Saturday, October 15, 2011

What does it mean to be religious?

I've never cared for the word "religious." Frankly, I think that as the term is applied specifically to Christians, it really does a disservice. The root of the word religion, lig comes from the Latin ligare which means to bind or fasten to a set of rules or conditions. (As a side note some etymologists have suggested that the root word lig is a corruption of the Latin word lex, legis which means the law). Whatever its proper derivation, the term means almost nothing today. The term is applied to the person who attends services and prays unceasingly and tries to live a holy life as well as to the boastful sinner who still goes to church on occasion, does charitable works, but does almost nothing to live a Christlike life.

Take, for example, Ms. Sara Leal. For whatever reason, Ms. Leal felt it necessary to give a very explicit narrative to the New York Post regarding her night of passion with not-yet-divorced actor Ashton Kutcher (i.e. Kelso from "That 70s Show"). If you do link to the article, you've been warned! In between sex sessions, the conversation with Kelso, I mean, Kutcher, the subject turned to politics and religion. According to Leal, she told Kelso that she was a religious Lutheran from Texas. Following that, they returned to their entertainment. So, to Leal, what does religious mean?

We are all sinners in this fallen world and have fallen waaaaaaaaaay short of the glory and mercy of our Lord, but should any of us be trumpeting ourselves as religious especially in the midst of any kind of debauchery? I'm in the middle of reading Uncle Tom's Cabin and I see the same type of characters who view themselves as good religious men while at the same time perpetuating the cruel and demeaning institution of slavery. For those of you who have seen the Godfather, you remember the scene that as Michael Corleone is sponsoring his nephew's baptism and renouncing the ways of Satan, his men are carrying out his orders to murder his competition. It's hypocrisy at its finest.

Only God can judge but we should still know what sin is when it's readily visible before our very eyes. And yet, despite that, even when we are in the midst of our own sin, we take comfort that we are still "religious." Perhaps the late Fr. Romanides was right when he once remarked that religion is a neurological disease. Religion seems to be the expression of our cognitive dissonance from what we know is right and God-pleasing to our actions otherwise.

Maybe we should just jettison the term "religious" for something else. Or, better yet, we should reclaim it and make sure it has one certain definition: Living as Christ would want us to, getting up once we have fallen, repenting and hating our sins rather than indulging in them. Easier said than done? Of course, but that's why there is always the grace of God.

1 comment:

  1. Spot on! I just mentioned a few days ago how I was chastised by a priest to stop calling Orthodoxy my "religion", and to instead begin calling it my "faith".