“My Dad is bigger than your Dad!”
Whether you believe in God or not, doesn’t it seem that the Religions of the World, have caused more grief and suffering, than joy and prosperity? Why is that?
Beginning in ancient times, men used violence, war and destruction to force others to believe like them. Oft times ranting chants like the classic bully metaphor, “My Dad is bigger than your Dad”. Albeit, usually about the power of their God vs. others. Isn’t Religion really all about control? “If you don’t follow My God, and Our rules…” well, you can fill in the blanks.”
Finding Comfort in Conformity
Humans are the only species on the planet to recruit others to their beliefs. We like to believe as a group. It’s in a group that we find comfort in our conformity. Whether we are right or wrong; hanging out with others who believe like us, emboldens and strengthens our convictions.
When meeting someone new, often our first step is to understand their position on Our beliefs. “Are you with me, or agin’ me?” Then, we begin to recruit. If They join us, we whittle away at all their contradictory beliefs until they think and believe just like us.
When they push back; or worse, they contradict our beliefs. We spurn them. Spewing comments about ignorance and misunderstanding. Frequently the vitriol morphs into vicious character attacks. In any case, they are just not welcome in our group. That’s when, as a collective of like-minded followers, we ostracize and “pigeonhole” the non-believer. Retreating to our sanctuary of supporters. Basking in our conformity; while bolstering our confidence, ridiculing the ignorance of the non-believer and their kind.
Inevitably, it seems that we conclude we are better than anyone who doesn’t think and believe like us. Looking down our noses, we shake our heads and wonder why they think and believe the way they do. With that observation, we consider them to be “just like” other non-believers. By lumping all people we disagree with in convenient factions, we can then chastise them in mass. Confident in our disdain for others like them, we rebuke and look down upon them all for their defective beliefs.
This “Better Than You” attitude gives rise to our “haughty” spirit; criticizing all who are not in line with our doctrine. Scripture tells us that a “haughty” spirit comes before a fall. And that pride brings destruction. While we don’t use the word haughty much these days, we do know it’s modern equivalent Bigotry quite well.
“Pride Goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling.” Proverbs 16:18
While God does tell us to come together in His name. He loves us as individuals, not as groups. God wants us to have an independent, one-to-one relationship with Him. Not a relationship with a religion based in conformity to rules instigated by men.
Shelter Becomes the Religion
It seems, eventually we all fall into one type of religion or another. For some it is a dogmatic reverence to a church or spiritual belief. For others it is a religion of Humanism or Environmentalism. For so many, it’s a political persuasion, or simply a favorite sport and team. Sometimes, all the above; choosing comfortable attributes from each. In general, finding comfort and protection in our religion and it’s “like minded” believers.
“I am astonished how quickly you are deserting the One who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is not even a gospel. Evidently some people are troubling you and trying to distort the gospel of Christ.” Galatians 1:6
Today our churches seem to be large sanctuaries for compliant believers to congregate and bloviate. People finding solace in churches with membership numbers in the tens of thousands; statistics typically associated with winning sports teams. Churches, once a community center of praise & worship, are now the community. The center of life for believers; complete with Starbucks and nightly entertainment. Huge congregations that shelter members from the evil, outside world. That is NOT what scripture instructs Christians to do. Hiding while waiting for Jesus’ return.
As Christians our individual relationship with God Brings His grace and keeps us accountable to Him. We are called to love one another, to walk together in peace and joy through the Holy Spirit. It is not our calling to run from the world and provide comfort and solace only to our brothers and sisters in Christ. That is God’s job.
“It Was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
In the shelter of groups, we can lose sight of God while focusing on what our group believes. It is in these factions that we find justification to be haughty, or bigoted. We’ve all heard the excuse “We were just following orders.” Throughout history, groups have committed atrocities that individuals could not.
Scripture tells us how Jesus was crucified by a religious group. A group frightened by the changes Jesus represented. In effect, a group of like-minded believers acting as a haughty or bigoted mob.
So many groups want to add their beliefs to the Gospel of Christ Jesus. “Jesus Saves”, but only if you abide by the rules we’ve added…
“For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.” Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”—in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Galatians 3:10-14
Man’s laws added to the Gospel has led to tens of thousands of Christian denominations. All fervently believing their laws and doctrine are the Only way. Reminding me again of that chant… “My Dad is bigger than your Dad”.
Paraphrasing Paul in Galatians…
Jesus plus Something, equals nothing!
Jesus plus NOTHING equals EVERYTHING!