If I am being perfectly honest, I admit I cannot stand clever titles, pithy remarks, or sexy slogans. The important things, the really life-defining truths of our existence on earth cannot be reduced down to a phrase.
I have always been on the side of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Ents. These are the “tree shepherds” in the Lord of the Rings, who have been around for thousands and thousands of years. When asked even a simple question, the Ents take all the time they need and more to decide. The ever-ready warning, “Don’t be hasty” embodies their thoughtful, reflective, and methodical
In addition to cringing at slogans, I have developed a warning signal toward those who claim to have the answer to “Changing the world” in their hand. We put unreasonable expectations on our lives, on the lives of those around us, and eventually God when we look to the results of a “Different kind of world”, as much as we may long for the coming of one. And heroes? It is enough for us to be men. If God had intended us to be uber-men, he would have done a much better job at giving us the necessary tools to fly faster than a speeding bullet, or at the very least, a vast supply of radioactive spiders to boost our status.
And so it may seem a bit odd that this conversation takes place in the context of a very dangerous idea, popularized by a man, I won’t say a hero, whose convictions caused him to try and ‘off’ Hitler himself. It is also my contention that a different kind of world would come if the church could get a hold on this very dangerous idea. But let’s not be too hasty, what is religiousless Christianity?
Religionless Christianity is an idea, a conviction, made popular by Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s posthumously released letters to his best friend Eberhard Bethge, written from within the walls of a German death camp. In Bonhoeffer’s time, he saw the church abdicate its role as the agent of Christ in the world. The church had lost itself among its prattling preachers, even to the point that the shift from suspicion to embrace of a mad-man leader was largely the enterprise of the people of God. The church had the words of the gospel right but somewhere along the way, the language of the coming of Christ was lost in a sea of pedantic truisms.
And as Dietrich Bonhoeffer waited for the day he would hang for treason against the nation he loved for following the voice of God, he saw a vision of a coming day. He saw a church who had abandoned long-lost vocabulary in favor of God’s word for the day. He saw a day when God, in Jesus Christ, was found not merely in the fringes of culture and society, but at the dead center of all life. This would mean that the church must abandon her sub-cultural malaise and live in the center of the city.
She must stop making new laws and enforcing old that made man dependent upon his own works, whether it be obedience or contrition, abandoning them for the sake of knowing Jesus Christ. This religiousless Christianity, much like Jesus himself, would throw off the titles, ranks, prestige, and safety to serve the world. The dawn would break as God’s people threw off their desire to withdraw into their self-imposed ghettos
for the sake of our neighbors.
Religionless Christianity would mean the end of empty customs, pithy sayings, and hero-adoration that we know so well in the church today. Would anybody put up a defense after hearing so many preachers on television talk about anything but Jesus?
The new religionless Christianity would look dangerous, the wrong types of people would be leading the way. Some might not have all the degrees they should. Some may have tattoos covering them head to toe. Some might have a lifetime of sin behind them and an acute awareness of the disaster awaiting them should they forget the Jesus who is saving them even now. Some might be embezzlers. Some might be ex-strippers, ex-porn stars, recovering drug-addicts, cheaters, liars, adulterers, murderers, and thieves. They may say the wrong words, even a curse word or two, but they would be a people who have experienced the freedom that Jesus gives to love him and our neighbor.
Religionless Christianity is a movement of the Spirit of God that simply embraces prayer and seeks to love God and neighbor. The question has not become whether or not this day will come but when we will start to realize its coming. God is moving in his people, giving freedom to captives, healing those who have been beaten down by their guilt, shame, and history of abuse. We have seen the end of ourselves and Christ himself has met us there.
I do not mean to be too hasty, but is it not time to embrace the voice of Jesus, calling us to freedom, to prayer, and to love, abandoning the religious trappings that have for so long stalled the work of God through his church? We can no longer afford to wait. Jesus is calling.
He is calling us beyond the religious trappings we have held onto for dear life. As frightening as it is to follow, freedom is there.
Can you hear him?