Religious Moralism

Written by cycleguy on February 16th, 2010

I have a confession to make.  Some of you are going to choke when you hear it.  Others will yawn.  I realize that but here goes: when Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy first came to the theaters, I did not go to see any of them.  How can I say this?  I was not (choke) the least bit interested in them.  Please don’t hang me out to dry if you are a “Rings” fan.  And please don’t cheer too loudly if you could care less.   One day though, back around 2004, I was visiting in the home of someone who had knee surgery and I saw “The Fellowship” DVD sitting there.  Since I had been really psyched about Wild at Heart and that was one of John’s favorite series of movies to refer to, I decided to borrow it.  I watched it that night and have to admit…I was hooked!  I mean big time hooked.  I even called Tom to ask if I could visit him again (the next day) and also borrow the other two DVD’s.  I watched them immediately.  I was really hooked!  And then…for my birthday my oldest daughter found the Director’s Cut of “Fellowship” and for Christmas she found the other two.  About once a year I will have a “Rings” marathon, usually while working a jigsaw puzzle, and play all three back-to-back-t0-back.  That has got to be about 11-12 hours of “Rings!”  😮

But I have to admit that there is one place I really want to act like the Hobbits…sleep…when Merry and Pippin are with Treebeard.  I realize that is the character but man…is he slow or what?  (Reminds me of some churches I know.  Take forever to make a decision and by then the decade has passed).  When the hobbits ask Treebeard whose side he is on, he answers, “I am not altogether on anybody’s side, because nobody is altogether on my side…[But] there are some things, of course, whose side I’m altogether not on.” While reading Tim Keller’s book The Prodigal God, I came across this thought: “Jesus’ own answer to the question of whose side He was on, is similar to Treebeard’s.  He is on the side of neither the religious or irreligious, but He does single out religious moralism as a particularly deadly spiritual condition.” I have run across religious moralism, as I am pretty sure many of you have.  It is an ugly, insidious, judgmental way of life.  “See as I see it (it is the only right way).  Think as I think (it is the only right way).  Believe as I believe (it is the only right way).”  You get the idea don’t you?   Christianity was never meant to be a religion.  It always has been and always will be about a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Any thoughts on what I have written today?  I would love to hear them…pro or con.  All comments are accepted-just be nice. 🙂


9 Comments so far ↓

  1. Jim F. says:

    Never watched “The Ring” movies and I am a movie guy – I do not know why.

    Relationship is what it is all about. I have a habit of shocking people with the statment – “I hate religon”. When they ask why it gives me a great opportunity to talk relationship with them.

    Glad you are doing well my friend – Do NOT over do it! Listen to Jo because she will have a good sense of what you should and should not do.

  2. cycleguy says:

    Find some time to watch them if you can. Fantastic stories. Took me more than once to watch them to really “see them.” I agree about the relationship vs. religion. I will try to listen to Jo. 🙂

  3. selahV says:

    One of the things I’ve battled for my entire Christian ministry with folks is why we find the need to continually be pointing out how others are failing to live out the Gospel. We are each accountable to the Lord. He will guide us. It says so in Phil. 1:6. He will complete us. We can guide but any condemnation is not ours to own.

    I haven’t ever heard of moral legalism. but then there are lots of things I have never heard of. I’ve seen the Rings Trilogy. I should probaly watch it again. Wasn’t all that excited about it the first time. sorry. selahV

  4. Ike says:

    Christianity is definitely a religion. Furthermore, it is the one true religion. It is the religion of religions. I have absolutely no apprehension about the term. I do however, have tremendous apprehension about the tendency to adopt unbiblical language in an effort to ‘relate’ to the culture. I challenge anyone to find the idea of a “personal relationship with Christ” in the New Testament. Certainly we are related to Christ by way of our new birth and adoption (Rom 8:15, 23; 9:4; Gal 4:5; Eph 1:5). However, this is a far cry from the often egocentric, narcissistic use of the phrase, ‘personal relationship’ with Christ.

    Of course, there is also the danger of becoming irreligious. I have always found it ironic that people recoil from the idea of religion, but continue to tell new believers to be baptized, go to church, take the Lord’s Supper, read their Bibles regularly, witness, and do a whole host of other “religious” activities. However, lately there has been a movement away from such religious activities. If Christianity is all about my ‘personal relationship’ with Jesus, then why do I need to go to church? Why do I need to read my Bible? I can just wait ‘till my buddy, Jesus “tells me” what to do next. Who needs all that ‘religious’ stuff?

    I understand what people are trying to say when they eschew the term religion. The goal is to assure skeptics that we are not offering dead ritual and empty tradition. The goal is to paint a picture of a vibrant life with our Lord, Jesus Christ. I get that. However, I do not believe that it is wise, or necessary to commit logical fallacies, and make trite, nonsensical arguments in order to do so. Arguing that Christianity is not a religion is like arguing that America is not a country. I believe honest, thinking people laugh when they hear some Christian trying to be hip and relevant by saying something as asinine and illogical as, “I’m not talking about religion… I’m talking about a relationship.” Enough already with the play on words. It’s not our job to make Christianity cool. We just need to make it clear. Unfortunately, since this “Christianity is not a religion” business is out of step with the English language, the history of the Church, and common sense, it compromises the clarity and the integrity of our message. I praise God for the fact that we have a religion and a relationship.

  5. cycleguy says:

    selahv: thanks for the comment. I do agree with you about the judgment part. We need to be careful in our “religious” judgment of others. Don’t feel bad about the Rings trilogy. JO has never watched it and never will. Oh…the suffering I deal with. 🙂

  6. Pinky says:

    Christianity was never meant to be a religion. It always has been and always will be about a relationship with Jesus Christ.
    YES!!!! That is exactly how I feel! (I came over from Robin’s blog, see your responses all the time so decided to take a peek!). Thanks for the insight!!!! Pinky

  7. cycleguy says:

    Pinky: great to see you visit me. I have seen your name over on Robin’s blog and like reading your comments. Thanks for taking a peek over my way. For the record: I agree with you.

  8. Ike says:

    The term “religion” is written off w/o a discussion of what it really means…..and a “relationship with Jesus Christ” is embraced …again w/o definitions.

    Judas had a personal relationship with Jesus…..but I’m sure it isn’t what Pinky is talking about.

  9. cycleguy says:

    Ike: i will agree that Christianity is a religion in the same sense that Judaism is and Islam is, etc. But to equate what Jesus is offering with what the world has accepted is not two peas in a pod. personally, I reject the idea that what jesus offers is a religion. He rejected the religion of the Pharisees, a “religion” based on works of righteousness. Much of what the world sees as Christianity is not what jesus had in mind. I do believe that Jesus wants us to have a personal relationship with Him based on faith that represents itself and Him to the world by our works. Like any relationship, that relationship is enriched by time spent together. I see a relationship with jesus being much the same way. Time spent with Him in communion. prayer, bible reading, etc are not to be seen as works but as a way to enrich that relationship. I know some see “a personal relationship with Jesus” as a form of narcissism but I see it as a way to deepen my walk with Jesus. The word religion smacks of “traditions, rules and religious activities” and I reiterate that I don’t believe that is what jesus had in mind. I would also submit that Judas did not have a personal relationship with Jesus. Sure he knew Jesus. How could he not? But he never allowed the influence and changed-way-of-life Jesus offered to make a difference. He had his own agenda and it wasn’t to lift and glorify jesus as the Son of God. As a result he missed it all. Pinky was reflecting on the statement I made and agreed with it.