Parties over/ghosts in the graveyard Chorus Kill confetti Hit hit the lights Hit hit the lights Hit hit the lights Kill confetti Hit hit the lights Nobodies coming outta the graveyard tonight Kill confetti Hit hit the lights Hit hit the lights Hit hit the lights Kill confetti Hit hit the lights Parties over Parties over Parties over First verse When did Christ become a show And our pastor a performer When did fast come from the slow And we abandoned our sojourners? Where are the weeping prophets Why did we shut them away Where are those meant to comfort Where is the jubilant praise Second verse You made announcements your entrance And a joke as your close You've made presentation your sacrament So that nobody knows Is this not hidden idolatry Why are we not ashamed We made a service our focus Where is God in this place? Third verse Have you no room for the spirit Is the church just too full It is crying, I hear it Will you answer it's call? This is more than a show friend Though you may have forgot God is working among us Whether you invite him or not End chorus Kill confetti Hit hit the lights Hit hit the lights Hit hit the lights Kill confetti Hit hit the lights Nobodies coming outta the graveyard tonight Kill confetti Hit hit the lights Hit hit the lights Hit hit the lights Kill the music Hit hit the lights church is over Church is over Church is over tonight
The merriam Webster’s dictionary defines religion in the following ways
the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
archaic : scrupulous conformity
a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith
We can summarize all of these ideas as being the set of beliefs and worship practices to a deity that are personally held with deep conviction.
Today I want to focus on an idea I have heard repeated over and over and over again in almost all modern sectors of protestant Christianity: the hatred of religion. I cannot count how many times I have heard books, friends, family, any so many different church acquaintances say they hate religion. This sentence is inevitably followed by an exclamation of their love for Christ and specifically relationship with him.
This saying has always struck me as having something dreadfully wrong with it, and I think I finally found out what it is. Now I would like to say first that I think the heart of many of the people repeating this line is in the right place, but I do not think the sentiment itself is, and I think there may be some deep seated issue at its base.
Now I think most people simply are working with incorrect definitions. When most people say they hate religion, I believe they tend to mean that they hate legalism. If you asked them point blank if they hated the worship and service of God, a commitment to their faith in him, or their own or the churches set of beliefs and practices, we should hope they would reply no. If they say yes we have far deeper issues to worry about with them. If however, you asked them if they hate rote church prayers, work based practices, and rites and sacraments, undoubtedly these same people would say yes. This is however not religion. They would be far closer to the mark if they labeled it as legalism. It can be easy to see the confusion. This legalism they are referring to (Whether or not it is actually legalism is a completely different discussion) is not religion itself but in their opinion incorrect usage of a religious system.
It would be like someone telling you they hate banks. When you ask them why they tell you because bankers steal personal information and then use it to misappropriate funds. You would then respond that it is not banks they hate but bank fraud, for as we all know there are good bankers too, and it is not the bank institution committing the fraud. They hate the abuse, not the system.
Likewise the people who say they hate religion hate the abuse of religion, not religion itself.
Yet somehow religion as a whole has come to be the one under fire. With it the American church community has seen the decline of church attendance and the ever increasing group of people who are “Christians” but don’t believe church is relevant or helpful for them. I think it is also striking to note that legalism is not the church problem on the rise. People are not become more ardently devoted to rites and practices, works and false bearings than they have been previously. At the other end of the spectrum however, lawlessness is rampant, as the modern family degrades, sexual sin and divorce rates are climbing drastically, and the common sentiment between the secular and churched alike is more “freedom”. So if legalism (at least in its traditional sense) is not the thing plaguing the church, does it make sense that the church is attacking it. No. It does not, which leads me to believe that this affront on religion at its root is not accidental, but overwhelmingly sinister.
For centuries the church community has had the issue of division. Protestants hate catholics, catholics hate protestants, protestants hate different protestants, you know the drill. But I think the enemy took this division to a whole new level. Hatred for the organized church is growing and growing, and increasingly I hear this hatred coming from its very members. It is rare to find Christians in the normal world who are positive about their local church. People woke up one day to find the church sick and full of brokenness and corruption. After years of people carousing in a somewhat healthy church environment, everyone is now waking up from their drunken stupor, to find the state of decay they helped cause. As these few who dropped out of the ongoing party early throw up in their apartment toilets, they fall from their sin unto a different kind of brokenness that is pervasive in many of the fallen and especially the ashamed: they hate themselves. They hate their sin in the midst of what should be a tool for righteousness, and they hate the callousness to sin they see growing stronger and stronger in the American church: so they hate the church too. This ever growing sect of the church make the same mistake of many others before them have in thinking that hating what they become helps them not be what they are.
So this is my conclusion. At the root of the modern hatred of religion, is not a hatred of legalism, as much as that’s how many people perceive and use it. Instead it’s the church hating itself. As with all self hate, this will only grow as the churches sin grows, and the two will feed off of each other. It may be true legalism is a problem that has been around for a long time, and that will hurt the church again, but it is not the opponent we are facing right now, even if it is a more comfortable enemy to fight.
In light of this there are three parties I want to address:
To those that hate the church consciously or subconsciously: This hatred will do you no good. You tell yourself that your rebellion against it will make it wake up. You tell yourself that you are better off without the church and don’t need it. You tell yourself it cannot be saved. But truth remains: Love, not hate covers a multitude of sins. All of us need godly community to be healthy, and the church is destined to prevail. Just like an addict, spurning the modern church will only drive it deeper into sin. While love, which may mean stern rebuke and admonishment, can help to bring it back into the light.
“And indeed, have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; and to still others, show mercy tempered with fear, hating even the clothing stained by the flesh.” -Jude 1:22-23
To those who hate legalism but have wrongfully attacked religion: Take care friends. I know your intentions and they are just and beautiful. But in your misconstrued love for the savior you have taken the gaze of others off of him. Love Christ, but remember that he uses structure to set us on his path. Be conscious of the place weaker believers may be in, and be careful with your words. Keep Paul’s admonishment in 1 Corinthians 10:28 in mind.
To the modern church as a whole, wallowing in sin and lukewarmness. Repent! God is able to forgive and to save! So many of us have strayed into sin, and now we live in its shame with a cheap mask on to let everyone think we are righteous like them. Don’t you know we are all broken? Don’t you know we have all missed the mark? God can cleanse your sin, free you from shame, make you really live! Aren’t you sick of this living death? of this skirting furtive life in the shadows? Don’t you know you are kings and queens who are made for power and authority? Made to rule over the spiritual work of this world with the power of the most high God? Church leaders, grieve! Fast and pray for your congregations! They are dying and yet you continue to preach health and prosperity! Open your eyes and ears to the work of God and see the revival and healing he wants for you, see how much more he has for you!
“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn, and weep. Turn your laughter to mourning, and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.…” James 4:8-10