At a motivational seminar that I attended last week, I noticed that a lot of the motivational speaking crowd are Christian speakers. Many of them, in fact, have started mega churches for mega rich parishioners in mega cities (that crowd doesn’t do small scale stuff). Many of the pastors of large churches, actually, would fall into the motivational speaker category, something we have discussed around here before. Something wasn’t jiving with me as I watched the rock spectacle, feel good, motivational speakers induce the name of Jesus (though, honestly, they rarely said “Jesus”).
In a video that on climate change by Al Gore, he stated that “Religion, properly understood, is not about belief, but about behavior.” I was thinking about that statement as I tried to figure out what it was about the motivational speaking that was unsettling. Basically, I think that Mr. Gore is right, and that, based on the assumption that Christianity is a religion and can be defined by our behaviors, so are the motivational speakers. But there is a glitch. Christianity is not a religion.
There is a religion today that is built on the passion that is the Christian spirit. I am not suggesting that the churches of the world are not practicing religion, nor am I suggesting that they are wrong or that none of the people in those churches are not followers of Jesus. However, to truly be a devoted follower of the way of Jesus, you must desire and live a life that places the value of another’s life as equal to your own. This sounds a lot like the message that we hear in church, but the message itself is not church. Religion deals with behavior, with doctrine, and sometimes with crowd control. Christianity deals with the power to know God and to experience the joy of witnessing His presence in the world. Christianity does not deal with songs, or sermons, or seating arrangements or mission trips. . Christianity is a revolution, and it flies in the face of everything that we know about religion. In fact, it sets us free from religion.
If we can fully grasp and embrace the true nature of the message of Jesus, then we can attend church in peace. We can work in peace. We can choose a life that looks very much void of church, and still demonstrate to others successfully the message that carried a man to his death. Once we grasp fully the implication of the life, death, and resurrection in the story of Jesus, then we will not be able to bear life without respecting what that story means.
Consider this story, illustrated by Michael Frost:
Maximilian Kolbe discovered his faith in a church. But he realized that his faith is not in church, but in the power of giving your life for another. Jesus did not come to start a religion, he came to set us free from religion and to empower us to experience the divine for ourselves. Religion is not bad, and it is not a negative force, but relinquishing our lives to drudgery, to the mundane, and to the destructive forces of our behaviors has less to with our religious routines than it does our connection with the Love of Jesus.