Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Organized Religion

I have heard some make the statement that they believe in God, but not in organized religion.

Certainly, much evil has taken place under the cover of organized religion and I would agree that evil perpetrated in the name of God is reprehensible.  

But what’s the alternative?

If organized religion is bad, does that mean disorganized religion would be better?

Yes, there is a movement of Christianity out there which seeks to be less organized. There are those who meet in house churches for the express purpose of not being part of any large organized religious group.

There’s also compelling evidence that the fastest-growing Christian denomination is non-denominational.

I find that ironic.

Certainly, the backlash caused by various abuses within various churches is understandable. And, there is certainly something to be said for smaller groups being less likely to suffer from an accumulation of power and the almost inevitable abuse of that power.

Jesus himself reserved his harshest words for the power-brokers of organized religion of his day:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are. (Matthew 23:15)

In fact, the entire chapter of Matthew 23 is a diatribe against the Pharisees and the scribes. Jesus repeatedly calls them hypocrites to their faces and asks how they will escape being condemned to hell. He is not reserved, also calling them “snakes” and a “brood of vipers.”

And yet, in Acts 6, when the young church was growing by leaps and bounds, Jesus’ own disciples set up an organized system to divide labor so they could devote themselves to prayer and preaching the word.

Clearly, it is natural that believers in Christ would gather together to hear the word, to learn, to encourage one another, and to otherwise be a part of the family of God.

And a family, if it is to be functional, is bound to have some form of organization.

When I was researching this blog, I saw a bumper sticker on an atheist Facebook page that said, “26,000 children will die of starvation today. Why should God answer YOUR prayers?”

This despite the fact that I could not find evidence of a single atheist organization anywhere in the world that has fed a single starving child.

Meanwhile, the largest U.S.-based international relief and development organization (that does indeed feed starving children) is a Christian group.

There are Christian organizations all over the world that not only feed children but also provide clean drinking water, heal the sick, provide wheelchairs to the lame, help the blind and vision-impaired, free people from addiction, teach children to read and write, give hope to those in prison and their families, run orphanages, fight human trafficking, give aid to those devastated by natural disasters, clothe and house the poor, provide shelter for the homeless, help people grow food and become self-sufficient, and the list goes on and on.

Those Christians organizations have world-changing impacts for good.

But, the thing that is so often never said is that the good done by Christian organizations far outweighs the bad.

The case can also be made that there is more Christian benevolence on this planet than all other forms.

So, I believe that it’s not organized religion that is inherently evil- it’s the abuse of organized religion by sinful people within those organizations.

That’s why, in Matthew 23, Jesus’ indictment against the Pharisees began with the legalism that none of them (including the Pharisees themselves) could keep. (See verse 4.)

By the way, an atheist group calling itself the “Alliance Defending Freedom” recently tried to stop school children in Golden Valley, Minnesota, from packaging meals for starving children through a local Christian organization because they said it violated the constitutional separation of church and state.

Today’s Praise
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16 ESV)

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