Fox News and Friends had Christopher Hitchens on this morning to promote his new book, “God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.” I haven’t read this book yet, but I have read a couple of pages from an except and well it is quite provocative. He argues early on in the book that organized religion is poisonous and that living an ethical life while on earth is possible with out the constraints of a religious philosophy.
His idea has merit. Religion has certainly been poisonous. When men and women have hid behind the institutionalism of religion a great many innocent lives have been taken. When men and women have hid behind institutionalism, a great many evils have befallen humanity. This book won’t shake my faith or force me to surrender my hope in Jesus, but it does open our eyes to the dangers of organized religion. I believe Mr. Hitchens’ objections to organized religion isn’t far fetched. But, I don’t think organized religion is the intent of a good and loving God. In Acts 7, Stephen is on trial for his faith in the resurrection of Jesus and recounts Jewish history from the days of Abraham to Moses and on into the advent of the Messiah. Stephen’s accusastions against the orgainzed institutional religion of his day was that God is not limited to any particular geography, that the God cannot be confined to the Jewish temple and Jewish history had been one of rejecting God’s messengers which culminated in their missing of God’s biggest move ever, the incarnation. The point of all of this talk about Stephen is that I agree with Mr. Hitchens that orgainzed religion is dangerous, but the life God intends for his people is not one of institutions and poision. Jesus shows humanity a better way to live, the way of love for God and for humanity. His way is not one of orgainzed religion, but something more organic, something simpler.
Mr. Hitchens’ this morning spoke of the problem of religion in the world is that there are all man made and that within each religion, the adherents of these religions fight against each other. This is certainly one of the biggest obstacles I had to overcome before I fully embraced the gospel of Jesus. I observed many churches in my neighbord, and wanted to know why there were so many and what the purpose of so many churches was. I was never fully satisfied with the answer I received, but I was drawn to Jesus and the best advice I was ever given was to puruse him and not get distracted by all the denominations. I pray for one day that the blood that was spilled on Calvary will erase all the demoniational demarcations across the globe. Until, then it is up to Christ’s followers to live free of man-made rules and creeds that divide and keep us separated. All the junk from our Christian past shouldn’t keep us from partnering with God now, we still have a mission to live to seek and save the lost, to bring light to dark places in our world and healing to the broken places in the world. This focus is what has kept me going and not throwing in the towel of my faith. God has called me to be a healer to the broken hearted.
And while not all people will embrace the teachings of Jesus, for those of who have and will in the future, we still must love those who choose not too. Arguing with them won’t do any good. But loving them and serving them, this is the way of Jesus. God’s inbreaking kingdom has always been bigger than religion. My prayer is that Christ’s followers of all varieties will have eyes to see and ears to hear.