Americans don't like the word 'religious' anymore

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?

Click here to find out and read more.  🙂

QUESTION:  How does the word ‘religious’ strike you these days?


  • Jeff Ruble July 12, 2013 Reply

    I remember. Seeing. a bumper. sticker. that said. something. like this. God doesn’t. want religious. nuts. just. faithful. followers .
    religion. to me is just a bunch of rules placed or forced. upon people. to try to keep . IIf man couldn’t. keep. the law. of God.Then how csn wr keep. religious. ones .
    Isn’t that why Jesus always got onto the religious. leaders of placing more. burden on people.
    Jesus gave us two commands. To love God with all our heart soul and mind. Then to love. Our neighboring. ad ourselves .
    After all Jesus died for our burden. of sin and to remove the burden of rules wr had to follow.
    He also talked about placing burdens on and offending his people. He also said. for us to come unto. him because his burden was light and that he would give us rest.

  • Steve Miller July 12, 2013 Reply

    I believe distancing Christianity from the term religion is appropriate. Religion can be good or bad, there are true and false religions. People can practice Christianity as a religion or a relationship, they can know a lot about God or they can actually know God. If you are only a religious Christian then you have missed the central point of the Gospel. By insisting on true relationship to Jesus rather than mere religious knowledge and tradition it safe guards churches from false conversions.

    There is a reason the original Christians were called atheists, those in the ancient world had no category for the believer’s faith in Christ.

  • pietrosquared July 12, 2013 Reply

    Semantics. the word has changed in meaning in an annoying way.

    not all religion is legalistic.

    Not all legalism is religion.

  • Brianna March 28, 2014 Reply

    Subterfuge. No matter whether it is a relationship with Jesus, a religion, or some new found catch phrase that Christians can come up with, IT IS STILL CHRISTIANITY AND STILL HARMFUL. People do not realize they have to believe in themselves first, love themseves first, and stop viewing themselves as depraved, worthless and helpless. The truth of the matter is, we are flawed imperfect beings, but that makes us perfect as we are. Some people will accept us, and some will despise us, but it is more important to be yourself and be hated, than it is to be a follower of Jesus and be loved.

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