by Glen Edward Quiring
"Christianity is a Relationship, not a Religion." Preachers are fond of this saying. As I grow older, I realize that I too, have become quite fond of it. I have even written and titled blogs using this phrase.
But what does it really mean?
It appears to me that when we say this we mean that there is a simple connection between the Divine and the individual. Such connections or "relationships" are made possible in a variety of ways: contracts, affinities (or commonality), Mandates, Loyalties, Mutual goals, Outcomes, Traditions. It should be noted that many (if not all) faith systems work to connect the Divine to the individual.
So big deal. I have a connection with my Postal carrier too. My carrier gets paid to heave a large bag of deliverables to my door step 5 (soon 6) days a week. Is this indicative of the relationship like the one I can "have" with the Divine? Another example might help. I have a "relationship" with the local church.This means I attend worship on Sunday mornings. I sing, pray and give a donation, perhaps attend a mid-week Bible study or common meal. Does this constitute "relationship?"
So what constitutes a relationship with the Divine? What do Christian preachers mean when they say that their religion is really a relationship? The answer is, unfortunately, "it depends." Churches vary as much on idea as they do anything. Some see it as legal contract; a set of obligations. Others envision it as working on a task; getting others to believe as we do.
The drama of the Bible relates a story of the Divine connecting to the world. In the Ancient world temples were often were found in the center of town. The Temple was a place to meet the Divine and it was the focal point of life. Other ancient stories suggest other ways to connect. The Tower of Babel (see Genesis 11), for example was thought to be a means of access to Divinity.
In the New Testament, still a Primitive (Ancient) world to be sure, the writers envision that something big has occurred. A connection or relationship with the Divine has been internalized; the Divine resides within us. The individual has become the focal point. This idea is more like a marriage than anything. A couple strives to live together in mutual submission and support. There do not exist "terms" for the relationship as if it were a contract. No indeed. It is more like two lovers living together, each graciously making space for the other, each working toward the interest of our partner.
This is religion as "relationship". So, when I say, "religion is a relationship" I am saying more than "I have a connection". I am saying that the Divine is a fundamental part of who I am and that my life expresses the Divine each an every moment.
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