and sometimes organized religion gets it right

February 16, 2012

There has been a lot of banter about the Jesus is greater than religion video posted on youtube a while back.  And while Bethke (the cool dude in the video) brings up some good points he feeds into an idea that basically equates anything that smells like organized religion with everything that smells period.  Works great with the “I’m spiritual just not religious” crowd that feeds on the Golden Corral buffet of theology and spirituality.

I came across an old letter this week that helps the cynic in me to see the beauty and blessing that is the fellowship of those who, while broken, are committed to living out their faith together.  Around the year A.D. 130, roughly 100 years after the death of Christ, a well spoken Aristeides sent word to Emperor Hadrian regarding a growing sect known as Christians.  Here is part of what he wrote:

Now the Christians, O King…have the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ engraven on their hearts, and they observe, looking for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.  They commit neither adultery nor fornication; nor do they bear false witness.  They do not deny a deposit, nor covet other men’s goods; they honor father and mother, and love their neighbors; they give right judgment; and they do not worship idols in the form of man.  They do not unto others that which they would not have done unto themselves.  They comfort such as wrong them, and make friends of them.  They labor to do good to their enemies… As for their servants or handmaids, or their children if any of them has any, they persuade them to become Christians for the love that they have towards them; and when they have become so, they call them without distinction “brethren.” They despise not the widow, and grieve not the orphan.  He that hath distributeth liberally to him that hat not.  If they see a stranger, the bring him under their roof and rejoice over him, as if it were their own brother;  for they call themselves brethren, not after the flesh, but after the spirit and in God… And if they hear that any of their number is imprisoned or oppressed for the name of their Messiah, all of them provide for his needs, and if it is possible that he may be delivered, they deliver him. And if there is among them a man that is poor and needy, and they have not an abundance of necessities, they fast two or three days that they may supply the needy with their necessary food.  For Christ’s sake they are ready to lay down their lives. (A New Eusebius)

Let us live and love like that!

To paraphrase a wise professor I once had; “in our passion to proclaim Jesus to the world it only does harm to bite the hand that has fed you for 2000 years.”  Not only that but it’s speaking out against your own family large though their warts may be.  The overly individualized view of faith in America has an antidote, and it’s the scummy bath water of community that is being thrown out with the baby.

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8 Responses to “and sometimes organized religion gets it right”

  1. thelightinbetween Says:

    The “Jesus vs. Religion” video really got to me… I mean, he’s an amazing speaker and brings up some good points, but overall he has the totally wrong idea. The problem is not religion, but those who claim to be a religion that they do not practice.

  2. Michael Postlethwait Says:

    To quote another professor I once had “Meanings are in people, not in dictionaries.” Even the biblical authors don’t use terms in monolithic ways. For example, John in one place says “Don’t love the world neither the the things in the world…” Elsewhere, this same author declares that God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son…” To assume that the author has a synonymous definition of “world” in both cases obliterates any understanding of the importance of context when interpreting any written text and creates the illusion of contradiction where none exists. To that end, I find myself agreeing with BOTH sides of this debate. I think what many people envision as “religion” would be at least as equally detestable to Jesus as it is to the “Hate Religion” crowd– i.e a rigid formalism that is much so focused on the externals of worship within a rigid framework that makes an intimate experience with God within the church walls next to impossible. On the other hand, many mature Christians realize that many of the things often falsely associated with the negative stereotypes of religion— like regular participation in the Sacraments — have tremendous value when one is properly educated and guided as to their real value. Both sides have a real opportunity to have an impact on an important issue if we will quit arguing linguistics and make both sides define their terms. If we do that first, I think we will find we have more that unites than separates us.


  3. Always enjoy your insightful posts… been real curious about the miracle of the resurrection, Lazarus, etc. It always frightened me as a youth and now I am so enamored by the literature it cries to me, What ever happened to Mary, Martha, And Lazurus?


    • thanks Bryan! i’d like to ask what it is that draws you to the story of Lazarus in particular? when you say “what happened to them” do you mean after the resurrection of Lazarus? hope all is going well for you… when are we having a reunion?!


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