Some people think religion’s all about ideas. And so there’s “religious” persons who think loving God is about getting the answers right, about knowing what energy drinks are demonic, and how we should really pronounce the name of the Messiah. This is a God I’d want no part in. This is a religion I’d be skeptical about. As if God, at the resurrection, would want to ask me how many times I drank Monster, or listened to that record that, when played backward, says “Satan”? If that is God’s priority, then I want nothing to do with this God. I mean, what happened to attending to the needs of one’s neighbour?
For me, this isn’t what religion is all about. Remember this?:
the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ (Mat 25: 34-45)
Religion isn’t about pinning things down, about “passing the test”, and securing one’s place beyond the pearly gates. For so many around the world religion has more to do with that all too familiar feeling of uncertainty, of helplessness, that sense of injustice at the hands of the powers that be. Prayer doesn’t have to start with a “Lord God” and end in an “Amen”. It often comes naturally to us— when we’re brought to the limits of our capacity, for understanding, and for action. Religion’s often times about the hope we try to have, in the face of suffering, in the face of hopelessness. It’s about the thirst for something more, something better— a brighter tomorrow. It’s about responding to the needs of others, to their suffering, about asking, alongside them, “why?”. Often times, religion’s about learning to cope with meaninglessness rather than the imposition of meaning on things. Religion’s not only about fitting things into a box. Sometimes it’s a response to the overwhelming feeling that things can’t possibly be fitted neatly into a box.