I am certainly conflicted about the topic of "organized religion". I feel like the term is almost indefensible ...I say "indefensible" because, while many people are willing to defend their own church or denomination, seldom do we use the term "organized religion" in a sentence unless it's in the pejorative. Still ...
Almost as soon as Jesus rose from the grave, the apostles set about "organizing their religion". Norms took form, overseers were appointed, money was collected, etc. So it would seem there's something defensible in organizing--or perhaps the word is inevitable.I noted that some of the offenses ascribed to "organized religion" are actually the sins of the congregants within the context of the organization, not the organization itself. As I told my friend:
Much of what you described sounds like Christians (real or nominal) behaving badly. Sadly, sinners are going to sin against one another. This is true inside and outside of the organized church, and among real and nominal Christians. Perhaps this is why Jesus had to command us to love one another. We're really just not that lovable.Let me emphasize: I don't believe the visible church is above criticism. I think she deserves plenty. All I'm saying is that there is much good that occurs within her bosom:
I do know that there are wonderful people like Allen and Miriam ... who have given their lives in service to this dysfunctional family known as the "church". I remember a church-man named Dave who gently closed his wife's eyes after nursing her through terminal cancer. When asked how he did it, he said, "It was the promise I made when I married her." I recall how a dozen ladies from the church I'm in now lay on the floor of [fellow congregant] Maria's room on the night she lost her battle with cancer. I think of all of these things, and am unwilling to declare that "organized religion" is as worthless as some would proclaim.As I've said before, I truly believe the church needs reform, sometimes radically and urgently. I'll also agree that much of the church's problems can be attributed to the tendency to organize the Holy Spirit out of our midst, so that we trust more in our processes than we do in God's power. And yet ...
For all her warts, she is the visible expression of the body of Christ in the world, and there are yet people saved, encouraged, comforted, strengthened, and honoring our Lord within her. May God have mercy on her and on us.
Thanks for the sincere and godly compliment. To continue our discussion...
"that we trust more in our processes than we do in God's power"
I think you hit the nail on the head here. The main problem with what I view as "organized religion" is that people often hold on so tight to their rules and regulations, their favorite verses, and doctrinal theseses, that God becomes secondary. In many ways it reminds me of the Jews in Jesus's time who had become so wrapped up in God's laws that they forgot about God himself.
I am not against organized religion, I think it is necessary, and good when done correctly. Unfortunately I feel like we are living in a time where the religion in many cases has become more important than the faith.
You left out an important part of our conversation that I think your readers should hear. You said, "I tend to think that the phenomenon that gives our natural judgmentalism fuel is the fact that we live in the light of a once-ascendant Christianity. We find it easy to be fractious and judgmental because we are free to do so. For us, "persecution" is when we can't put a creche at town hall or when our office mates don't invite us to dinner parties. We have the blessing and the curse of our ease, and therefore the luxury of easy religion."
I think there is a lot to this argument. With no one to really argue with, we argue among ourselves instead. It is almost as though we NEED to be persecuted and the differences between doctrines becomes the catalyst. I guess my problem is that the very people persecuting me are people I feel are brothers and sisters in Christ. I don't have the desire for a fight so I simply take the quiet way out and leave.
I would love to hear what your other readers have to say in regard to this issue as it is one I continue to struggle with and ponder.