Yesterday as I was driving in my car I heard a quote that has stuck with me. I was listening to a radio station out of Los Angeles and one of the hosts said, “religion no longer has its stronghold on America as it once did. People are now turning to other things to fill the ‘religion’ void in their souls, and give them something to live for and be passionate about”. To be fair, he was talking about people in LA that are fighting for better bike lanes and apparently making quite a stink about the whole thing. The host was also trying to say that religion was a brainwashing mechanism and all of that, but that is neither here nor there.
The part of the quote that has stuck with me is when he said, “religion no longer has its stronghold on America s it once did”. This stuck with me because of how much I agree with him on this but for a different reason. I would argue that religion is losing its stronghold, but a true relationship with Jesus is starting to emerge. People are starting to internalize that Jesus was here to set you free with the truth instead of confine you with the ‘don’ts’ in life.
Religion, to me, sets out to make itself look good. It loves to tell people who is in and who is out, and tends to revel in the fact it does not fall victim to the vices that laypersons so often struggle with. It loves to tell you when it perceives you to be wrong based solely on you not believing 100% of their set doctrine. If you have the audacity to speak up and simply say, “I don’t know about that”, your belief in God may be questioned, and it is very hard to move into good standing after being branded as a skeptic.
The not so subtle secret and aspect that makes me cringe the most is how much religion will find ways to attack and criticize its own from afar. It makes no effort to investigate, to engage, or to understand the person or thing it deems to not be “religious” enough for its liking. It honestly doesn’t matter what the person or thing’s intentions or heart is, religion will tear it down because they do not fit into the mold that it has made. And the craziest part is if that person or thing is being extremely effective and reaching a lot of souls, religion will find a way to tear the person or thing down and call them a heretic. Religion will literally try to cut off the hands and feet that are being the most effective simply because it doesn’t fit in the box.
When I heard the host say, “they are turning to other things to fill the ‘religion’ void in their souls,” what immediately came to mind are the people I have come to know that are passionately pursuing Jesus. Instead of worrying about the rules and regulations, they are setting out to understand Jesus’ heart and mind to be more like him. They are passionate about sharing Jesus to anyone and everyone, regardless of the circumstances in their life. They refuse to see people as a culmination of their mistakes and look deeper to see the human inside. They don’t worry about “religion” trying to tear them down and telling them they are not worthy; they just take the next step towards obedience.
So, what can that look like? To be honest, sometimes I am not sure. In a country that seems so hell bent to divide itself, and a political climate that seems to tell anyone who doesn’t agree with a certain side that they are evil, it can become hard to even picture. But with that being said, I do think people are starting to gravitate towards Jesus more than ever. The power of religion is starting to lose its rein a little bit, but rest assured, religion will not go down without a fight. Jesus showed there was another way of living that revolved around love and he was killed for it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.
In a moment of self-reflection, I will admit I have had a lot of religion in me for a long time. I have subconsciously tried to hold court on who was in and who was out and have made up my own little rules as to who deserved to get some Jesus. But, that isn’t Jesus. Jesus went to the people that nobody thought was worthy and hung with them. Jesus gave himself even when he had no more to give, and honestly, I want that more and more each day and the world seems to be going in the opposite direction.
Own the Moment by Carl Lentz