Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Accidental Religion: Or, Hip Fans of a Cool Jesus

The great irony about the desire of modern churches to leave out “religion” is that they basically introduce religion of a different sort. We are big on talking about Jesus the revolutionary and about how we should embrace "the real Jesus" while getting rid of stale “religiosity,” etc etc.
The only problem is that this approach routinely mistakes Jesus’ call for good behavior for the primary point of Jesus’ mission. We not only emphasize ethics over theology, we construct a superficially religious ethical system without much theology at all. The gospel then becomes about self-improvement and self-help — using Jesus as our model, of course! But sin is not mentioned. Neither is holiness. Ditto repentance. God the Father is only vaguely referred to except as someone who loves you “as you are” and just “wants you to be the best person you can be.”

This is not discarding "religion," by the way. It's just trading in one type for another. The new stuff is actually the same old-school legalism, only now it’s wearing cool clothes and prides itself in all that it tolerates rather than all that it excludes. It is just as vain and self-concerned as the fuddy-duddy religion it abhors. Only it’s worse. Seriously. Because while your old-school “religiosity” might have been too frowny, it frequently got the Gospel right. It might not have had the hippest music or the best coffee or the most relaxing seats or the most modern architecture. But it realized Jesus is God, and it understood that “taking Jesus as your role model” is rubbish.

If you're down with the lingo, it is a preaching of ethos without theos, and it troubles me not merely because it's getting the Gospel wrong, but because it demonstrates not even realizing it. We think we are correcting the Church’s error when really we are just perpetuating a new one.
We think we are preaching the Gospel, but we are in fact preaching about works! And that's how, ironically enough, we've adopted the same sort of religiosity we think we have left behind. We just don't notice it because this religion wears distressed denim and has a faux-hawk.

Can we ever get it straight that the Gospel is for sinners? That Jesus’ kingdom proclamation really isn’t about living harmoniously or “victoriously” or “successfully”?
When did the Church’s message become about being hip fans of a cool Jesus?


At 2:09 PM, Anonymous Nathan said...

Excellent, this really had me with the opening about replacing one form or religiousity with another. Kinda like, "don't do your faith thiat way.. do it ours."

If we aren't submitted to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, from the preacher to back row joe, then we are striving under our own power and wisdom.

Also good word on fundamentalists ( as we like to call them ) getting the theology more right, while contemporarians tend to drift on popular winds. God wants us to understand his truth AND love all, serve all. If we aren't loving and serving in truth then we are more like United Way than the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

At 5:43 PM, Blogger C. Evan Leonard said...

Well, then I want to be a Funda-Contemporarian... okay? :-)

Get both things right... and have what is good and the best of both in one moniker and one church (body).

Really liked this post, Jared.... really put the icing on my cake... (and, Nathan's follow up - up above this)...

Thanks again... for taking no prisoners... :-)

Instead.... trying your best to help bonds be broken... bonds that come from turning the fullness of the Gospel into the fullness of ourselves.....

That's probably what bothered me the most about a recently departed speaker person man talker scout renegade dude.....

Way too full of something other than Jesus... and the plain ol'.... straight to the heart of the matter.... Gospel.

Question.... do you think there is a place where those two folks mentioned above... can meet? The fundamentalists and the contemporarians?

I'd like to see the church they would build and the services they would hold..... :-)

Alrighty then.... good to read the post before this one, too..... too much grace.... NEVER...... too much sin and repentance... NEVER..... it is all about balance..... like we need a balanced diet.... and a balanced check book... and etc.....

After all..... our lives/eternities hang in the...... BALANCE.

Holy hugs and stop by the IAS blog... when and if you get a chance.

C. Evan Leonard

P. S.
Glad your family is alright (your wife) and I hope life don't get any crazier than ya'll can handle.....

At 6:06 PM, Blogger Brack said...


At 7:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesus is a relationship .........not a religion. Some people just don't get it. Religion is fine, but without a connection to Jesus its meaningless. I wont try to convince you of my position. You are right and you know you are right so why discuss it with you. I just stop by this blog to read the comments.....keeps me realizing that there are people more screwed up than me, with a whooooole lot more time on their hands!

At 8:01 PM, Blogger Jared said...

Anonymous, what in the world are you talking about? What part of this post indicates anywhere that I'd disagree with you? I don't think you understood it at all.

Faithless religion is a sham, no doubt. Where in the world do you get the idea I'm cool with religion that does not have at its center faith in Jesus Christ for salvation? It's nowhere in my writing, and certainly nowhere in this post.

If you have a bit more time on your hands, I suggest you scroll down the main page a ways and look for my post titled "What's the Point?" It should put your mind at ease about whether or not I think Jesus is the point or "religion" is.

At 8:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I read one of your posts I usually think................what in the world are YOU talking about. I HAVE read your other posts.

At 10:15 PM, Blogger judas icarus said...


You have made no sense with anything you've said....????

And, for me.... Jesus is both a relationship and a religion.... but in the sense that God created each of us to worship Him and He is in control.... and our reconciliation with Him is the most important thing.... for Him and each of us...

I get really tired of people taking the word religion and turning it into something they can trash or put down.... or relegate to being something that is "fine"....

There is nothing wrong with having a particular system of faith and worship.... and every religion on earth is partially... if not totally based on faith and worship....

So, maybe you can have one without the other (relationship/religion)... but I don't see how.... and all that's left to what you have said is.... you believe that the relationship piece is more important... or singularly important... and having a sense of religion is unimportant or insignificant....

And, you have the right to believe what you want... but you leave the impression that you are determined to find disagreement here.... rather than a sharing of ideas, thoughts and perspectives....

I don't think this blog was set up to be an absolute for everyone.... I do think Jared conveys his understanding of the Bible and his beliefs... in a very convincing and intelligent way....

You... on the other hand..... simply sound ungrounded.....

I hope you can find a way to be accepting of other people's perspectives.... whether they align with yours or not.... and as long as you can be fair-minded and constructive in your comments.... I believe everyone here welcomes you with open arms...

Just think about comments like - "keeps me realizing that there are people more screwed up than me, with a whooooole lot more time on their hands"...

That's pretty condescending and unnecessary... really..... and pointless, too...


At 5:21 AM, Blogger Jared said...

When I read one of your posts I usually think................what in the world are YOU talking about.

This does not surprise me. Just going by your first comment here, and its invalid criticisms against me, I can tell you didn't understand the point of the post.
I guess my advice to you would be this: If you don't understand something, it might not be a good idea arguing against it.

You say you have read my other posts, and I guess I will believe you. But I find it really hard to believe you would have been reading what I've been writing and then accuse me of advocating a religion with no connection to Jesus. That sort of accusation just does not follow anything I've written anywhere. For instance, please re-read (or actually read, rather than skim) my post "What's the Point?" I'll even provide a link for you:

When you review that, THEN try to tell me I'm in support of a Jesusless faith. If you still feel you can do that, then we're both right and you don't understand what I'm writing, or I'm right and you're just here to insult me.

At 6:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I suppose we both missed each others point.

I was responding to this line in your post "This is not discarding "religion," by the way. It's just trading in one type for another."

I think many people ARE trading religion for a relationship with Jesus. That was my meaning when I made the comment that "Jesus is a relationship not a religion".

Jesus may lead you to a religious life but a religious life will not necessarily lead you to Jesus.

Its funny how we can all read the same scripture, or blog for that matter, and interpret many different meanings from the same text.

You read way more into my comment than I had intended. I suppose the condescending tone I set was not helpful and may have cause you to read more into my statement than was intended. But when I read your blog it feels VERY condescending to me. I just like to give it right back atcha!

no hard feelings ;)

At 10:47 AM, Blogger Jared said...

no hard feelings

Um, you say I'm condescending, you come in here rudely and accuse me of things I don't even agree with and insult fellow commenters . . . and then you expect me to take "no hard feelings" seriously?

Either way, let me try again, addressing this statement of mine you mention from the post:
This is not discarding "religion," by the way. It's just trading in one type for another."

This statement is not an endorsement of "religion" as you are defining/understanding it. In fact, what I was saying is that people who think they are discarding bad religion usually are just trading it for another religion. Does that make more sense?
In other words, I wasn't saying "Trade your religion for another." I was saying that too often the folks who say they're abandoning stale religion just end up preaching a newer model of the same old legalism. It just sounds nicer and more hip.

Hope that clarifies my point(s) a bit for you. I would have thought the context of the post would have demonstrated that I'm a pro-faith, pro-grace, pro-Jesus-is-the-point type of guy, but I guess I can't always assume what I mean to say strikes everyone the same way. I do think that most readers get what I mean, so I take some comfort in that.

As for condescending . . . well, don't know how to answer that. I don't know who I'm condescending to. I throw myself into the sinner's role every chance I get, go out of my way to say I don't have it all figured out, that I'm not the end-all, be-all of biblical knowledge, that I'm just a guy trying to figure it all out myself. I would have hoped that if you'd been reading you would have noticed those things.

But I can't prevent anybody from reading a "tone" into my writing if they want to do that. I tried to address how I "sound" in this post:

I don't know exactly what I'm doing that strikes you as condescending, but I do know that often times someone who is confident and writes as if they know what they're talking about can strike people as "condescending." If the alternative is hemming and hawing and littering my posts with equivocations and meandering around points without really trying to make any, or if it involves abandoning my beliefs or convictions so that people who disagree won't be uncomfortable, then I'll take "condescending."

At 11:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You do sound very confident in your opinion, perhaps thats how I interpreted you to be condescending.

The problem that most regular people have with "religious people" is that they are soooooooo confident and soooooooooo sure of them selves that they come off sounding condescending. That turns people away from religion. It is my hope that more people will "seek" a relationship with Jesus over religious ideology.

Like I said before, you are right and you know you are right so there is no point in discussing an issue with you......I just wanted to make a point. Even if you don't get my point thats ok...........I don't get you either.

Perhaps if you ended with...thats just my opinion, I could be wrong. You might not be perceived as so condescending. Im glad you are confident, I just think you are wrong most of the time. Why does that have to be an issue with you? Why must people agree with you? I know people who have a VERY different opinion than you, that are very articulate and confident in the way they describe their faith. Are they wrong?

At 11:51 AM, Blogger Jared said...

It is my hope that more people will "seek" a relationship with Jesus over religious ideology.

That is my hope too.

Like I said before, you are right and you know you are right so there is no point in discussing an issue with you

Now, see, this is just an unfair and uncharitable approach. You want to be able to say whatever you want about me and to say I'm being "condescending" and that I'm a know-it-all, and not only do you do it from the comfort of anonymity, you insert this pre-emptive defensive thing with the "You always have to be right" stuff.

That's ridiculous. And rude. It is very, very rude. If you thought there was no point in saying anything to me, why did you do it? What was YOUR point in commenting? I tried to answer your questions and concerns, I tried to respond to your criticisms and explain the parts of my post you seem to have understood. And yet you're all, "Well it doesn't matter anyway."
If it doesn't matter anyway, why are you here? It's not me being condescending -- it's you. By coming here and calling me a know-it-all and saying it's pointless to talk to me blah blah blah, you are condescending to me. If that is your advertisement for a relationship with Jesus, you might want to do some more market research.

It's a cheap thing to say, anyway. Obviously I think I'm right, or I wouldn't share my views. You think you're right, don't you? I don't accuse you of being a know it all or always wanting to be right. Yet you keep coming back here to say "Why do you always have to be right?" like it's some really penetrating point you're making, when really all you're doing is demonstratng that you have to be right. It's hypocritical.

I don't have to be right, and nowhere on this blog does it say "Everyone must read and agree with everything I say."
If someone is forcing you to read this site, let me know, and I'll tell them to cut it out. I can't think of another reason why you come here and comment, since you seem to a) not understand what you're reading, and b) find me and my posts so distasteful. Be a grownup and stop reading. You don't have to agree with me; I don't care if you do or don't.

But don't come here and ask questions and make accusations, and then when I take the time to try to address them, throw the "Why do you have to respond to me?" thing back at me. What do you want? To be able to say whatever you want and not have to worry about me responding to it?

I just think you are wrong most of the time. Why does that have to be an issue with you?

Because instead of saying something like "You are wrong about _______, and here's why..." you come here and just insult me and then say I always have to be right. That's not you telling me I'm wrong about something. That's you being rude.
Someone disagreeing with me does not bother me. Someone who insults me, misunderstands me, and treats me rudely and then dismisses their behavior as "just disagreeing" with me does bother me.

Here's an idea:
How about you list the things you disagree with and explain why disagree with them. Then we can have a conversation, right? Then we can discuss those disagreements maturely. And it doesn't matter to me if you still end up disagreeing with me, so long as we've had a profitable conversation about something that is obviously important enough to you to keep commenting here. I mean, you don't care if I agree with you, right? You don't think you have to be right, do you?

But we could disagree with understanding and discuss our disagreements maturely. Is that what you want?

At 2:18 PM, Anonymous Nathan said...

Annonymous seems to be one of those people who believe that an examined faith = Religion.

As for his comments about confidence and assurance, that is exactly why God gave us his word and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. If annonymous is going for a relationship with Jesus then he should find plenty of confidence in the knowledge of Him. Not confusion and ambiguity.

At 2:22 PM, Blogger C. Evan Leonard said...

I don't think Mr. A knows what he wants... and honestly... it's a litte grating to have to read (hear) what he thinks he's trying to say.... so redundantly....

The desire to be argumentative for the sake of said desire.... is.... well...... boorish.... then if one were to include his propensity to insult and condescend.... there is probably another word that better describes this personality type....

He did take the time to stop by IAS? and offer critism but left out the "constructive" aspect..... I guess I should be glad for the traffic????

I think he is wasting time and space here.... but I'll try my best to be tolerant, compassionate.... and not always right, too....

You do a very good job of that, Jared..... I think a chain is being yanked.... that's about all....

He is failing miserably at being even remotely Jesus everytime he posts.... and I maybe wrong.... He may be a She.... if so..... then.....

I was wrong about that..... : - )

C. Evan Leonard

At 2:38 PM, Blogger Jared said...

I think a chain is being yanked

Chuck, no offense, but often I have to read between your ellipses to get a sense of what you're saying, but that sentence, my friend, is the closest thing to right I can think of.

I don't know exactly why this person keeps returning, and in fact, I'm 99.9% sure this Anonymous is the one who, along with one or two other commenters, prompted me to enable comment moderation. The whole "Why do you have to be right?" thing and the "Why do you feel the need to respond to me?" stuff was the tip-off.

This person, since the beginning of his presence on this site, has maintained that it is pointless to talk to me, yet he keeps coming back to talk to me like it is actually pretty important. He says he has no idea what I'm talking about, but that does not prevent him from being rude like he's "got my number." He says I'm condescending but never cites a single example of my alleged condescension. He says he basically just disagrees with me but never gets around to naming something he disagrees with.

So, yeah, I'm with you on the whole chain-yanking thing. Anonymous keeps coming back basically because there's something about me he doesn't like and he wants to disrupt the site and, really, just bug me.

Comment moderation has been enabled again.

At 3:22 PM, Blogger C. Evan Leonard said...

Sorry.... to hear.... we are all being dinked because of one dunk.... :- x

Guess... that's just the way it is.... if you were to ask Bruce Hornsby....

And.... no offense taken on the elipses.... ..... ..... ..... ....

Probably a habit I have that is.... well... annoying... : -)

I'll try to be more mindful of it when I post here. It really doesn't add anything to what I say. I think, at best, it just differentiates me from others.

Okay... so I need to be "different".... but it's not like I have to be "right" like YOU.... all the time..... hyuk hyuk hyuk.... : -b

Sheesh.... what a plight to have to cage the badger, when the badger shouldn't have to be caged if the badger would be a "good-ger".... but I guess some badgers are just determined to be "bad"gers... hoo hoo.... hoo hoo hoo.... hoo hoo... hoo hoo hoo (insert annoying music & vocals from those Vonage commercials!)

Maybe we should change from chains to ropes? Then you could give Mr. A and others like him..... enough rope to hang themselves???? Eh?

Oops.... those darned elipses again....

Wrongfully Right,

C. Evan Leonard


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