Giles Fraser – Can You Be Too Religious?


(Source of the image, HERE)

I found this article in The Guardian extremely enlightening. Here is the comment I have put on my Facebook wall as I linked it:

One can be TOO religious, as many believers indeed are.
We have to remember that Jesus himself was not a very ‘religious’ man, according to the standards of any time, either his or ours. He was just ‘the human one’ (as the biblical ”son of man’ phrase could be very well translated). Much religion wants to do away with this and make him into an esoteric reality that has nothing to do with our common experience of humanity. That is the essence of the heresy of Docetism, which continues to haunt Christians for over twenty centuries.

Here is how the article begins:

When considering this question, note that Jesus himself was hostile to religiosity – and that fundamentalists suffer from a lack of faith.

Actually, I seriously dislike the words religion and religious. First, there is no such thing as generic religiosity. There are Christians and Jews and Muslims and Hindus. No one practises religion, as such. And second, precisely because the word “religion” describes the common outward format through which these very different belief systems express themselves, it cannot describe each in its specificity. This is particularly tricky when it comes to Christianity, because at its heart is a figure who was thoroughly suspicious and condemnatory of religion. “Jesus came to abolish religion,” says the Washington-based poet and evangelist Jefferson Bethke. His YouTube poem Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus received 16 million views within two weeks of it being released. He’s right: the New Testament must be one of the most thoroughly anti-religious books ever written. It makes Richard Dawkins look very tame fare indeed.

Jesus spent much of his time laying into the pious and the holy and lambasting the religious professionals of his day. And this was not because he was anti-Jewish – as some superficial readings of his anti-Pharisee, anti-Sadducee, anti-Temple polemics would have it – but precisely because, as a Jew himself, he came out of that very Jewish prophetic tradition of fierce hostility to religiosity.

And here is how it ends:

Of course, I’d say you cannot be too Christian. That’s a different kettle of fish. And if “being too Christian” makes you think of Christian fundamentalists, I’d want to insist that they are simply not Christian enough. Indeed, that it’s their lack of faith that makes them cling to a bogus form of certainty and literalism. Mostly, Christian fundamentalists worship a book. They like the safety of having pat answers. But this is just another form of idolatry of which the Hebrew scriptures regularly warn. Worshipping a book and worshipping God are two totally different things. Falling down before a baby, with all the inversion of power that this implies, takes courage not intellectual suicide. It is about the world being turned upside-down, the mighty (including the religious mighty) being cast down and the weak being held up. It is about placing something other than oneself at the centre of the world. And no, I don’t think there can be too much of this.

Not everybody among my circle of friends was happy with the article or my ‘endorsement’ of it (I rarely endorse anything; though I share lots of links that I think might be interesting for others to read). Yet, I stand by my initial agreement with the gist of this article and with my assessment that one of the reasons why some believers tend to be ‘too religious’ is their Docetism – a belief in a Christ that merely divine and only apparently human, if at all, which makes then fall into an unnatural, esoteric kind of religiosity.

You may find HERE the article. Read it and decide for yourself.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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