When I think of religious excess, I call it religiosity. Some hypocrites, pious and judgmental people suffer from religiosity. Pointing fingers, they talk about people whose values don’t fit theirs. Their motivations aren’t always pure, and their political agenda is usually far to the right. A hypocrite preaches one thing and does another. Self-righteous and obsessed with looking virtuous, pious, and judgmental people don’t usually sit at the table of reason and reality. Nevertheless, we all carry the religiosity banner at one time or another.
So although we are living in our own historical time and place, just as Jesus spoke to the Pharisees, he also spoke to us: “You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds” (Matthew 23:27-28, The Message).
The term “religiosity” applies to people who shift their faith away from God in favor of religion. Driven by individual beliefs, many focus on religious acts, while God takes a subordinate role in the person’s life, which is the opposite of what God wants from us. He wants us to follow him, not promote religion – to engage in a new life, not a new religion.
In his Letters and Papers from Prison, Dietrich Bonhoeffer questioned human religiosity as a point of contact for the gospel. After reading Bonhoeffer’s views, I concluded that our point of contact for the gospel is the God-man Jesus Christ who lived among us and suffered at the hands of those people whose claims to religion were false.
Do we want our faith to be about religious rules and rituals, human ideology, and self-appointed beliefs? Or would we prefer to immerse ourselves in a life-giving relationship with our creator who changes us and makes us new? Baptism, being a good person and citizen, obeying the law, and sharing our resources with the poor do not make a relationship with the living God. When we make a decision for God, we don’t just become a Christian—we become a child of God.
Until next time…