“Control! Control! You must learn control!” Yoda tells Luke in StarWars Ep. V. That’s how most people view religion, especially the rulers in those religions. It’s all about control, about chaining the masses by their ankles like a long line of prisoners.
And the historical practice of Christianity is no exception. There’s nothing quite like the wrath of God to keep people in line, along with peer pressure, threat of excommunication, and the ostracism of one’s own family. If you don’t play the church game, they tell you, you’ll suffer our wrath now and God’s for the rest of eternity. And they hope and pray that you just swallow it— like everyone else.
The sad thing is, most people are quite happy to be chained. They can’t fathom why anyone would think there’s something wrong with it. After all, it’s secure and predictable, you fit in with all the rest, and you’re not responsible for where you go. Oh, you can choose which chain gang to join, so it isn’t like you are an actual prisoner, right?
This is what all the atheists think of all the religions. And they’re right! It’s all true.
But what is definitely not true is that Jesus started just another religion. He raged against the ultimate rule makers, the Pharisees, for devising an incomprehensible morass of laws that would make a Hollywood celebrity’s legal team jealous. They could get themselves out of anything while condemning the most innocent child to death. Why, in the face of that, would anyone think Jesus or the apostles wanted to add more logs to this fire?
I’ll tell you who would want to emulate the Pharisees: the religious leaders of today, the Big Names in Christendumb, the “super pastors”, the popular Christian booksellers. You wouldn’t believe the company many of those people keep, and the amounts of money flowing to them from rank unbelievers for their ability to command and control the masses. So they have a vested interest in swaying the
prisoners Christian community. It makes them rich and powerful.
That is why they reacted so strongly against the Barna poll showing the numbers of people leaving their domains. They no longer have control. They no longer can tell us how to vote, how to dress, how to dance. So they dig in their heels and even make their own “controllable” Bibles.
Example: Al Mohler, a member of CBMW and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President, stated that their Holman Christian Standard Bible was justified even “if for no other reason than we will have a major translation we can control.” (This particular translation is one of the “male oriented” ones— as if it’s okay to trash gender accurate Bibles while making a biased translation in favor of your own gender!) The subjugation of women is just one area of the control they lust after, so you can be sure that we’ll soon have a “Back to the 10 Commandments” Bible or a Dominionist’s Bible. But nooooo, not an egalitarian Bible like the TNIV!
Ah yes, that other attribute of the Pharisees, hypocrisy.
But control freaks are found at every level in the churches, even in house churches. There’s always someone who needs to learn their place, someone who doesn’t get with the controller’s particular program. But the Jesus they claim to follow said something about “not lording it over”, about setting people free, about worshiping God in spirit and in truth instead of in this place or by that ritual. The apostle Paul wrote extensively about our freedom in Christ and fought continually against the Pharisees he used to be outstanding among.
It should be obvious by now that I despise prideful control freaks at every level. It’s why I left the chain gang for good. It’s why I rant often against discrimination in any form, against hypocritical Bible translation committees, against the prison system itself. I cannot, in good conscience, attend “church services” as they have always been known, or even the house church meetings where women are still kept in their chains and have their mouths duct-taped when The Favored Males speak of spiritual things, i.e., equality for all— except you!
Don’t blame Jesus for the public caricature of Christianity, blame the prison system. But don’t stop there. Join the free community of believers who worship in spirit and in truth, whenever and wherever the Spirit leads. Unite around the Bible instead of manmade creeds and confessions and clergy. Get to know Jesus instead of only knowing about him, swallowing whatever someone else told you; go to the Source. God wrote the Bible and the Spirit will reach out to any who seek God honestly.
The things that make people feel religious— rituals, buildings, clergy, candles and couches— are a trap and a diversion from the Truth. Put religious feelings where they belong: at the end of the Relationship, not the beginning. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 111:10). Make sure you know Jesus and believe he is God in the flesh who died for sin and rose again physically. Then hang around with others who believe the same, seeking out teaching from those who know the Bible and live it.
That’s what Jesus wants from you, not mere feelings and experiences, which are only the icing on the cake. The cake is trust in Jesus alone for your salvation and honoring him with your life.