Church or Religion? Is there a difference?

nicola-odemann2Well yesterday signified 3 years since I started walking away from the religion inside of me, and so I have been reminiscing about what I have learned, how I have grown and what this journey means to me now.

In the last three years I have had the growing conviction that Jesus in fact did not come to give us a new religion but to rather call people out of religion into a new way of relating to God, of participating in the trinitarian dance of love, a new way of being human. I believe this is what Jesus means when he says “I am the way, the truth and the life”

Pope Francis puts it this way:

“The faith passes, so to speak, through a distiller and becomes ideology. And ideology does not beckon [people]. In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid. And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements.”

I love that. I think that so often just because we call something “church” that means it is Church, when actually it is just religion. It seems to me that religion exists outside of Jesus and so it will always be a poor substitute for the Church, which is also called “His Body”.

Jesus is always outside of religion, whether it is talking to social outcasts like the Samaritan women, or dying a criminals death outside the great religious centre of Jerusalem. In this sense Jesus body, the Church, calls people out of religious obligations into the gift participating in the fellowship of the Trinity, being loved and loving, being known and knowing God.

For me the question is no longer do I believe in God, in Jesus, in the Church (which seems to fall into that trap of ideology and is so easy to give a simple yes to). Religion seems to focus on what we believe as all important, rather than how we believe. For me the question is rather do I participate in the Life of Jesus, in the community of His Body, in his crucifixion and resurrection and in the New Creation here and now on earth?

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