religion

Religion Sucks.

blanche-monnier

Can you imagine being imprisoned by your family for 25 years?

This is what happened to the daughter of a wealthy Paris family in 1876. The daughter’s name was Blanche Monnier. Due to a romantic relationship the family disapproved of, they forced Monnier to become a prisoner in her bedroom while feeding her scraps of food and giving her no opportunity for sunlight or contact with other people. She deteriorated and only weighed 55 pounds pounds when police found her… on the verge of death. After being rescued, she was driven mad by her imprisonment and spent her life in a mental institution.

This is an incredible parallel for the toxic effects of religion.

Before you get mad, let’s define terms.

Religion is man trying to appease God through special ceremonies, good deeds, and behavior modification.

Flannery O’Connor wrote an excellent and illuminating short story called “Parker’s Back”. One of the fascinating characters in this story is Sarah Ruth. Sarah is a very strict, religious woman. She is described as being bland and a fun-killer. Sarah Ruth stands for religion.

Religion sucks.

1. Religion sucks life out of you.
Religion masquerades as life-giving but grants death to its adherents. Rules, ceremonies, and legalism appeal to people with a conscious tormented by the effects of sin. Rather than granting absolution, religion fuels the fire of shame by forcing condemnation alongside of confession. Grace and mercy are spoken of but rarely practiced, guilt and reproach are the cruel masters which imprison their subjects until they are malnourished and on the verge of death.

2. Religion sucks freedom from you.
As you become enclosed in the windowless room and smell the burning stench of your sin, you realize you have nowhere to run. In an effort to find relief, you become zealous about behavior modification. This is equivalent to scratching the cold brick of your prison cell with fingernails, trying to form a window to the outside world. You seek purification and wholeness but you receive hands which are marred and dripping with blood.

3. Religion sucks God from you.
The cruel irony is your self-imposed bondage comes from a sincere desire to appease God. As you begin to perfect your outward appearance, your body and soul are crippled by guilt. The more you try to change in your own power, the more you realize how worthless you are. This is magnified by the cold and heartless preaching of the man in a robe you hear from every week; a man who has bloodied his hands from scratching at the impenetrable walls of his prison cell longer than you have. God becomes distant, a cruel taskmaster bent on causing you pain. Rather than becoming insane from your imprisonment, you reject God altogether. The very thing that promised a relationship with God left you rejecting him. Religion sucks.

Jesus Saves.

Jesus came to crush the head of this deadly taskmaster.

Jesus came to offer freedom to the captives and shatter the chains of legalism.
Jesus seeks to transform the very core of who you are, offering life in abundance.
Jesus seeks brokenness in order to make it whole.
Jesus seeks sinners so He can provide true healing.
Jesus came so that all who are weary and weighed down with the heavy burden of religion may find rest.
Jesus came so that where sin abounds, grace increases even more.
Jesus came to dispel the myth that God is cruel.

Jesus is the exact image of God revealed to us.

Jesus lived the life you and I couldn’t live… a perfect life.
Jesus died the death you and I deserve to die… a brutal death prefaced by torture.
Jesus resurrected from the dead… showing that he paid the price for all of our sin (past, present, future).

Religion is man seeking God, Christianity is God seeking man. 

The Truth Will Make You… Odd?

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I have recently finished reading a few excellent and thought-provoking short stories by Flannery O’Connor. O’Connor lived from 1925 – 1964. Her writing attacked the popular ideas of racism held in honor by many in the United States (especially in the south).

The following reflections come from her story “Why Do The Heathen Rage.” Rather than summarizing the story, below is one big idea that stuck out to me:

Truth will make you odd!

One of the characters in the book, Walter, is not supportive of racism. Instead, he immerses himself in classic Christian literature and finds comfort in the wrath of God which will be revealed against the wickedness and evil of this world. This causes him to be disrespected and even hated by members of his own family. Rather than exercising “polite” racism – as many in the south did at this time – he bucks against the system and comes across as awkward and strange.

This is true for our lives as well.

“In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” – 2 Timothy 3:12

If you desire to lead a life which honors God and loves people, you will appear strange in at least three ways!

1. You won’t fit in with family.
Jesus has a tendency to divide people (Luke 12:51). As soon as you begin to take Jesus seriously, other people will be offended. You can be as gentle as possible about your faith and people will still get mad.

Your family will not understand your new priorities.

  • Rather than participating in the rat race of the American dream, you begin to practice generosity which doesn’t make sense.
  • Instead of joining in the family gossip, you intentionally speak life about others – even people your family doesn’t like.
  • Instead of sleeping in on Sundays and splurging your free time on self-gratification, you will spend hours in fellowship with other believers and service to your community.

In essence, you will be weird… even to your family!

2. You won’t fit in with culture.
Every culture has gods which demand worship. It is easy for us to observe this in the pagan world. We see pictures of shrines splashed in blood and are appalled that a people can sacrifice animals to appease the spirits.

As you take Jesus seriously, you will begin to understand that your own culture has a plethora of gods which demand worship.

In the United States, you will be called to worship:
Sport teams
Financial security
Personal comfort
Autonomy
Celebrities (including “celebrity pastors”)
Careers
Technology
…and a variety of other gods we sacrifice our time, family, and talents to.

As you begin to buck against this cultural standard, the culture will find you odd!

3. You won’t fit in with religious people. 
Many churches are content with people who claim to know Jesus because their family grew up in the church basement doing potlucks. As long as you check religion off your list every Sunday morning and attend the monthly business meeting, you are basically a saint.

Unfortunately, if you begin to take Jesus seriously the church is sometimes the last place you will find him. Many churches are obsessed with keeping the status quo and preserving the 1950s to the best of their ability. These churches do not foster outreach-focused, self-sacrificing, sin-killing, radical followers of Jesus.

As soon as you rip off the facade of cold religion for the Living God, you will be rejected by churches condemned to dead orthodoxy… and grandma might be mad you don’t attend the “family church” anymore (sorry… but it’s true).


What are some ways the truth has made YOU odd? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Is All Religion Created Equal?

Many people, including Christians, have been deceived into thinking that all religion is generally the same.

In other words, God is a mountain and the various religions are simply different pathways to the top of the mountain as long as the religion promotes good will and sincere belief. Although there are hundreds of Scripture references from both the Old and New Testaments that directly refute this understanding of God, the story of the Exodus is a surprisingly powerful place to begin.

In summary, the people of Israel are forced into cruel slave labor by Egypt. At this time, Egypt wielded incredible political and military might which no one could withstand. Egypt was so powerful at this time that the king of Egypt – the Pharaoh – was viewed as the divine god Horus who had the ability to give and take away life.

Into this scene steps an unlikely deliverer named Moses who proclaims the famous statement, “Let my people go” repeatedly to Pharaoh in an attempt to deliver Israel from their bondage of slavery. Pharaoh, in his ignorance, declares he knows nothing of the God of Israel and refuses to let the people leave to worship in the wilderness. This sets the scene for the God of Israel and the gods of Egypt to spar with one another for dominance through the ten plagues God unleashes on Egypt.

Each one of the plagues is a direct assault on the gods and comforts of the Egyptians and the attacks culminate in a spectacular display of God’s sovereignty over all of creation.

1. Nile turning into blood.
This was an assault on the “Mother of Egypt” (the Nile river) which provided life to Egypt.

2. Frogs invade Egypt.
This was an assault on Heka – the Frog god of Egypt.

3. Lice/Gnats form from the dust of the earth to attack Egypt.
This was an assault on Geb – the Earth god of Egypt.

4. Flies/Beetles invade Egypt in unbelievable numbers.
This was an assault on Kephra, the Egyptian god whose head resembled the scarab beetle.

5. Cattle all becoming sick and dying.
This was an assault on the Egyptian fertility symbol.

6. Ashes landing on the bodies of Egyptians causing extreme boils.
Ashes were a sign of blessing in Egypt. God uses ashes to curse those who opposed Him.

7. Thunder, lightening, and large hail destroys and kills many Egyptians and their property.
This was an assault on Isis and Serapis who were the gods of fire and water. This was done to show that the false gods could not protect Egypt from the Living God.

8. Locusts destroying all the crops in Egypt.
This was not a direct assault on any specific pagan god but rather to show that the God of Israel is sovereign over all creation – even the supply of food.

9. Darkness covers all of the land and the people of Egypt cannot even see directly in front of themselves.
The was a direct assault on Re, the sun god of Egypt. Re was one of the most important deities of Egypt.

10. Killing of all the firstborn whose homes were not marked by the blood of the Passover Lamb.
All of the plagues culminated in this attack against Pharaoh to refute his claim that was a god and could give and take away life as he pleased.


Almost immediately after delivering Israel from the yoke of slavery, God proclaims the famous Ten Commandments which begin by declaring He is the only God and the ONLY one to be worshiped. The story of the Exodus is in direction contradiction to the popular belief that all religion and all gods are the same. Repeatedly through narrative, poetry, law, and teaching, the Scriptures proclaim the truth that there is only ONE God and the only way to have access to Him is through Jesus Christ.