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St Johns Southgate

10 Mar 2016

I’m not a religious person. I’m not. To be honest, I don’t know what it is to be “religious.”

Religion, etymologically at least, is about binding, being bound, about being locked-in to something.

In a song by my favourite band, Pearl Jam, the lead singer, Eddie Vedder sings the words, “Are we bound out of obligation? Is that all we’ve got?”

That’s an important question for the “religious” person to ask. Because if the seeking of a connection with a supreme being is one based on obligation – a connectedness initiated out of a sense of a required submission, a duty to hold out one’s wrists for the handcuffs – then, as far as I’m concerned, forget that!

That’s not religion as I know it, and for those reasons I don’t call the tradition I participate in a religion at all.

The vision of religion that I see is one that is inverted – one that shatters the once understood notions of piety on the ground next to a similarly shattered vanity mirror.

Christianity isn’t a religion, or at least it shouldn’t be, if it’s based on the person of Jesus.

Jesus’ people had been waiting for him, eagerly anticipating someone who would bring a new hope, someone who could make redemption possible where it was seemingly impossible. And that’s exactly what he did! Jesus came to set the captives free, to show the people of the world that the almighty is smiling upon us, not locking us up in chains.

With a Christian worldview one can see that the only person being bound to an unnatural submission is Jesus himself. Jesus bound himself to his father’s will when he allowed himself to be whipped, mocked and nailed to a cross to die.

Jesus submitted himself to this punishment so that we don’t need to fear being punished for not measuring up to divine perfection.

With Jesus as one’s life-compass, any sense of obligation goes out the window and in the freedom that he brings we can find joy in a new way of living – one that embraces an altogether different kind of binding.

In the New Testament, St Paul writes about submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. This expresses the game-changer that Jesus was, and is, for religion. If we’re touched and awed by the perfect selflessness of Jesus we can find fulfilment in following his example of being subject to our neighbour – being servants of one another – without thought of reward.

In another Pearl Jam song, Eddie Vedder sings, “Everything has chains, absolutely nothing’s changed.” When you consider the history of religion and look at the institutional church today, I wouldn’t blame you if that’s what you see.

But I would say this: Human beings make things religious. What Jesus is doing is something else altogether.

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