I hate being called ‘religious’.
I regard myself as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, not as a religious person.
I guess the reason I don’t like being called religious is that I associate the word with things like traditions, rituals, and rites that seem more man-made than God-given. Some speak approvingly of ‘true religion’, or ‘pure religion’, but to me the word, other than in the sense of James 1:26-27, is entirely negative.
Things haven’t changed much since then. There are many religions in the world, ranging from Islam to New Age spiritualism with all of them claiming some sort of divine origin. Islam professes that an angel revealed the contents of the Koran (Quràn) to Mohammed, and New Age practitioners would like us to believe that disembodied higher beings channel wisdom through them. However, when we get right down to the basic issue of validation, only Mohammed heard the angel and only the New Agers personally experience the ‘channelling’. It is all very subjective.
I don’t regard Christianity as a religion at all, at least not as I have defined ‘religion’. However, with sadness I have to concede that religion has infiltrated Christianity. I bailed out of the church when I was thirteen years old because I saw only tradition, rite and ritual, and not Jesus. Now, five decades later, I am hopelessly committed to the church because I see it as the household of God, the family of Jesus Christ, and not as a temple to tradition.
I have no criticism of the church. The church, the Body of Christ, in all its local expressions, is a wonderful and precious thing. I just can’t stand the religiosity that creeps into her thinking and practices. Things like the special classes of ‘priests’ who wear archaic costumes and conduct their religious practices behind a separating rail; or expensively suited ‘Pastors’ who sit on special chairs on a raised platform. Things like the muttered formula prayers spoken in Elizabethan English, or Latin; or the exhortations to “Give the Lord an applause offering” as the preacher bounds up to the Perspex pulpit.
If you are a church leader then you can influence these things. If you are not you can still abstain, pray, and speak when the time is right. Anything that seeks to express the truth that Jesus embodied brings life. All that expresses religious tradition might bring nostalgia but will not impart life-changing truth.