Though Jesus makes us new, it’s nearly impossible for me to think about Christianity without having flashbacks to how I was raised in a conservative, legalistic church – what I would call my old life. It speaks to the power of childhood and how it is so formative for the rest of a person’s life. For crying out loud it’s been 7 years when will those images stop popping up as the very first thing?!
Possibly sparked by visiting that church of my youth a few weeks ago I’ve been seeing over and over again how manipulative religion has been in so many people’s lives. It seems like I turn a corner to find an example and can’t reach the next corner without finding yet another way religion has been used for oppressive purposes. But you don’t need me to lament this any more than it has been by thousands of others. So worry not, this post won’t be a rant about something you already know.
It goes without saying that Jesus not only didn’t come to set up a religion (what are the implications of that, by the way?), let alone a system that could be used as leverage over other people. If anything Jesus was smashing the traditional power systems used. So how did Christianity receive that very ability?
It’s because we are dealing with a very flammable thing. It doesn’t take many clicks to take a message of grace and turn it into a message of obligation.
I think we have to be oh-so-careful because it doesn’t take much to make Christianity a very manipulative tool. It doesn’t take very big twists or tweaks to turn into into a way to guilt someone or coerce them into doing something because you’ve tacked God on to it. I know I volunteered in children’s ministry so I could feel good that my faith was producing works, and that’s a very mild example.
So when I say be careful, I think we need to incredibly intentional about how we speak of Jesus, belief in God and what our faith means. I really can’t emphasize this enough. I think we need to all slow down and really think about howe we’re going about things. We are dealing with a delicate thing that can almost unknowingly be turned into something else that is subtly destructive. It isn’t hard. At all.
How have you seen Christianity used to manipulate? What do we have to do stop this?