Throughout my life I’ve always associated religion with my relationship with Jesus. But as my faith continues to shift, new ideas are starting to form that, if I’m honest, have been in the back of my mind for a long time. I think it goes back to my childhood. When I was about 12 my grandmother wanted me to join the young ladies branch of Eastern Star called Rainbow Girls. Eastern Star was the adult ladies branch of The Masons, of which my grandfather was a member. My father gave me permission to join so I started going to the meetings. Very quickly I decided that I wasn’t interested due to a lot of rules and rituals. I hated the intricate rituals and found the whole thing ridiculous. So my dad allowed me to stop going, explaining to his mother that I hadn’t enjoyed it. I’ve never been a fan of rituals and pomp and circumstance. Rituals have always seemed unnecessary to the main event. Rituals are a part of so many organizations from Girl Scouts to churches.
I’ve visited many different denominations and found the rituals to be so ingrained in everything they do. I guess many people find comfort in the rituals and like having an active role in church services. From the kneeling and reciting creeds to the processions and singing, rituals dominate religious life. It’s made me think, lately, what God must think of religion. I’m not sure God would be pleased. In certain faiths the rituals can be exclusive and only for some. Church membership was required to receive communion when I was growing up. In some churches certain classes must be attended to participate fully. I completely understand that those in charge who have set these rules and rituals in place have reasons for doing so. I’m just not sure they’re necessary to have relationship with Jesus.
As I’ve pondered the question of religion or relationship I’ve started to believe that there is an argument to be made that one doesn’t always accompany the other. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m certainly not trying to suggest that people who engage in the rituals of religion don’t have a relationship with God. I’m simply saying that I believe you can have a relationship with Jesus without religion. You see, God is not a religion. God has no religious affiliations, no nationality, no political party. God is not trapped in these human inventions. God is Creator and I believe God created people for relationship. All people, not just those wrapped up in the identity of religion. This idea means that regardless or in spite of religion, God desires relationship with all mankind. This goes beyond religion, nationality, color, political party or any of the things mankind uses to separate, divide, and exclude people. I think God must look down on humanity and wonder where it all went wrong. We were created to be in relationship with our creator and be caretakers of all we’ve been given. This idea has been lost along the way by so many.
Thankfully I’m starting to find my way back to this original idea of relationship. It’s a slow awakening that is bringing me lots of joy. I’m crossing paths with others who are also rediscovering that what we were made for is relationship with Jesus and out of that relationship our values and priorities start to shift to Jesus’ values and priorities. It’s a crucial shift for me to find meaning outside the rituals of religion. It says to me that Jesus is everywhere I am and desires to know me, what I think, what I feel, what I want and just as important wants me to know Him. No pretending, no exclusion or rules. Unconditional love and acceptance that religion can’t offer. Only relationship with Jesus can. What a relief.