Thoughts on life, leadership and the movement called the church by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Jesus or Religion?

At this moment, as I write these words, this video has been on YouTube for 6 days and has had almost 13 MILLION views!  It has already sparked a lot of controversy from leading voices in the Church.  You ought to take a look at it and then I'll make a few comments of my own.

I have made the statement many times that 'Jesus didn't like religious people'.  I have believed that for a long time.  In fact, the only people Jesus really, really got bent out of shape with were the super-religious.

Confused?  Let me help you.

Taking my cue from Jesus, I am unwilling to subscribe to a system that awards people who look good on the outside but are corrupt on the inside, and are unwilling to admit it.  Real church - the kind that Jesus had in mind - is church where people...and especially the leaders stand up and say, "I'm broken, too."  And they ought to mean it, because it's true.   We all have our stuff, our junk, baggage, past, our temptations and our sin.  None of us is perfect, and we all fall down.  The Apostle Paul said that he was chief among sinners, the worst of them all.  And he believed that.  We ought to know that about ourselves, too, and be willing to say it.  I'm broken, very imperfect, and deeply sinful.  I take 3 steps forward and 2 steps back...but that's still progress, slow as it may be.

One time, Jesus was speaking to religious leaders and he said, "For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition....You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition." (Mark 7:8-10, NLT, excerpts)  If religion is a system of rules, judgement, exclusion, and empty rituals & traditions, then count me out. Jesus condemned such systems, and we follow His lead.

This does NOT mean that we do not speak truth.  Some actions are clearly wrong.  There is nothing judgmental about saying, 'this is not right' or 'this behavior is wrong' or pointing out the truths of the Bible to someone.  If we really love people, we want God's best for them.  I want my friends and the people who care about me to help illuminate my blind spots as they see them.  We should not be in the business of ignoring destructive actions or lifestyles.

But we don't judge the heart.  Only God can do that.  Do you see the difference?  It's the difference this guy is talking about in this video.  So, when I hear this guy, I want to cheer him on!

At PCC, of all the things we've not done well (and I could name a bunch), I think we've gotten this one right.  And it's important.  And I'm really proud to be a part of a church that isn't religious.  We're just passionate about Jesus and the people Jesus died for!


xxx said...

Amen. You nailed it. That's why so many people have fallen away from God. Religion. Pharisees. Or, more properly, Pharisee talk. The whole reason that the "Church lady" on SNL was funny. She was so "holier than thou" that it was funny. But if it helped bring about Churches like yours, it was a good thing. You guys make me want to belong. Thank you.

jf said...

This guy’s attempting to get his message to resonate through a series of shocking and many times inaccurate statements. He comes off to me just as exclusionary as the people he attempts to indict.

“Jesus’ purpose for coming was to abolish religion”? I’ve never heard that one before.”The purpose of religion is to build huge churches but they’ve failed to feed the homeless”. Huh? Church’s feed more homeless than the US government ever could. I certainly wouldn’t label their efforts a “failure”. In people’s minds Christian means Republican. Huh? Not in my mind. Some, maybe, but not in the mind of a true Christ follower. I also believe that there’s a difference between rituals and meaningless rituals. At PCC, we stand and sing every week to start the service. Even though we consider that a form of worship, it doesn’t mean that an outsider wouldn’t consider it a ritual. The same with passing the offering basket and the sermon itself. For some, these are forms of worship. For others, outsiders and even some church members, these may be considered meaningless rituals that we perform every Sunday because it’s 11:15. To those who are only going through the motions, these are rituals. In my mind, if I make it to Jesus’ house, I won’t be surprised to see Baptists, Methodists, Catholics or members of any other religious belief system any more than I would be surprised to see a member of PCC walking around. Jesus is an equal opportunity Father who just wants us to believe in him and act like him no matter what road we take to finally get that into our thick heads. All just my humble opinion of course.

Tim said...

This video was produced, no doubt, by a well-meaning kid with a penchant for drama. It is very difficult, though I admire Brian's attempt to do it, to salvage anything like a meaningful thought from this cutely rhyming, well-produced video.

Here are a few things the kid says, paraphrased:

Religion is fake.
Religion is shallow.
Religion is an infection.
Religion is slavery and bondage.
Religion is chores.

Religion is not real.
Religion is not sincere.

Christianity is not a religion.
(He says "Religion is this," and "Creation is that.")

He hates religion.
He resents religion.

All right, so we're trying to help him out by inserting 'if' into his words, where he never used it. If religion is such-and-such, then count me out.

Here is a true thing in the world, by my lights, which may be considered consistent with this kid's rant:

By its nature, religious experience is personal. Unlike scientific facts, when you get at some religious truth, you are unable to directly share it with others. So we establish religions to the best of our ability, and they are all imperfect reflections of our experience.

A warped mirror does not make me warped. And our imperfect attempts to reflect our religious knowledge do not make the truth imperfect.

So there are sometimes posers at churches. Some church members are self-righteous. Some churches teach incorrect precepts, or fail at their charitable mission. And absolutely none of that impairs the underlying truths that those churches are attempting to reflect.

This is an important truth, but something most of us can figure out without the rap.

When someone attempts to say something as simple as I laid out, and it is all I see to salvage from this kids' words, and to do it they say as many silly, false or mundane things as this kid throws in, they are best left kindly to the side.

We have limited time on this Earth. Let's not take our eyes off the ball.

Tim said...

I commend to everyone a video entitled: "Freestylin': Jesus = Religion."

It provides a running commentary on the 'Jesus > Religion' video. My favorite line is in response to the kid saying "I ain't judgin'."

This guy responds: "Dude. You are. You totally are." That made me happy.