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Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

“I’m a Christian, but I’m not Religious”

The evidence of our Christianity is more internal — through thought, prayer, meditation, and compassion — than it is external. Gathering Thoughts, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

Have you ever said this? I have:

“I’m a Christian, but I’m not religious.”

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Religious, as an adjective, isn’t a particularly complimentary word, because it implies that the person participating in it is too focused on outward trappings: saying Thee and Thou instead of You; wearing esoteric clothing that separates him or her from the rest of the madding and heathen crowd; attending all sorts of meetings and services as evidence of piety; arising at 4 a.m. — and expecting others to do so — for Quiet Time, a term that has always sounded like something we expect pre-schoolers to do, midday.

While none of these activities, or ones like them, are bad in and of themselves, they exert a negative reaction upon bystanders when the person doing them implies that they are necessary for true holiness, genuine faith, reverent godliness and grace. Increasingly, people are pulling away from places where the substitute for grace is seen as the real thing.

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There Is No Christian “Norm”

Many of these seekers and believers — I am one — are quickly discounted as “fallen from the faith,” “backsliding,” or “away from God” for no other reason that they are away, literally, from organized religious activities. But while those around them are quick to label them as unbelievers, many sensitive seekers of truth and followers of Christ walk on, outside of “normal” parameters, and work out their salvation in a different way.

It is these people who feel the need to say, “I am a Christian, but I am not religious,” because they recognize, that to too many people outside of the flock, Christianity looks like a series of rules, obligations, dictums, regulations, mandates, edicts and decrees — none of which, at base, have anything to do with Christianity.

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Lists and Bullet Points

So what does have to do with Christianity? The apostle Paul, in Romans 12: 9-21, lays out an enumeration that should, but won’t, keep any list-loving, do-this/don’t-do-that, potential legalist ecstatic. Here’s a sampling:

  • Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
  • Honor one another above yourselves.
  • Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
  • Share with God’s people who are in need.
  • Practice hospitality.
  • Bless and do not curse.
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
  • Live in harmony with one another.
  • Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.
  • Do not be wise in your own eyes.
  • Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.
  • Do not take revenge, but leave judgment up to God.
  • Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Christian Life versus Christian “Lifestyle”

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That’s a long, comprehensive list, but because fulfilling it doesn’t require reading only “Christian” literature and listening to only “Christian” music, saying “Praise the Lord!” all the time as a means of promoting His name, attending small groups, going up to random strangers and saying, “Please don’t take the name of my Lord Jesus in vain; it is most offensive,” or volunteering for whatever “ministry” the leadership council of one’s particular church deems approved, it’s not somehow.

“Overcome evil with good,” and thereby be a pleasing aroma to the world around us. Blossom, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

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But actually, performing the activities in the aforementioned paragraph is far, far easier than fulfilling any of the items in Paul’s list. It’s so much easier, and concrete, to only read books put out by Christian publishing houses (follow the money and see if the Christian publishing house that put out the book you’re reading is a subsidiary of a larger, secular publishing house) than it is to stop, close your eyes so that you can think, and realize, “I was a bit of a butt-head back there. I came across as a know-it-all, dominated the conversation, and left the person I was talking to feeling helpless and invalidated. Maybe that’s what Paul means by, ‘being wise in my own eyes’?”

Your Inner Life, Like God, Is Invisible

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You can’t point to an attitude of your heart and “see” it. Like God, it is invisible, and, like God, just because it is invisible does not mean that it isn’t real.

If you want to be a real Christian, focus on Christ, not the trappings of religion.

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. I publish three times weekly, and invite you to subscribe to this blog (top right of the menu bar). If you like what you read, I sincerely and humbly ask that you pass me on via word of mouth or social media.

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  • http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonsensechristianity/ Carolyn Henderson

    Those are good questions, Alwin — the odd thing about knowing how people think, is we really don’t know unless they tell us. For the most part, we go on our own experiences — many of which I believe are universal, like feeling love toward a person, or fear in a particular situation — but that’s why talking to one another, and listening when people talk, is so valuable. I don’t know how many “aha” moments I’ve had in listening to someone share their impressions and thoughts, and it’s almost sacred, as you mention above, to be allowed in to some of these deep thoughts.

    I’ve also been struck by the universality of our human existence, and each time I’m hit with this it reminds me of how easy it is to be stereotyped (to a certain extent, we are led into these stereotypes by our movies, news, TV shows, and books — mass media is major promoter of stereotypes). So when the news story is fear mongering, and telling us that we should hate a particular people because, well, we’re supposed to hate them, I look at the pictures of the women and think, “You have children — young and adult — and regardless of how you dress or what language you speak, you love those children with an ache that is so deep it can’t be expressed. I share that with you. You may or may not be what the news says you are, and if you are, you may be that way because your leaders have pushed you into thinking a certain way, the same way our ‘leaders’ prompt us into thinking a certain way. But at base, you are a human being, just like me. We share more in common than we differ.”

  • Alwin Arnold

    I’m not religious but just a few minutes ago I found myself crossing myself, in my own way. I also do repent and have moments that I feel that things/people/animals are sacred. In a sense it’s like Christ consciousness is universal, but I’m curious how Zen buddhists feel things of a soulful nature. Is there one universal way of feeling, or are there all kinds of ways in which to feel/view things? I have no religion but I’m not an atheist either. It’s exciting in a way that there are many ways of feeling things and each of them have a distinct character, as if you can’t speak of which is the better way of experiencing things, because all of these ways are complete unto themselves.

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  • Carolyn Henderson

    Thank you, Parks. After years of feeling marginalized — spiritually — because I didn’t fit into the system, I stood up, stomped my foot, and announced, “That’s it! I’m done with other people telling me whether or not I have a relationship with God. The answer to that question lies between me and God!”

    And then, after I had done that, I thought, “I’m not keeping this to myself! There are others like me, and I’m going to start writing about what I am learning and discovering, with the goal of encouraging others to strengthen and ACKNOWLEDGE their relationship with Christ.”

    I am glad that you found this article, and I am glad that it encouraged you. Rich blessings upon you, my friend. — Carolyn

  • http://thiswomanwrites.areavoices.com/ Carolyn Henderson

    Thank you, Parks. After years of feeling marginalized — spiritually — because I didn’t fit into the system, I stood up, stomped my foot, and announced, “That’s it! I’m done with other people telling me whether or not I have a relationship with God. The answer to that question lies between me and God!”

    And then, after I had done that, I thought, “I’m not keeping this to myself! There are others like me, and I’m going to start writing about what I am learning and discovering, with the goal of encouraging others to strengthen and ACKNOWLEDGE their relationship with Christ.”

    I am glad that you found this article, and I am glad that it encouraged you. Rich blessings upon you, my friend. — Carolyn

  • Parks

    Well said! I have always identified myself as religious because of my relationship with God, but it really isn’t a true description of my relationship with Christ. Thank you!

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