Friday, October 27, 2006

separation of religion and faith

This week, upon asking a group of young people how important religion was to them, I had one young man answer, “not very”. But then, upon asking who they would most like to have dinner with, that same young man answered, “God”. Amazing.

I am surrounded, more and more, by people who consider “religion” to be the world’s greatest problem. They look at the mess in the middle east and see a conflict of religions. They look at the conflict between the west and the middle east and see a conflict of religions. They see people, all over world, who lost their lands, their inheritance, and even their race, by people who were there to introduce religion. Not too hard to come to the conclusion, then, that religion might be the world’s greatest problem.

But what does that mean for us? Can faith and religion be separated? Is it possible to be a part of a community of believers, who aren’t religious, yet are faithful to Christ? Do we even know what the word “religion” means?

I think, for a lot of people, the word “religion” means faith. I think for others it means ritual. Dictionary.com seems to boil it down to both a specific set of beliefs and observances or practices, which is odd because I think that most of us would agree that all protestant and even catholic churches would fall under the umbrella of the “Christian” religion, yet many, many different beliefs and observances are practiced throughout.

So can we separate religion and faith? Are people like Moby and Bono as serious about their faith as people who practice weekly rituals involved with their religion?

Comments on "separation of religion and faith"

 

Blogger Neatr_natr said ... (4:36 PM) : 

The nature of sin is to pass the buck, to say its this person's fault or this idea's fault. The state of the world is due to sin(perhaps manifested in religion). To react to that state of the world with faith, that one day we shall all behold the damnation we truly deserve and then experience the overwhelming joy of having it wiped clean by what Christ did. Or we can be held prisoner to rituals of blaming our sin on others or on systems and fall prey to the gospel of sin management.

 

Blogger Bret said ... (2:40 AM) : 

My thought is that our life should be sacramental . . . for me, it’s not so much about observing religious practices as it is how we live. For a believer to follow in footsteps of Jesus means that he/she would live the kingdom life that Jesus set forth in the Sermon on the Mount.

I think that the separation comes when religious (church) practices take precedence over how we live. For some, church practices are what really counts. For me, it’s the other way around.

Good post.

Blessings,

Bret

 

Blogger shaun said ... (1:34 AM) : 

I really appreciate Bret's comment about all of life being sacramental (even if we probably ought to consider what that means). It seems to me though that to separate particular religious practices from a life of live-out faith is unnecessary. Our religious practices and our faith (true faith being lived out of course) are connected and inform each other. You can make a case that religious practices should properly flow from a real faith but religous practices also strengthen and build faith. At the bottom, both religous practice and lived out faith have to be governed by the scriptures and therein is the rub. By the way, Tim, that may be the most disgusting picture I have seen in some time!

 

Blogger Larry said ... (10:21 PM) : 

Tim,

I am not sure it is religion that is the problem, but bad religion formed by bad theology. I think that most "religious" people have good intentions. I think their theology may be at best flawed.

For example, I believe George Bush is sincere. I believe he has the intent to follow what he believes is God's will. I think what he has done has wrapped up our way of life, in America, in the flag and the Bible and proclaimed it to be good and other ways evil. Maybe that is over-simplifying things.

While I believe he is a man of faith, he has nationalized his faith. Others in history have used bad theology as a spring board for the crusades. Still others have and are using bad theology for murderous attacks on innocent people.

Even the most sincere people, (I think the Pharisees were sincere) have gone down a road of bad theology into practice, which makes bad religion and then makes for in the end, bad choices with bad consequences.

When we really begin to practice the religion of the Bible, the religion Jesus taught, then religion won't be a bad word. It will actually biblically and supernaturally inform the processes of our world. Religion is not just ritual. Religion is a basis for belief and practice. Faith in Christ is the starting point for good religion.

I think I rambled way too long. It has been a long day.

 

Blogger Graeme Smith said ... (3:07 PM) : 

I tend to agree with Larry. It's bad theology that is the real problem with religion.

Probably the biggest problem though is that we have tended to inherit our theology from previous generations, without ever questioning it. Often this is because those who do question as young people are either corrected or ostracised by those in authority.

I'm reaching a stage where I am starting to question everything that I am doing as part of the ritual side of my faith and trying to work out what is necessary and what is simply ritual. I'm challenged to change my expression of faith into something that is more like that I see amongst the early church, whilst acknowledging that the 21st Century in which I live is markedly different.

The idea that is forming is that many expressions of church have validity, even those I'm not comfortable with. However, the key is that people are authentic in their faith and have integrity, not only within their own lives but also to the teachings of the Bible. Wherever I look and see this authenticity I see people attracted to those who are livng it out!

 

Blogger Tim said ... (3:51 PM) : 

Graeme said something that caught my attention.

He said, “Probably the biggest problem though is that we have tended to inherit our theology from previous generations, without ever questioning it.”

Don’t you think it’s a bigger problem that we’re inheriting our methods from the previous generations, more than our theology? I’m not sure that it’s our theology that needs to change from generation to generation, but more our methods of understanding, living out and teaching that theology within the (sorry) context of the society that we’re living in at the time. In fact, I’d argue that, if anything, we’ve too often watered down our theology in an attempt to stop be irrelevant. But we’ve not taken the next step of actually being relevant.

For instance, many of us have begun to see that some of our older programs are no longer relevant. But, instead of replacing them with something that is, we just drop them all together, creating generations of Christians with really, really bad/watered down theology. For too many of us, we’ve inherited methods that don’t work but, by dropping methods (read “discipleship) all together, have allowed weak theology to become the obvious replacement.

I hope I’m making sense here.

 

Blogger Neatr_natr said ... (5:37 PM) : 

Ahh the magic word that no one seems to take seriously anymore discipleship. I can't say that with complete confidence, the people in my circle don't put much emphasis on it. Speaking of religion and religious ideas that are no longer used or misused I heard an interesting report on NPR's All Things Considered. They were talking of Islamic words that are commonly misused. They said to call terrorist jihadists is actually isolating to a majority of the Muslim world. A professor who speaks against violent interpretations of Islam said that when he is speaking out that is a form of Jihad, to struggle in the cause of God. It would be like calling far right wing "Christian" militias (read wackos) worshippers along with say the Amish. So we are offending a large portion of non violent Muslims by calling the terror groups Jihadists. The term is being misapplied which only goes to show that there are ideas about religion in general that are being misapplied and misunderstood.
How many times do we make assumptions about the Army, or Catholics, or whomever. I'm not advocating a universalist stance, all paths to God, just a deeper personal investigation. Which may or may not be what we are talking about on this post.
NOTE: Check out Jihad on Wikipedia, its very interesting.

 

Blogger Cari said ... (10:26 PM) : 

How bad would my marraige suck without marital rituals? How bad would my marital rituals suck without the love and devotion I have for my husband? Not to be disgusting, but you seperate that all out and you've got some unhappiness going on somewhere.

So how can I be fully devoted and faithful without acknowledging some of the "rituals", so long as I'm not being "ritualistic" or, how would you say? "phariseical" or something?

Try coming home with a load of roses for Jamie and then without a smile or a word, drop them and walk out the door.

Or, try saying "I love you" without ever showing any affirming activities and you start to wonder.

Remember that song by Extreme called "More than Words"? It's kinda like that. Until our churches start practicing genuine love for others as an outpouring of our worship to Christ, neither the words we say or the things we do are meaningful.

We had a guest preacher Sunday who asked the question, "Do you profess it, or do you believe it?" and talked about the extreme the "Hole in the roof gang" went to to get their friend to Jesus for healing. How far will you go to practice the love of God? That's the test. If you say, "You look cold. I'll pray for your warmth" and walk away without assisting the man...your faith is dead.

Rambling I am! Good to see ya writing again. Great post-this stuff is on my heart a lot lately.

 

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