This is What Religion Does

My husband is now without his laptop charger.

It’s tragic, but we’re making do. In the autopsy of the deceased charger cord, we discovered that he cause of death was that it had been wrapped tightly around itself (for convenient, space-saving storage) one time too many. The wiring within the rugger cord, once flexible and malleable, had conformed to its forced reshaping following repeated strain to the same spot—primarily around the base of where the cord emerged from the power supply.

After some gentle tsking, and with redoubled efforts to keep my eye open for anything similar that my electronics were falling prey to (wrapping my earbuds around my iTouch, winding the vacuum cord tightly around its neat spindle), I got to thinking deep about the entire situation.
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All of a sudden, the thought, “This is what religion does” popped into my head. Seizing the opportunity for potentially hours of internal dialogue, I took the bait and followed this thought down the rabbit hole of relevant allegorical anecdotes. All right, I’ll bite, I thought. How is this anything like what religion does?

I will explain—but first, some context.

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According to Dictionary.com, the simplest definition of the word  religion is “adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices.”

In the revival culture we see happening in circles like Bethel and the Promise Church, religion is a bad word that leaves a sour taste in the mouth. It’s not a pleasant note to the rest of society, either. Many scoff at the idea of religion in general, though many of those same people would attest to the value of embracing faith.

In this revival culture, religion is less of a synonym for Christianity or Islam or the denomination you prescribe to. It’s rather a label we like to stick on “The Box.”
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“The Box” is our paradigm. It’s our perspective. It’s the lens through which we see our world. We all have a Box—or are in the process of obliterating it through the renewing of our minds.

Romans 12:2 – Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

“The Box” is something that is formed by our experiences, our “normals” of childhood, our personalities, our friends, our churches, our favorite foods—you name it. It’s how we define ourselves. It’s how we protect ourselves from the world around us—and how we justify doing so.

Contrary to popular belief, we all have a “religion,” for religion is simply the prescription of everyday activities. It may have nothing to do with spirituality, and it may have everything to do with it. Most of us are religious about brushing our teeth at least twice a day, sleeping at least four hours a night, wearing clothes and shoes when we go outside, having our thermostats above a certain temperature…you could go on forever. But this is religion.
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Religion is comfortable.
It’s routine.
It’s trustworthy.
It’s safe.

And it’s harmless…or is it?

Because according to Holy Spirit, religion has the potential to destroy us from the inside out.

When my husband wound his laptop cord around the power supply time after time, he was simply following a routine he had established early on. Wrapping the cord in this fashion made it compact and lovely to look at, rather than a tangled mess. It made it easy to store and didn’t take up much space.

But over the two and a half years he’s had his laptop, this practice has slowly worn away at the inner workings of his charger cord—until at last, as of this past weekend, the connection between the power supply and the inner workings of the cord were severed completely.

All from the inside out.

All unseen.

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This is what religion does. It insulates us from thinking outside our box. It keeps us from thinking up creative solutions, encouraging us to instead follow the comfort of our routine.

On the outside, it’s very neat and tidy-looking, and there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong.

But internally, bit by bit, religion turns what once was flexible into hard-edged corners, wearing down the connection to our primary power source until eventually it is choked out completely.

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I’m not intending this for condemnation. I’m not targeting this at anyone. In fact, I would not be spending so much time entertaining this thought if it was not relevant to me personally.
Which should tell you that I struggle with this.
A lot.

And here’s what saves me from becoming discouraged about knowing that I have so much room to grow: knowing that, because of how God has designed us for community, if I am struggling with an issue, I likely am not the only one in my sphere of influence who needs encouragement in this area.

In short, you, precious reader, are my inspiration and my encouragement. To know that I have such a network of support, that I’m not just journaling to nobody but that I have readers who are fed and take away things of value from what I learn—is priceless, and such an honor.

But I digress.

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Jesus described spiritually religious people as tombs washed white.

Matthew 23:27 – For you are like whitewashed tombs–beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.

Note, He wasn’t talking to people who were living immoral lifestyles. He was talking to the people who claimed to know and represent God. The people who appeared to be upright and holy, but who were internally dead.

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The challenge I leave you with today is to think outside your box. Do you wrap your charger cord the same way every time you’re done using your laptop? What do you do when confronted with an uncomfortable situation—do you recluse, or do you embrace the opportunity for growth?

I’m not going to make up any scenario questions to get you thinking, “Is this me?” because I think this applies to all of us. We could all use a self-checkup on how we’re doing, to see if we’re holding ourselves back in any area by our comfort zones and our routines—our religion.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. K
    Dec 22, 2011 @ 10:43:32

    While I appreciate the time you took to explore the dangers of religion, I believe you chose a definition that is too narrow and exclusive. Religion is NOT simply a set of beliefs and practices; while many organised faith constructs do include these, they do not MAKE a religion. Rather, religion is better defined as ‘orientation to ultimate reality’. Those who adhere to the Christian faith(s) know this as ‘God’; in Buddhism, it is Nirvana; in Hinduism, it is Brahman; for the Jewish, the Chosen People, it is Yahweh, and for the Muslims, it is Allah. Several other important faiths, though they be lesser known, are no less religions than their more popular counterparts simply because they do not follow the God of Christians, or subscribe to the sets of rules that Christians do, but they are religions because each has a goal to orient the individual toward a better, ultimate reality.

    All in all, while you pose some fair questions, it is dangerous to put religion in the box you allegedly warn readers against. Be careful not to fall prone to dangerous fundamentalist claims.

    My utmost to you, keep digging, keep asking, keep writing.

    Best regards,

    K

    Reply

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