Thursday, March 17, 2011

Losin' My Religion

That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don't know if I can do it
Oh no I've said too much
I haven't said enough


Growing up in the Deep South, I heard this more than once:

“Getting my kids ready for church on Sunday makes me lose my religion quicker than any other day of the week!”

When I looked up the lyrics to the R.E.M. song playing in my head, it was funny to read some of the interpretations. People obviously from other parts of the country were trying to elucidate the meaning of the expression.

For example, (verbatim), “Losing your religion is a term referring to getting drunk.”

Or, “The term means cursing in other words.”

Or, “It’s a southern phrase meaning like “at the end of road.”

Awww… ya’ll weren’t even close.

To me, “losin’ my religion” is a colloquial expression connoting a state where one’s self-will or temper win out over one’s desire to follow (at least) the surface commandments of the Judaic-Christian tradition. In other words, the "real you" breaks through the veneer of nicety and piety.

I don’t think it ever really referred to a true fall away from faith.

But whatever.

I don’t think losing one’s religion is actually a bad thing at all.

God hates religion.*

FYI: If there’s anyone still reading who’s not “a member of the choir,” (as in “preachin’ to…,” indicating that one is speaking to those who already share the same world-view), one of the biggest faux pas you can make in a conversation with a Christian is to say something like, “I didn’t know you were so religious.”

To someone who is more than a nominal Christian, those words are kind of like a fingernail scrape on a chalkboard. Just so you know for next time. Like knowing when to bow when you’re in the Far East, or how many times you kiss someone’s face if you’re in France, etc. 

Authentic Christians are not just trying to follow the tenets of a religion.

Religion: a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

1150–1200; Middle English religioun  (< Old French religion ) < Latin religiōn-  (stem of religiō ) conscientiousness, piety, equivalent to relig ( āre ) to tie, fasten ( re- re-  + ligāre  to bind, tie; compare ligament) + -iōn- -ion; compare rely

via Old French from Latin religiō  fear of the supernatural, piety, probably from religāre  to tie up, from re-  + ligāre  to bind]

according to Cicero, derived from relegare  "go through again, read again," from re-  "again" + legere  "read" (see lecture). However, popular etymology among the later ancients (and many modern writers) connects it with religare  "to bind fast" (see rely), via notion of "place an obligation on," or "bond between humans and gods." Another possible origin is religiens  "careful," opposite of negligens.             (* Highlights mine.)

Let me tell you something.

This is a description of the absolute antithesis of the kind of life I want to lead.

The last thing on earth I want is to be is bound up by chains of fear-based obligatory compliance to a set of rules. I don’t want to go through life being “careful.” (Watch out… you better do this, you better not do that… or God’s gonna getcha!) I don’t want to exist in a relegare kind of way, either… endlessly lectured to perform rote rituals over and over again in some sort of appeasement process.


Christianity is not merely a ‘religion’ in this traditional understanding of the word. It is a love relationship between human beings and their Creator.

If you read the first four books of the New Testament, it is evident that the only people Jesus had a real problem with were the religious ones. He referred to them  as “graves of dead bones” and “vipers.”

During his brief visit to earth, he chose to hang out with those whom the religious elite scorned.

Publicans and sinners…”

Scam artists and whores and losers of every kind.  (But he was guilty of no reverse discrimination, equally embracing those among the wealthy and powerful who came with  humble, seeking hearts.)

He welcomed all who weren’t too proud to admit their need of help. Too strong and self-sufficient and self-righteous and unbending to open their hearts up to the One who came in humility. (And desires it of his followers.)

The ones who understood that their best efforts at achieving perfection weren’t good enough.

The ones who weren’t “religious.”

Religion is man trying to make himself good enough to placate an angry God (or gods.)

Relationship is God reaching down with life-changing love to a broken, hurting humanity, and inviting intimacy.

Religion brings about discouragement… judmentalism… death.

Relationship brings about courage…  love… life.

Ultimately, Religion fails, because even the perfect people aren’t perfect.  

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (John 1:8)… “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

No one can jump high enough to reach Heaven on his own.

It is not a meritocracy.

We don’t get there by “being good” or following rules.

We don’t get there by being religious.

We get there by repentance and receiving

the gift of gifts.

I pray that we can all lose our 'religion'… 

and embrace a love relationship with the living Christ, enkindled by the sweet flaming spirit of God Himself.



Please feel free to forward this to anyone you know who confuses Christianity with religiosity.

And just to head this one off at the pass: No, I do not believe in what Dietriech Bonhoeffer referred to as "cheap grace."


Laurel said...

A little Athens flavor this morning!

Oh, and AMEN.

Lisa said...

Yes, yes, and amen!!
I can't tell you how many times I have read your posts and said this
or "Rave on Margery!"....out loud.
I just thought I should let you know that I really appreciate reading your thoughts on this blog.

Kim said...

Thank you both for the encouragement!

I needed it today.

love, kim

Anonymous said...

Such a timely post - as all of your always are! Our homily during Eucharist today discussed this very idea. The instruction was to simply allow God room to work in our lives, and as He brings up areas that need purified, all we are to do is agree and submit. No striving to accomplish salvation, simply opening our hearts to receive His love!

Thank you so very much for your ever clear voice stating it plainly for all to understand!!

Blessings to you!!

Sparkfly said...

yes! thank you.