God without Religion

A friend of mine is a gruff, but very funny, old goat who has, from time to time, dared me to make him religious.  That’s just before he nails me with all the sins of religions to which he attributes nearly all of the world ills.  I’ve struggled with this for a couple of years and even wrote out a letter that turned into an essay, and then I stopped and looked back at the record bequeathed to us from Jesus and Paul.

Neither of them tried to make someone else become religious, or at least they didn’t try very hard.  The discourses and parables of Jesus are all about coming to know God and the nearness of the kingdom of heaven, but not about being religious.  Paul’s letters certainly deal with the problems of newly formed Christian congregations, but once more their power comes from his words that draw the people back from religion and toward a fuller knowledge of the presence in their lives of God in Christ Jesus.

Maybe that is a part of what Bonhoeffer was driving at with his appeal for a religionless religion.  Which is not at all to say that I think religion and denominations are unimportant.  Just look back at several posts on that subject written months ago.  Religion, in the form of the particular practices and teachings of denominations, is what gives shape and meaning to worship, a place in which to grow in knowledge, wisdom and faith, and the community of support and fellowship into which Christ has called us.  But before any of that can have meaning in someone’s life there must first be an engagement with God, and, as a Christian I assert that that engagement is best and most fully experienced through Jesus Christ.

So now I no longer want to make my friend religious.  I would rather explore with him his questions about God and life, introduce him to Jesus, and be his companion on a journey toward an engagement with them that will have meaning for him.  Maybe after that, if he lives long enough, we’ll talk about church, Sundays and the sacraments.

6 thoughts on “God without Religion”

  1. So now I no longer want to make my friend religious. I would rather explore with him his questions about God and life, introduce him to Jesus, and be his companion on a journey toward an engagement with them that will have meaning for him.This sounds an awful lot like Bar Night. I am convinced that had I gone bar hopping hoping to make people religious, I would have utterly failed and my \”ministry\” here . . . well . . . it wouldn\’t be what it is today.Let us know how the conversation goes.

  2. Ooh! Bar Night! I like that. A group of men from Bellville UMC recently went en masse to an Astros baseball game in town. I offered that about the only reason I would attend Minute Maid Park would be if the Rice Owls were playing there. I would enjoy fellowship with that bunch of guys, but not in such a venue. However, I would be interested in participating in a local pub crawl. Now I can cite the comment of Rev Ref+ as a precedent for my suggestion.I expect our own faith and story may sometimes be shared more effectively outside the dedicated religious hall. \”The Foam Ranger\” Dude 😉

  3. Hey Geezer,In my younger days I tried a couple of pub crawls and soon learned what crawl meant. I just wasn\’t cut out for that kind of thing. A couple of dry martinis sitting out on your porch, now that\’s something to consider.CP

  4. interesting conversation here. for some reason it reminded me of a singer/songwriter friend of mine who writes wonderful songs that speak of her connection to God (mind you, they are not anywhere close to overt \’religious\’ hymns or praise chants). for many years she sang in NYC bars and pubs being well-received by the patrons of which many were introduced to God \’without religion\’. she did not experience \’stage fright\’ until she was asked to perform her music in a \”real\” church. it was no surprise to me that the congregation was immensely touched by her voice, because it wonderfully conveys her connection with a power greater than her.i think we are so inclined to place religion into boxes and say it has to be shared \”this way\” or that. i agree with SS that your plan is a good one for this \”ol\’ goat\”, just as it sounds like reverend ref has found his niche and geezer dude\’s words might be best heeded in a pub crawl…(that is if the message could be conveyed before the crawling started and if anyone could remember the conversation or fellowship of the night before with anything other than a splitting headache :-)i love your words about exploring the questions about God and life…

  5. \”Pub crawl\” sounds so manly! (Are manly and foolish are synonyms?) A pub stroll would probably be more fruitful in many ways.I am frequently reminded of one of the hazards of the pub, as expressed in a cartoon I saw over 40 years ago with the caption, \”I don\’t know what is in this stuff, but it makes everything I say sound profound.\”Religious structure is important to me, as it is to many folk. I am grateful for the wisdom that has been compiled, preserved, and transmitted by organized religion. However, it is only one venue in which to search for the Spirit and explore the Mystery. Holy places, like beauty, abound. What is my viewpoint? What do I see from that viewpoint? Can I, should I, will I, share a vision of holiness, goodness, beauty, love? How do I enhance my vision? How do things look from that other point of view? Am I too frightened to dare to look from there?(This comment was produced without the benefit (?) of fermented drink.)

Leave a Reply