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Friday, August 10, 2012

The Difference Between a Religious and Spiritual Christian

It has to be said. People will be offended, and quite honestly I don't give the tiniest little damn if they are. But first, two definitions.

For the purposes of this article, a religious Christian is someone who identifies as a member of any Christian denomination with the possible exception of the United Church of Christ, which has taken great care to buck the Christian religious trend, but not in all of its Churches. A religious Christian is anyone who adheres to any doctrine or dogma that creates in and out groups, that holds that Jesus is the only path to "salvation" (whatever that is), that believes it has a duty to convert people to become Christian, or that seeks to impose their will on anyone at all - or the culture at large.

Also for the purposes of this article, a spiritual Christian is a person who finds value in the the teachings of Jesus but also recognizes that we live in a pluralistic culture. This person categorically rejects doctrine and dogma as human created constructs that often as not have nothing to do with the life and teachings of Jesus and everything to do with human beings' power and control games. They refuse to reject anyone for any reason, and feel compelled to protect the vulnerable, the oppressed, and the at-risk at any cost.

So here's my message: It is impossible to be a religious Christian without also being an unqualified asshole.

You can talk to me all you want about wanting to change things from the inside, about how things are getting better, how I should be patient, and I have a one word response for you: "No!" You see, while you are living inside the institution your money goes to support the politics of hatred and violence. Your church friends are running around being roundly critical and judgmental toward others. Your peers - good Christians all - are doing things like shooting up the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin because God only likes white people. They are also driving around Milwaukee verbally, physically, and sexually assaulting anybody they don't believe conforms to their gender norms; telling abject lies about agencies that provide vital services to poor women like Planned Parenthood - largely because they quite honestly don't like the poor and don't want to help them; seeking to impose their archaic beliefs about birth control on the population at large; trying to return science education to the dark ages; ranting on about "faggots"; and generally doing everything they can to make the world an uglier place, all in the Name of Jesus - a Jesus who would not recognize them were he to return today. You see, if you hang out with these people in their little hate-filled country clubs they call churches and don't denounce them and move away from them, you are part of the problem even as you delude yourself into believing you are working for a solution.

I, for one, can't remain silent any longer.

You see, I had to step outside religious Christianity to Buddhism to get instruction on Christian values like compassion, empathy, loving your neighbor, and not offering a knee jerk response to every situation I encountered. Once I was outside looking in, I could clearly see all of those teachings in the biblical record of Jesus. I could also see how little was made of those essential qualities in religious Christianity. Whether it's small minded bigots like the Episcopal Bishop of Milwaukee, Steven A. Miller, attempting to purge his diocese of gay and lesbian clergy or the head of the largest organized crime syndicate in the world, the Vatican, covering up the rape of untold children by his priests, I just don't see Jesus in the Church any more. Remaining inside the Church isn't working for change, it's being complicit with bigots and felons - and that, in my book anyway, makes you an asshole.

Even the historic black churches seem to spend most of their time oppressing members of their own community and lacking the back bone to take responsibility for their bigotry against the LGBT community and instead blaming the Bible for their small mindedness. The problem is that the Bible doesn't say what they claim it does, but I guess truth has never stood in the way of the Church practicing what it's best at: hypocrisy and oppression. Every once in a while, a group of people inside the church manage to take the first steps in starting a discussion about her poor behavior - only to be greeted by threats of physical assault by other pastors and parishioners, assholes all.

Even worse are the New Agers who have left the Church and now stand on the fringes encouraging people to just think positively and so change their world. Really, asshole? So what you are saying is that those people inside that Sikh Temple brought this tragedy on themselves because their thoughts were somehow flawed? Do you really believe that nonsense, or is it just that you - in a manner strikingly similar to those inside religious Christianity - prefer to believe that you can control the world rather than learning to respond to it in a healthy manner?

You see, religion - and a fair amount of spirituality - has long deceived people into believing that if they just do/think/believe the right things then nothing bad will ever befall them. The problem is that's a lie, and it's the worst kind of lie there is - it's a lie that makes everything the fault of the victim, because those who are emptying the wallets of the faithful are only too quick to say that the faithful obviously weren't doing as they were told.

At this point, I have lost all respect for the Christian tradition I once loved. I still love Jesus, and value his teachings highly. My problem is that I find no trace of either Jesus or his teachings in religious Christianity.


  1. I like your site. I am convinced of the truth and wisdom in what Jesus taught - I think I believe it because I see evil, bullying, and hypocrisy so clearly in just about every "religious" person I meet. And this is from someone who doesn't have just "passing knowledge" of how churches work.

    Who is the anti-christ? Not half-wits like Phelp (or Madonna). The antichrist is James Bond. He doesn't NEED God. Neither do the churches, truth be told.

  2. the content of your blog is so wonderful. By the way I have a question about Buddhism. Is this religion believe to Jesus Christ or they worship Jesus Christ through Buddha or Buddha is their LORD? I am confuse so ask this kind of question. Thanks in advance for answering my question. :)
    spirituality articles

    1. We are living in a time when there is alot of confusion and deceit, the devils work. Jesus is the way, we are all sinners, but we all can become sinless, everyone of us. The evil that comes out of the issues you are concerned about are very real indeed but that is part of his plan (the devil). One has to look deeper into their own soul with Jesus as their guide, It is hard work and takes alot of effort, daily. Requires putting on the full "Armour of God" without this we will continue to see, feel what you mentioned. You are not wrong in your observation, but you are wrong about your conclusion.

    2. Ren, Buddhism is neutral on the concept of God. The Buddha taught that suffering exists and provided a method to work with our suffering. When asked about God, he refused to answer because the religious authorities of his day who were asking about God were not sincere.

  3. @watching w/Jesus, I respect your right to believe as you wish. However, it probably won't surprise you when I say I couldn't disagree more. It's clear you are a biblical literalist, and like all biblical literalists you use the Bible and interpret it in a way it was never intended to be interpreted. There is no devil, the devil is a metaphor for the ego and the way it misleads us. There is no hell, in fact in the original language of the New Testament Jesus never used the word "hell." We have translated it into the Bible thanks to Dante's Inferno and the Church's desire to control thought and behavior. Jesus would not recognize your Christianity.

  4. Not to be confused with spirituality I assume. Most people who just believe in spirituality do so because it is separate from religion and easier for those who struggle with the belief in God and Jesus. They believe in a higher power of a non religious nature.

    1. Hi! First let me say that I appreciate you taking the time to comment and your position, even as I don't think the statistics bear you out. I certainly agree that a large number of people who identify as spiritual believe in a higher power other than the ones put forth by traditional religion, and I love that and support it 100%. However, there is also a huge percentage of folks, something like 90% of Americans, who claim a belief in God while only 20% of Americans attend a Church, Temple, or Mosque regularly (these statistics are from a study by Hartford Seminary in the early 2000s). Among these folks are a significant number of people who have left institutional religion and its definition of God, Jesus, et. al., while still retaining their belief in the same, though unencumbered by institutional religion and its doctrine and dogma. That is, in fact, a higher power of a non religious nature. These people would tend to feel that terms such as God, Allah, the Universe, Nature, the Cosmos, Enlightenment, and so on all point to the same thing, without trying to prohibit the use of any particular term someone else found useful. I feel that represents a very hopeful perspective!

  5. Religion talks about God. Spirituality helps to make us godly. Religion is often about loyalty to institutions, clergy, and rules. Spirituality is about loyalty to justice and compassion.

    Ask The Lama