I have friends who still describe me as “religious.”
It’s their way—and a pretty common way—of describing someone who is intense about their faith, i.e., intense enough to go to church, and pray, and stuff.
Honestly? I find it teensy bit offensive.
Mainly, because it is literally one of my main goals in life not to be religious. Because I think religiosity is killing the church and because I think Jesus had a lot to say about it when he was hanging out with the disciples—and none of it was good.
And because I think “religion” is a cop-out. It’s the easy way. It’s the "I don’t have to figure out how to be in a relationship with an unpredictable, mysterious person because I’ve cleverly scheduled all of my Christian activities" way. I think “religiosity” is something to radically vanquish in our hearts, not a way of life to be praised.
And it's a personal struggle. God has convicted me many times over. There have been seasons in my life when my diligent hourly “time with God” each morning was revealed to be yet another task I could cross off my list for the day and pat myself on the back over “being a good Christian.” Or times when I was using my service at church (or wherever) as an avoidance tactic to coming face to face with a big and scary God.
But as we all know, Jesus is not a religion, he is a person. And therefore life after an encounter with him and a surrender to his Lordship means being in a relationship. Not a religion.
And navigating relationships is difficult. They mean time together. They mean asking questions, listening to the answers, finding out what the other person thinks or likes, and letting them know how you tick in return. They mean receiving love from the other person and showing them yours.
We have this new film coming out called Camp Manna. It’s a light-hearted dig at Christian culture—the kind of culture where we forgot the reason why we do certain things but we do them anyway because we vaguely remember that “it’s what you’re supposed to do.” It’s religion.
And the film has the potential to be offensive. Because often, questioning the outward cladding of what we do as Christians—well, it can be felt as an attack on identity. That is, if the person blindly following the norms of the culture lacks the inner foundation of a walk with Jesus—which is where identity is really found.
And the thing about Jesus is—he is transforming. Religion is not. Religion makes us judgy and needy and self-righteous and intolerant. Something very aptly displayed in some of the characters of this film.
But time with Jesus—either explosive personal encounters or repeated time in his presence (what Heidi Baker loves to call “the secret place”)—preferably both—makes us like him. And he is not scary. Well he is. But he is also beautiful. Discovering the love he has for us satiates and transforms and wrecks us like nothing else ever will.
So let's feel free to laugh at ourselves, and laugh at the ridiculousness of religion, because we have a God who is so much bigger, and soooo much better.
CAMP MANNA is available on iTunes from March 20th.