young virgin minds?
Is it the dreaded “last days,” and these are the “signs of the times?”
Didn’t Paul warn us about these days? (1 Tim.4:1-2; 2 Tim.4:3-4).
Actually, he warned Timothy. So, it was true in his day too…
…you know, in the first century.
Could it be that young people are actually rejecting our divisive, fear-driven, condemning, manipulative, uncaring, judgmental, hypocritical, politicized religious facsimile that has been put forth as “being a good Christian” to them?
Just a thought…
Jesus warned His disciples against the “leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod” (Mark 8:15). This “leaven” is the religious spirit and political spirit. Both are driven by fear instead of love.
Because the life that Jesus and the New Testament writers gave us is about sonship–about truly amazing grace, radical acceptance—the unending power of freedom found in the Father’s unconditional love. It’s about living life from His embrace. As Leif Hetland would say, it’s about seeing everything through Heaven’s eyes.
There is no other authentic version of Christianity. We just thought there was.
You see, there was never a more fundamentalist, rule-keeping, Temple attending, Bible studying, spiritual disciplining people on God’s earth than the Scribes and Pharisees. They tithed, they fasted twice a week, they followed every jot and tittle, they were always in “God’s House” whenever the doors were open.
And they looked down on anyone who didn’t.
And they were the same “faithful” who had Jesus crucified.
Actually, this makes me wonder how many “Wolf in sheep’s clothing, false prophet, heretic” blogs that Jesus would be the subject of today if He were walking on the earth.
After all, He made wine at weddings, went contrary to the accepted religion of His day, hung out with the scum of the earth, and showed grace and compassion to harlots and down right evil people.
It reminds me of another charge Jesus laid on the Pharisees, that they honor the prophets of the past with tombs but surely would’ve stoned them if they were alive in their day (Matt.23:29-30).
That pharisaical spirit is no different today, venerating our history, the revivals and reformers of the past, but condemning the current moves of God with equal passion.
Maybe that “old time religion” wasn’t that good for aunt Tilly and grandpa Moses, nor did it give them the life of freedom Jesus paid for. Maybe our young people today see that it won’t give them life either.
Maybe losing our religion is a good thing.
Maybe our children aren’t running away from God, maybe they’re waking up and running to Him.
“Oh no, I’ve said too much, I haven’t said enough…
That’s me in the corner,
That’s me in the spotlight,
losing my religion.”