If our era deserves a title it is the “age of delusion”. Even after a lifetime of culling reality from the deception of spiritual and theological propaganda, I stand amazed as new seductions permeate the church and culture like waves of a rising tide. At present we are being engulfed by the “religion trick.” It is not new. It is actually 50’s retro. A few week’s ago the Congress of the United States graciously deigned to recognize Christianity as “one of the great religions of the world”. The resolution passed by a vote of 372 to 9 against. It was noted that an identically worded resolution in support of the Islamic Ramadan passed 376 – 0. Most Christian news services reported this as a good thing. In a controversial interview recently, Anglican Archbishop Rowan – beyond his well-reported comments on Christmas – offered his defense of the Christian ‘religion’ as more relevant than Santa or the Tooth Fairy because it produced great art, cathedrals and moral people.

This newest version of the “religion seduction,” was exemplified during the ‘holiday’ season by a “Hanukkah, Christmas & Hajj Festival” in Frederick, Maryland sponsored by a United Church of Christ Congregation, The Unitarian Universalists, St. Katharine Drexel Catholic, the Unity Church, Jewish Congregation Kol Ami and Beth Shalom, and the Islamic Society. It featured a meal with a powerpoint about Hanukkah, the Christmas Story and a comedy skit on “hajj”. UCC pastor Gerry Hanberry thought it might be an idea of what the kingdom of God might look like.

Meanwhile the “religion” of various candidates for president has obsessed the media, who seem to view Obama’s faith in Christ, Huckabee’s Southern Baptist Christianity and Romney’s Mormonism as much the same thing. They each it seems have a ‘religion’, something of a personal quirk, which could compromise their ability to govern sensibly and objectively. When you go to post a personal profile on your all-identifying Facebook you are asked to ‘pick’ your religion.

All this is a manifestation of the ascendant rule of democracy, not as a governmental system but a worldview. The democratic worldview is that there are humanly held beliefs and views but no actual truth beyond consensus. The absurdity of this carries even into the sciences where we are reminded regularly that global warming and evolution must be believed because more scientists believe in it than don’t. The new truths become truth by majority opinion. And so religion, like science, becomes a matter of opinion.

It is time for us, like the Marshwiggle in Narnia, to cast our hand into the fire to wake up from the enchantment. I am not religious! I never have been nor will I ever be, and I certainly hope and pray you aren’t either! Religion is, by its definition, humanly devised stuff, made up by people! In our fallen state of mind and spirit it is therefore inherently horribly unreliable and frequently corrupted. One of our inside jokes is that the life in the historic churches of New England equals one part Christianity and at least two parts folk religion. Folk religion is robes, candlelight services, congregational meetings, organ music, altar colors, strawberry festivals, and the weathervanes on our steeples. As quaint as they all may be, they have nothing to do with Jesus. More exotically, religion is UCC Synods where pagan puppets dance and communion is celebrated to the wind, fire, earth and water. Religion subjects God to human institutionalization, and the result is more often weird than not.

I have served the Church of Jesus Christ by a compelling call of the Holy Spirit for over 35 years, but religion has always offended me. I don’t like religion. I don’t belong to one and all the trappings that come with religion are for me somewhere between amusing, irritating, and contemptible. Even in my role as a local pastor and certainly on the stage of my mainline protestant denomination, I have always remained alienated from the travesty called religion. This has often made others uncomfortable.

Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the Life. He is God’s only contingency plan to save us from our sin and restore us from condemnation to relationship with Himself. Jesus is coming again in space and time. It will be the climactic conclusion of world history. He won’t be Buddha or an incarnated amalgamation of “religious” inventions about incarnated deity. Jesus will not be forced to conform to the ideological fads of a generation, the distortions of a sect, or the cynicism of a skeptical group of ‘scholars’ casting votes on what is historical. Jesus is Lord. He is the beginning and the end.

Believing in Jesus Christ causes you to die to yourself and to be transformed into a new person. The life he gives is a radical life with real power. Living under the truth of God’s word reshapes you beyond recognition. It reshapes your identity, relationships, motives, sexuality, and destiny. Jesus never owned a building, invited his disciples to incorporate, or conducted a stewardship campaign. Jesus would not be caught attending a meeting of a denominational acronym. He isn’t more inclined to be present because we offer Starbucks in the foyer with a theatre seat and surround sound in the sanctuary.

The seduction of delusion happens when you forget this. When you allow the media, the government, denominational leaders, clergy, or your sister in law to con you into the notion that you belong to a religion you have sold your birthright for porridge. Agreeing that you are a member of a religion silences your voice and negates the power of your experience. You have now just admitted that you are another duped proponent of something some folks made up and perpetuate because of tradition and perhaps because it gives some kind of comfort, meaning, or order. How very, very nice that is for you.

Meanwhile in the wild realm of revelation and reality, Jesus Christ threatens every power and authority in the world order because in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell and in him all things hold together. Give me Jesus.

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