Humans are forgetful. Either that, or we’re just easily distracted. Whenever a movement comes along and good stuff is happening, I think it usually just takes a few generations (sometimes much less) before we’ve gone and forgotten the entire point.
Here’s a common progression. The movement begins, and is having an impact. Whether it’s just the ingenuity of those involved, their talent and dedication, or maybe even the movement of the Holy Spirit, it takes off. People start noticing, and they want more.
That’s where we often derail. We see something great happening, and we start to say, “Look at what they are doing! I wanna do that TOO!” So we mimic the actions of those whom we are joining, thinking all along that we are now happily a part of this exciting new phenomenon. But we’re not – we’ve just made a hollow copy of it.
Days, months, years, and generations pass. It’s moved from the practical to the theoretical, now: people study the mechanics of the movement, seeking to discern what makes it tick. How-to books are published. Conferences and seminars are held. Degrees are offered. We exalt those who seem to have mastered the craft.
And at some point, I’m not sure where, but eventually there comes a time when those who have mastered the actions involved in this (now virtually forgotten) movement start to observe others who are doing it a little different. They, who have for so long dedicated themselves to doing it right, are offended. They are angered, and they feel threatened. So their lives become much more about protecting their methods than it is about what the movement was about to begin with. Different sects of the movement break out, each one practicing in a slightly different way. And even though they technically agree on the vast majority of their mission, they can’t seem to remember what their original vision even was. They’re too horrified by their different approaches. So they fight among themselves.
This is how a faith is turned into a religion.
This is also how great Christian leaders, who claim complete allegiance to a man who started a movement founded on principles such as enemy love, humility, and graciousness, can rip others to shreds on their blogs or via twitter without even a second thought.
This is how churchgoers can quote more phrases from their pastor or favorite author than they can from the Sermon on the Mount.
This is how a movement whose founder was poor, loved the poor, and taught us to love the poor can argue about the stained glass windows, the color of the carpet, or disregard the environment.
This is how mean religious people are born. They are more concerned with protecting their methods than with having an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ or with helping others know him. At one time, we burned people who taught things we thought were wrong. Today, we just blog about them.
So beware of mean, religious people. They enjoy going to church, but they have lost sight of (or maybe never even knew) the fact that their movement began with the notion of actually following and knowing Jesus.