So yesterday, I’m hanging out on Mumble (VoIP) with some mates that I’ve met through an online game I play far too much of. They all know I’m in the Army and also studying to be a chaplain. ‘Gramps’ (her nickname) decides to ask me about ‘my view on religion’.
I figure this is my element and start to rattle off a few clichés like “I think it’s good to tolerate everyone’s religion, and therefore I expect people to tolerate mine” or “Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and I don’t expect everyone to agree with mine”. I did chirp in a doctrinal statement like “My personal beliefs are found in the Christian scriptures”.
And with that I was done. The conversation had moved on and someone was talking about their athiestic views (which were entirely valid and came from a well thought through position).
To be honest, I was pretty disappointed with myself. I had 2-3 minutes to talk about my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and what I think about the world’s religions. What I did talk about was a wishy washy, all accepting, blasé, water-down version of how everyone should stop arguing and live in harmony. Man I sound like a Greeny.
I left the convo feeling that I had failed not only myself, Jesus’ message, but also my friends. They genuinely wanted my opinion, and for some reason, I hardly touched on what I really thought about Religion.
So here goes. Gramps, If I had my time again here is what I would say about Religion.
To start: what religion isn’t! It isn’t a CRUTCH. It grinds my gears when people say ‘You’re a Christian because it makes life easier’. Or, ‘You’re a bad person and therefore need religion to control your behaviour’. I can understand why people might think these things, but Christianity hasn’t made my life ‘easier’. I’m still a bad person (maybe not by the world’s standards) even after my religion is considered.
Religion isn’t a means to violence and war. People have undoubtedly used religion to fuel war, and there have without a doubt been wars based on religion. This doesn’t mean that the bible condones it.
Religion doesn’t give ignorant people the right to fight with educated people about things like science. There are undoubtedly things that where written 2000-4000 years ago that contradict a modern understanding of science. The bible wasn’t written as a scientific account of the world. [Edit: It does however tell the story of how humans can become part of God’s family. It is divinely inspired, 100% of the bible is accurate, non-contradictory and scripture always serves a particular purpose, which is often not what people use it for. ie. to justify persecuting the LGBT community.]
This is what the bible says about religion:
If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27.
I think the world sees a good religion as one that helps those around itself. Caring for the sick and needy. Helping the poor. A religious person is one who has a high moral regard, and cares deeply about how the present themselves to the world. They don’t talk trash, gossip, lie, steal, murder etc etc etc.
But that being said, it’s REALLY IMPORTANT to draw a line between Religion and God. Religion as the world experiences it doesn’t represent God. The local priest, trainee chaplain or crazy religious nut on Reddit.com fails to represent God in all His Glory. Some do a better job than others. But all fail at some point. So if your question is: ‘what is my opinion about religion?’ then my answer must be that “religion is trying to make a difference in the world based on a single persons, or groups ‘religious’ beliefs and values. This doesn’t have to be about a god or spirit or whatever, but I think it also includes people who hold so tightly to their beliefs that they make it ‘their religion’. ie. A animal activist that devotes their whole life to saving animals and would be willing to lay down their lives for that cause. That in my opinion is their religion. A soccer player who dedicates their whole life to being the best and will sacrifice friends, family and loved ones to achieve their sporting goals. That is their religion. I reckon some people have got their beliefs right, I reckon some have got their beliefs wrong, and 99% of everyone are somewhere in-between.
So why do I try and make a difference in the world through MY RELIGION. Because I’m called to be like Jesus. I and YOU and WE ALL are created to imitate Jesus. Yes, Jesus tolerated the other religions, but he didn’t accept their beliefs as truth. Yes, Jesus loved all the people around Himself, but He never let that love compromise who He was or what He stood for. He did this to the point of dying. He stood firm in His convictions. And this is I think the true message of Christianity, that Jesus died so that we can have a relationship with God. We should imitate Christ, in everything, including anything up to and including death.
Christ didn’t ‘do religion’ to be a good person, He didn’t do it for the money, cars, animals, women, fame or even for himself etc etc etc. He did it for God. His message and life was to show everyone else that life is all about God. For me, Religion is all about God. My opinion on religion is just this: its a means of glorifying God.
Maybe if your interested you could ask about my opinion on God and Christianity, the convo will be alot different and I’ll try and do you more justice in answering that one on Mumble. 🙂