What’s Wrong with Religion?

by Andy Wood on May 30, 2008

in Spoofs

First a little Burger King spoofing fun, then a modest little reminder that religion killed Jesus…

Until Jesus returns, we will always have to face the difference between man-made religion and authentic relationship with Christ.

But isn’t religion a good thing?  Nope.  Religious people killed Jesus.  And the “infidels.”  And those they labeled heretics.  And the Anabaptists.  And suspected witches.  And a few churches I know.

Religion is different than relationship.  Religion is man’s search for God.  Relationship is God’s search for man.

So what’s wrong with religion?

Religion asks the wrong questions.  One day Jesus healed a man in a synagogue (on the Sabbath, of course).  Rather than ask, “Wow, how can I have a relationship with someone who can heal like that,” the religious people asked stupid questions like, “Don’t you know what day this is?  You aren’t allowed to perform supernatural miracles today!  It’s against the rules!”

CamelReligion has the wrong focus.  It binds people to somebody’s interpretations of the Law.  Relationship seeks the heart of the Law.  Religious people make the Law-Giver (that’s God) subject to the law.  It strains at gnats and swallows camels.

Religion develops the wrong spirit.  God gave us His word for the purpose of showing love and doing good.  But the nature of man-made religion is to make law abiders who are mean as a snake.

Religion divides wrong people.  It insists that any brand of religion that isn’t exactly like itself is suspect at best – demonic at worst.  Different music or methods?  You’re worldly.  Different interpretations of scripture?  It’s my job to relentlessly point out your error to keep all the other religious people safe from you.  Different experiences of worship or discipleship?  You’re demonic.

Religion engages in the wrong activity.  It’s long on evaluation, and short on participation.  It judges others rather than seeking to actually participate in the Kingdom.  Plenty of opinions, but precious little “grabbing your weapon and standing your post.”

Religion trusts the wrong source.  It’s self-sufficient.  It certainly doesn’t want the devil or his crowd; it doesn’t want God either – not really.  It seeks to sweep its own house and bring order to itself, by itself, for itself.

Religion wears the wrong face.  The danger of all religion is that it can mask the evil behind it in a very convincing way.  The average person on the street probably couldn’t tell that Jesus and the Pharisees were controlled by two very different powers.  And that is sobering.

So how do you and I avoid developing a religious spirit?

Surrender your jealousy and insecurity and celebrate what God is doing through others as well as in your own life.

Recognize that you are part of a kingdom that is much, much larger than either you or your experience.

Become heart-deep and elbow-deep in your own obedience.  If you’re faithful to your own calling, you won’t have time to judge other people.

Always realize that you are capable of acting twice the child of the devil you once were.  Stay humble and dependent on Christ.

Love God.  Love your neighbor.  Love your enemy.  Love yourself.

Don’t love the worldDon’t trust your flesh.  And don’t hate the devil – it’s just business.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

carissa May 30, 2008 at 1:40 am

i agree with the sentiment, but don’t you think there are important “religious” elements to Christianity? certain rituals – like baptism and communion – and community rules – like all that ethics stuff in the New Testament – sound like religion to me. the important thing is that it’s PRECEDED by the relationship, which is foremost. but i just fear that demonizing the word “religion” gives people a reason to avoid church and the community of faith (with all its flaws but also benefits) in favor of a personalized “relationship” that’s made to order rather than held accountable.

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Andy Wood May 30, 2008 at 9:21 am

Carissa – in the classic definition of the word, you’re absolutely right. Probably for each of the uses here I should have said “man made religion” or “religion without relationship.”

There are certainly “religious” elements to Christianity. I just personally prefer to use a different word for them because the word “religion” has been hijacked by so many people to mean so many different things that it has alienated itself from biblical Christianity. OR, worse, it causes people in the press to lump all passionately “religious” people together.

We’re going throug a season right now in our church where we’re focusing on a lot of those “religious” practices. I’m just calling them disciplines.

I’m absolutely with you in not wanting people to avoid church and the community of faith or accountability! That certainly wasn’t my point. My concern is in so externalizing genuine faith (which in my opinion is as much a public thing as it is a private thing) we reduce it to a legalism that is devoid of life?

Your thoughts? Others?

Terry Richardson May 30, 2008 at 10:31 am

Good question, and, great reply.

kenSwitzer May 30, 2008 at 5:01 pm

I am going to a church now for two reasons.
1. It is close to the house and I am lazy. 🙂
2. It bleives like I do, that religion is not the key to heaven.
I imagine a lot of religious people will be going to hell

I had stopped going to church because of religion. I got tired of everyone telling me that if I did not do steps 1, 2, and then 3 I would be forever lost. It is nice to realize that I do not have to BE perfect but try as hard as I can to please God and that is all that is asked of me. Like Andy stated, there are aspects of religion in Christianity. However, too many people make religion their god and and loose site of the one true God.


rhett burns June 2, 2008 at 9:23 pm

great post andy. i love tim keller’s distinction between religion and the gospel. religion says “i obey, therefore God loves and accepts me.” the gospel says, “God loves and accepts me, therefore I obey.”

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