“I’m not religious; I’m a Jesus-follower.”
“I love Jesus but hate religion.”
“Christianity isn’t a religion; it’s a relationship.”
Have you ever heard these statements from Christians before? I sure have. In fact, I’ve even said them before. I felt much like this young poet:
I think he communicates some admirable views on the role of people in society:
- love others
- be accepting
- don’t be a hypocrite
- feed the poor
- support and help those in pain
- be genuine and live out your convictions
- don’t be a sheep
And some opinions about religion I also support:
- religion is a man-made societal infection
- religion enslaves
- religion causes wars
- religion makes followers blind and intolerant
Despite all of this, I disagree with his claim that Jesus is not connected to religion at all. In fact, he even says Christianity and religion are totally separate from one another. Oh really, now? Christianity isn’t a man-made invention? The only writings about Jesus weren’t written by a bunch of anonymous men who wanted to convert followers to their belief system? Jesus wasn’t a Jewish Rabbi who was Torah-observant all his life? The belief that we’re sinners who need supernatural salvation isn’t religious?
I think it’s popular to claim Jesus wasn’t a religious man or that a “true follower of Jesus” is better than a “religious person” because it makes Christianity seem more hip, liberal, and casual than the actual theology and doctrines of the religion truly are. How do you gain followers among doubtful and skeptical youth? You make your product cool; you make it edgy; you rebel just enough against “the system” to show you don’t like authority while still staying within the lines of the “sinner needing salvation” requirement.
Christian Christ-follower: You can’t follow Jesus without religion. The only reason you even know about Jesus is because his followers created his legend within the framework of religion. Go ahead, leave the shitty parts of your religion in the dust; for that I applaud you. Love others, be genuine, and hate hypocrisy all you want. Just don’t think you can redefine something just to make it less disgusting and objectionable. Your love of this hippie Jesus guy and dislike for empty ritual doesn’t mean his teachings are any more true or reasonable from your mouth than they are when it’s preached within the four walls of a cathedral. You can’t whitewash Christianity and ignore the reality.
Here’s a tip: try being a humanist. You’ll fit right in!