“You would love our church. It’s not religious.” In the previous post I said that we ought to ditch that widespread Christian slogan. Here I want to say explain why, by thinking about another common Christian slogan: “If Jesus is not Lord of all, he is not Lord at all.” This, of course, a way of stating from the negative that Jesus is Lord – has the final say – over all of life – not only over what we do on Sunday but throughout Monday to Saturday as well. Either he is Lord of those days too, or he is not Lord at all.
But what does it mean that Jesus is Lord of our lives outside the church walls? Simply said, it means that you are not just a student, or just a journalist, or just a math teacher, or just a single mom, or just a singer in a rock ‘n’ roll band. You are much more than “just” anything everyday.
To help Christ’s daily lordship seem more understandable and manageable, some Christian philosophers and theologians see life in terms of specific aspects, such as the physical, the biological, the aesthetic, the linguistic, the social, the economic, the ethical, the political, and so forth. This makes sense when you think about it, because we all function in these basic areas of life. I mean we have bodies (the physical), we eat to stay alive (the biological), we pay our bills (the economic), we vote (the political – to note vote is a political statement), and so on. So to claim that “Jesus is Lord” is to claim that he has the ultimate say over these and every other aspect.
Now here’s the thing. There is also the “religious” aspect of life. It is about one’s ultimate faith or confession. As we saw in the previous post, it denotes, for instance, how people express the commitment they have to God symbolically, such as during a church service or in the mosque or in the temple. Further, the religious aspect tops the list of all the aspects. This is because one’s ultimate faith commitment gives direction and shape to how the person will think and act in all the other aspects. So there is no “just anything” about our lives.
If we claim to be Christian, then our ethics, and our economics, and our communications, and our art, and how we treat your bodies, and how we treat others, and the way we are singers in rock ‘n’ roll bands are directed and shaped (at least they should be!) by what we confess as our ultimate religious commitment – Jesus as Lord. No one does this perfectly, of course, but we ought to be doing it prayerfully, deliberately, and more consistently as disciples, that is to say, as a learners.
As well, if our religious commitment is to what the Old Testament person would call an idol, or a god, then our ethics, and our economics, and our communications, and our art, and the way we treat others and even our bodies, and all the rest of life too, will be directed and shaped by whatever that ultimate faith commitment is.
In the West today, of course, most people do not have shrines in their homes to Baal, or Dagon, or Mars, or Venus, or Whatever. Well, maybe to Steve Jobs. But the Western gods are mostly invisible. Nevertheless ultimate faith commitments exist to them under names such as Reason, Materialism, Scientism, Empiricism, Individualism, Collectivism, Secularism, Self, The Almighty Dollar. The list goes on.
If this stuff is making your head hurt, sorry about that. But try to stick this out. Just as our ultimate beliefs give direction and shape to our lives as individuals, nations are also shaped by their ultimate beliefs. We need to wise up about this. I’ll suggest why by wrapping up this theme of “religion” in the next two posts.
©2014 by Charles Strohmer
Image by Harry Cjr (Permission via Creative Commons)
Absolutely vital message Charles – keep sharing this !
Good to hear from you, Michael. Thx for the kudos. And let me take it a step father here. It is difficult for the atheist and the secularist, who disbelieve in God, to acknowledge that disbelief is a faith, a faith on the highest kind. E.g., it is not a faith in technology (I’ll trust the tensile strength of the steel cable that is hauling me up from street level forty stories in my high-rise). It is not a faith in people (I’ll be able to stand safely on the subway platform after a ten block walk from my high-rise because it’s statistically probable that most people are decent enough). Rather, it is a faith about what someone has called life’s persistent questions, such as where we came from, who we are, what will occur at death, who or what we are ultimately answerable to: no one, ourselves, the universe, God? The disbeliever may eschew the trappings of religious ritual but he or she cannot escape being urged by the religious aspect. I think that the honest ones twig to that, such as the philosopher Alain de Bottom with his “Religion for Atheists” initiative.