I do and I’ll admit it. Despite all the problems, frustrations and degradation I still like it. Despite the ugliness, misinterpretation, and the horrible things leaders have done in the name of someone I love, I am still a strong proponent of…. organized religion.
Stay with me here, at least give me a chance to explain why.
The people I know who say, “I don’t believe in organized religion,” for the most part (or in my personal experience) have never experienced organized religion. They might have been raised in ancestral worship, or are from a liturgical church, but they went about once or twice a month. They didn’t know anybody in the church, never got involved, didn’t tithe and didn’t participate. They may have had the chance, but they never took it.
There was a pretty much horrible person who lived down the hall from me in college. She was blabbing on as we were waiting in line for a movie with a group of our friends. She was already rude earlier than evening about me coming along. (I usually spent my Friday nights studying) She looked straight at me and said, “I don’t want to be like the Christians who blindly believe everything they’re told.”
I’ve remember that, not because she was rude, people are rude all the time and I let it go because most of the time I don’t catch it. It’s that she was stupid. Have a ten minute conversation with most college aged Christians and you’ll see that their views are well-thought out. While there is an element of faith, it is a gift – not a burden, it’s rare that someone will be unclear about the whats and whys of knowing God. I am quite sure the rude girl had never spoken to anyone, let alone a Christian, about their beliefs. Which makes her, actually, the one with the blind beliefs. But that’s just me.
Why did I say this? Ah, because I want to talk about authentic Christianity, which I believe cannot be achieved without involvement in the body. Listen to the last sentence, “involvement in the body”. There is a body, and it must work together in order to function.
This is a big ole hunk of Bible, but do not be deterred. It talks very much about my point:
1 Corinthians14 – Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
I like verse 21 especially. Think about a talking eye, and that’s kinda funny, but look a little deeper. If our eye gets rowdy and resentful it’s can’t leave. It will die. People can live, with some adjustment without eyes, but there are no eyes that can live on its own. So is the Christian. I can accept Christ as my savior – that is, believe in Him, believe He died and rose again for me and loves me oh so very much. If I do so, however, I will all most certainly fall away if I do not become part of a church body. I am totally on my own in a very difficult world. The body can live without me, but it misses me as a blessing just as it might miss an eye. You are important, you were made to worship and you were not meant to go at it alone.
27Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[d]? Do all interpret? 31But eagerly desire[e] the greater gifts.
And now I will show you the most excellent way.
The chapter in the Bible goes on to talk about Love. I believe God’s love is expressed most fully in His body, the church. It is true that God shows us he loves us in nature – ah the beautiful of the mountains I see from my window – he shows us in music that takes our breath away, and he tells us in children, the trust a newborn baby has for her mother. However gracious and beautiful that love is, I see it expressed just as gloriously in a church.
When I was very sick with my bipolar illness, the church stepped in. I had free baby-sitting five days a week, all day long. I had home-cooked dinners delivered most every day. I had friends who came to see me bringing cocoa covered almonds and other tasty treats. At a time I could easily become alienated from God, I wasn’t, because I saw Him everyday in the brothers and sisters around me.
This is not to say that my other friends, those who do not have a relationship with Jesus, are not wonderful, however the dozens of friends who stepped in from the church was a great deal larger.
I feel like I need to address church scandals, and I won’t go so deeply in to them. There have been atrocious things done in God’s name. You know what they are – you can name them off easily. The way I think of these things is this, someone is doing things in God’s name, but not in God’s will. It would be like you writing nasty pornography (opposed to the beautiful pornography) and putting my name on it. I didn’t do it, sanction the work or even tolerate it. Everyone who saw my name that knew me would just assume it was me and that I was 100% behind it. The same thing gets to be thought true of God. Would God tell a priest to rape a little boy? That doesn’t even make sense. Would God tell a parent to beat their infant until he has welts? Of course not. There are so many things attributed to God that people, excuse me for saying this, blindly believe. There is not examination done or quest for truth, it’s just a sanctimonious reaction, often from someone who has no knowledge or experience of the faith.
This is not written to convert anyone, or to convert anyone. It’s written to talk about one of the best things I have in this world, the Body of Christ, which is the more beautiful way of saying “organized religion”. I think I did. Maybe I will again, later.