Monday, November 30, 2009

religious bullying and barriers to entry

An important sermon from Kyle a week ago on religious "bullying": the use of religious legalism to damage people....

We missed most of the series, attending other churches (Sojourn three weeks ago; with family two weeks ago and this weekend). This message (and perhaps the whole series) was based on the amazing and overlooked Matthew 23. When people think of Jesus as all "meek and mild", they apparently haven't read this chapter full of staggering polemic. (More broadly, people have an attenuated view of Jesus because they fail to ascribe anger to him-- when God's name is soiled by religious folk and the rights of others are violated [justice issues].)

It's interesting that, in economics and in religion, there are natural and artificial "barriers to entry". In econ, there are natural barriers to entry, for example, in terms of the fixed costs to begin production and get product/service to market. There are often artificial (govt) barriers-- various regulatory impediments-- which diminish productive activity in that realm, often at the behest of those who benefit from restricted competition. Examples run the gamut from labor unions to govt's monopoly on elementary and secondary education, from trade protectionism to all sorts of shenanigans in farming.

In religion, there are natural barriers to Christianity. The crucifixion of Jesus was a stumbling block to Jew and Greek (I Cor 1:23). More broadly, commitment to Jesus can be a stumbling block as people want to go their own way instead (e.g., Is 8:14, Rom 9:33, I Pet 2:8). But we are not to put artificial stumbling blocks in the way of those who are not yet in the Kingdom (e.g., Mal 2:8, Rom 14:20, I Cor 8:9, 10:32, II Cor 6:3).

The most famous passage on this occurs in this passage and focuses on the concept rather than the term: Mt 23:13.

Kyle talked about how we can set up stumbling blocks within the practice of the faith-- in particular, by turned good things into duties, from "get to's" to "need to's". He cited small groups, gender-specific Bible studies, mission trips, affinity to a Christian sub-culture, and a particular political agenda. All of these (and others) are-- or at least can be-- (quite) good. But all of them can lead one, ironically, from abundant life in Christ.

Religion over relationships, minors over majors, associating rules with Lordship. That's not the way it's supposed to be!

If that has been your experience of Christianity, open your mind to finding a new church, open your Bible to the Gospels and to Paul's writing (particularly in Galatians and Colossians), and most important, open yourself to a loving God who wants you to have eternal and abundant life starting right now.


At December 1, 2009 at 7:36 AM , Blogger Shawn said...

As Willard writes (paraphrasing) the largest hindrance to love of Christ is service to Christ.


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