Ok so right off the bat, let me remind you that I am writing about myself here. Of all the weirdo’s and Lord of the Weirdo’s. I do think we all need to keep a sense of humour when we look at ourselves, but what am I really on about? When I left my last congregation, and began to realise just how relationally awkward (weird) I was in comparison to my “non-christian” friends.
My friendship circle had grown tighter than a pair of skinny jeans, and since I wasn’t attending services and other religious meeting any-more, I had some extra time on my hands. We reconnected and I noticed how normal they were in how they related to one another. One of the things I noticed was that they seemed to have more freedom in their relationships, freedom for each person to be themselves. I also noticed a mutuality in their friendships, that had’t been common in the congregations I had been a part of.
It got me thinking about why this is so, and that’s when I really started to come face to face with my own religiousness. I think when we are a part of religious groups this sort of behaviour is normal and sometimes encourage them. I was realising that it is one thing to leave religion, it’s another thing entirely to become unreligious. I think this is one of the reasons God lead me to not church plant when I left the last congregation I was a part of.
Ok, so my underlying belief in all of this is that if God is truly a God of love, then surely his relating to us and consequently our relating to each other should be healthy and loving. However religion, I believe, makes our relationships unhealthy because it injects into those relationships agenda’s, one-side/co-dependant relationships, control, hierarchy and shame based behaviour. No wonder religion never made anyone more loving.
So let me explain a little. Like I said we were reconnecting with old friends, and one of them invited me out to coffee. I was excited to connect with him because we share the same taste in music, but after giving me the first 5mins to tell him how I was doing, and what I had been up to over the past few years, he launches into his agenda. I had come to the coffee shop to find an old friend, he had with agenda to get me to join this new bible study course that was totally “life-changing”. I remember sitting in my chair, laughing to myself and saying to myself “so this is what I look like” and “so this is what it feels like to be the other person.”
So here is the problem as I see it, we are pressured and told by our religious leaders that we have a divine mandate from God to push our agenda on anyone who will listen, and even those who won’t. I know I was one of those guys. To be honest this makes us no different from any other religion. This creates two kinds of christians, those who feel guilty that they aren’t pushing the agenda, and those who feel proud that they are, and aren’t like the first group who seem less spiritual. I was one from the last group, and then we try to get people from the first group to the other and we call that discipleship, or leadership training.
We have all sorts of ways of justifying this behavior, and most of it centers around us doing it for peoples own good. We call it love, sometimes we call it tough love, but really we tend to love like parents giving gross tasting medicine to their kids. Our attitude is, you might not like it now, but its for your own good. (This is probably a good time to remind ourselves to laugh and not take ourselves too seriously).
Another reason that agenda is a real problem for us is that we are so busy, you don’t need to be a christian to be busy, but with all the extra meetings and commitments and expectations we have to meet. It’s just crazy. Think about it, when last did you hear of someone burning out because of his involvement in a bowling club, golf club, supper club etc. However I know tones of young adults and adults of every age burning out right now because of their involvement in congregation. So when on top of that you have to carve out time to witness and make befriend a new couple, all sorts of prioritizing and agenda go into that relationship because we simply can waste any time on a friendship for the sake of friendship.
There is obviously agenda within the local congregation too, because at the end of the day we have a program to run, services to provide and an institution to grow, that requires huge participation from volunteers. The sad thing is that we tie our participation to our relationship with God. We call it leadership development, but when last did the senior pastor raise up a successor to himself?
People attend small groups for discipleship and fellowship, most of the time with people they wouldn’t normally choose to be friends with, and then when people are happy, or are just too tired or for whatever reason they leave a local congregation, then you see how real the friendships are. Most of the time the “fellowship” stops because to be honest the people in the congregation are just to busy now to make extra time to meet beyond the natural activities of their congregation. They weren’t friendship but merely people with a common task, it’s a bit like when you change jobs, most of the time you lose contact with those people, because you aren’t on the same task, yes you shared laughs and had some fun times but at the end of the day it was about the task. This is what the busyness of agenda does to so many good people. Sadly without us realizing, it chokes our life out, makes us weird and leaves no room to love people for who they are.
Once I saw what the system of religion does to good people I realized I couldn’t be a part of it, I had pushed and championed the agenda for too long. I want to be art of the solution and for me that meant stepping out of the system, where no one pushes an agenda on me, and I don’t have an agenda to push on anyone. As christians we have a person to share and he has some great news, but we don’t have an agenda.
So yeah, christian can be weird, but there is a damn good reason 😉