By Rev. Dr. Brian Gigee
“On (Dis) Organized Religion”
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.” –Acts of the Apostles 2:42
Someone told me recently… “I don’t believe in organized religion.” Ok, let’s go with that.
Have you heard that? It’s not the first time. 1990’s? 2000’s? Last week. Some might even say now it’s no longer a Christian thing. Even our Jewish and Muslim friends partake and add a few bricks to the wall! But, it is that thought when shared and when someone thinks I’m hearing it again for the first time, I get out my grumpy old man1 posture faster than Doc Holliday drew on Ike Clanton at the OK Corral. Is there a point? Sure. Faith matters. Clarity has its place and it’s not an OK or helpful statement when if comes to talking about our faith and, actually, I think it gets said in an attempt to avoid talking about what now too many know little about. It’s a safe response.
Most folks want to have faith or at least believe in something (like baseball without sign stealing), but too few major in religion. After all, would I want to talk ‘hockey’ at length with Wayne Gretzky or ‘home cookin’ with Paula Dean? It’s not that I don’t believe in organized hockey or having a plan for home cooking. No, it’s just that I don’t have much to offer to either of those conversations, so avoiding one would serve me best. It seems that’s true for religion as well.
Have you ever heard that same excuse…“I don’t believe in organized religion”? What did you say? How’d it go? Sadly, for me, it seems that I never really get to truly engage in the conversation as the comment is designed to end it before it gets started.
Well, let me ask, then, “Does this mean you believe in ‘DIS-organized religion’?” I’m pretty sure that’s the best next question. Or at least make the query, “What is it exactly that you don’t believe?” Do people really think that religion shouldn’t be organized? All of life is organized! Patterns, sizes, shapes, seasons, cycles, movement, temperatures, buildings, highways, civic groups, youth sports teams… connect-the-dots, heads, tails, etc—are all part of being organized. Hey, even chaos comes in a form that is eventually recognized. Or, maybe what folks mean is that religion is over-organized. Too much talk. Too many rules. Too complex. After all, ‘bearing false witness’ or lying about one’s neighbor is pretty harmless, right? Or is this all just an excuse people have invented to shirk any kind of participation in God-talk or a Godly walk? Do we even know who first said it? Give that person a Bible!
The church and all religions, as I think I understand them, look a lot less like the inner workings of a railroad pocket watch and more like a garden that needs to be tended to… planted, watered, weeded, fertilized and plucked. It’s messy work but in time good growth comes. And if you know anything about gardens… one has little control at all.
The truth is this, however… God is always trying to re-organize our disorganized failures and foibles… So… love God… love your neighbor… love yourself and do what the early disciples did… hang out with the God lovers, pray often, teach the good things of God and get to the Lord’s table as much as you can.
Brian Gigee is a long-time resident of Pearland and the lead pastor at New Life Lutheran Church at 3521 E. Orange St. in Olde Pearland. You can follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Friend2theRabbi. Comments and questions can be sent to [email protected].