Religion. Religious. Contentious words and if you are associated with a very particular, western form of Protestantism such as myself, even the statement in this blog's heading could have been enough for you to miss a heartbeat and reach for the elder's phone number.
The reason why 'religious' has become a by-word for sanctimonious is easy to see and so is the desire of many Christians to remove themselves from any man-made organisation that requires its adherents to pay superficial lip-service to a set of Sunday rules.
But is this what religion means?
For many, it is a negative expression that describes the idea that we must perform duties and rituals in order to receive our salvation. In this sense I would not want to be known as religious. It's an in-joke to insult someone's efforts to look holier than thou. And it is an in-joke, isn't it? Who outside of your church, associates the word religion with a very specific heresy that undermines the sufficiency of substitutionary atonement?
Late last year I was called religious and even as I was taking a sharp breath in, I was laughing at how rude that would have sounded to me a year ago. No, no, I would have wanted to protest. I am not religious! I have faith! I have a relationship with God! Of course this is true but the statement was made with great respect to the sincerity of my beliefs and how I practiced them. And I was glad to have been called religious.
How could I be pleased to be called such by a starchy and self-righteous term?
Clearly it's about context. Living in my current context, being religious is honourable and describes someone who both believes and practices their faith. Quite the opposite of Sunday only lip-service. It describes someone who is changed by what they believe and doesn't just use the name of their faith as a convenience.
My religion is deeply inconvenient, in fact! Because religion with a living God changes you from what you want to be into who He wants you to be.
Trying to be a non-religious believer would be a confusing nonsense to my friends. So are you religious? That's up to you but not all words mean the same thing to everyone.
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