We’re no longer “religious.” We’re “holy.” We’re “faithful.” We’re “spiritual.” We talk about what “the gospel compels us to do” or “gospel living.” Or “sabbatical living” and “God-oriented behavior.” That’s according to a new story in the Washington Post today:
On one side of the spectrum are people such as prominent liberal scholar Diana Butler Bass, author of last year’s “Christianity After Religion,” who says the word “religion” is laden withnegative, hurtful and political baggage. The 20 percent of Americans who now call themselves unaffiliated with any religious group see religion as much too focused on rules.
On the other side are people such as super-popular shock pastor and writer Mark Driscoll, an evangelical conservative whose sermons have such titles as “Why I hate religion.” He preaches that the institutional church has wrongly let people feel good about themselves for their actions (such as going to worship services) instead of what they believe (which should be the Bible’s literal truth, in his view).
A member of Driscoll’s church produced one of early 2012’s most shared videos, “Why I love Jesus but hate religion,” which has been watched more than 25 million times. Set to cool music, it opens with a young man asking, “What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion?” Later, it characterizes most churchgoers as hypocrites and religion as a Band-Aid and “like spraying perfume on a casket.”
Last month, the president of the country’s largest “ex-gay” ministry blamed “religion” for the failure of his organization, Exodus International, which had claimed that its programs could make gay Christians straight.
“I believe the major failure of Exodus is that it promised to be completely different from the religious system that caused so many of us so much pain and yet became a religious institution of rules and regulations focused on behavior, sin management and short on grace,” Alan Chambers said in announcing Exodus’s end.
Jon Acuff, a popular evangelical motivational speaker, wrote in his blog a couple of years ago about a quest for new language, and he remarked on what he does if someone he doesn’t know describes him as “into religion.”
“Like any good Christian, I immediately said what we’re supposed to: ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, I’m not into religion, I’m into Jesus. I’m a Christian,’” Acuff wrote in the popular blog Stuff Christians Like.
Hundreds of Christians responded on his blog with words they use when asked their religious preference on Facebook. “Jesus is in charge of Everything.” “Jesus is my saving grace.” One person cited John 3:16, which says God gave his “one and only son.”
What’s going on? Is this about semantics or something more important?
QUESTION: How does the word ‘religious’ strike you these days?