An observation on “Christianity is a Relationship, not a Religion.”


I originally posted the following as a comment by oddbird1963 on ExChristian.Net — encouraging ex-Christians using Disqus.  The comments displayed here have been edited slightly.

In the early 80’s, when I was in college, the “Christianity is a relationship not a religion” cliche was being thrown about a lot.

Religions, like casinos, seek to put you in seats and keep you there!

Religions, like casinos, seek to put you in seats and keep you there!

It has persisted to this day as one of the most recognizable cliches in evangelical Christendom.

The phrase was being used to combat a concept called “legalism” which was the emphasis that certain  churches or youth groups placed on rules and regulations.  The legalistic rules that these groups typically objected to were the ones concerning clothing & hairstyle, worship style, and choices in television and movie entertainment.

The “model” for relationship was , of course, Jesus ( The crowd screams, ‘Yea!!!’) and to some extent the apostle Paul.  The “model” for legalism was the evil, nasty Pharisees (shouts of ‘BOO!’ erupt all over the house).   Another related phrase that was kicked around at the time was “Let go and let God.”

The intent was to stress and experience “freedom in Christ,” where you depend on a personal experience to lead you to do the right thing and not a series of external rules.   However, when your experience of God lead you to do things differently than the understood rules – – OH MY!

Even at the time I got the sense that people were being manipulated by this approach to exchange one set of rules for another.

It’s all about religion.

Religions are a lot like gambling casinos.   They design everything around getting people to come in and  spend as much time as possible in the house.   The more time you spend in the house, the more the house will get out of you.

“Relationship vs. Religion” was a nice try.    But it is  like a casino. You can change the lighting and the carpets and buy new furniture,  but in the end its all the same game.


6 Responses to “An observation on “Christianity is a Relationship, not a Religion.””

  1. There are plenty of similarities between religion and gambling. At the same time, there are also some substantial differences — particularly when the religion is objective.

    Johnson C. Philip, PhD (Physics)

    • 2 2serious

      Dr. Philip!
      It’s great to hear from you again! 🙂 I thought you had lost interest in this blog.

      Yes. There are some substantial differences between churches and gambling casinos. But where the two are similar is what makes for some harmful and shameful practices on the part of the religion. The “Christianity is a relationship, not a religion” cliche gave the appearance of something new, but it was really a whitewash of the fact that Christianity, no matter what the doctrines are concerning a personal experience with God, remains, in fact , a religion. That is where the comparison with casinos applies. The emphasis may be different, but the aim is the same – – – to keep people coming to church when nothing has really changed.

      I would be interested in your definition and explanation of an objective religion. If you believe in a personal, inward relationship with Jesus Christ, then it seems that religion can only be subjective. Are you suggesting that a reliance on Scripture provides objectivity?

      I don’t know if you noticed, but I responded to your last set of questions on Feb. 9 in a reply under “More on the Demise of My Faith.” Jerry Fisher has commented that he has enjoyed your comments on these issues.

      Thanks for visiting once again!

  2. 3 fisher0978

    “Religions are a lot like gambling casinos. They design everything around getting people to come in and spend as much time as possible in the house”

    This is one of my major qualms with church these days. The Korean Onnuri church (which I praised in an earlier post) was terrible about this in my experience. Yes, I found beauty in their sermons, but it was often hidden within unequivocal appeals to make this your only church (and no others). It’s a turnoff. A hint of a business-mood, and I’m usually out the door.

    I walk into church and I often feel unfulfilled. It is nice and pleasant, but good spiritual food seems little and far between. Instead (and especially in Korea) we are usually faced with a barrage of smiling and well-meaning people getting in our faces, insisting that we must trust God, insisting that we must accept Jesus (by which they mean repeating a short prayer whether our hearts are in it or not), insisting that we stay longer/come back, insisting that we recruit others. It strikes me more as a pressure cooker than a time of self-journey and renewal. I often see fragile and curious newcomers stray into a church only to be chased away by good intentions run amuck. That depresses me.

    Anyway, I’ve got my rant out of me, so next time I’ll be here to play devil’s advocate and work up a defense for church 😉

  3. A very interesting parallel. I had not considered that. I had already decided that the “relationship” cliche was crap based on what a relationship actually IS, but never compared it to gambling. Nice! 🙂

    • 5 2serious

      I had already decided that the “relationship” cliche was crap based on what a relationship actually IS

      So true. I developed a nice acrostic for the word “relationship.” The “r” in the word stands for ‘reciprocity.’
      The ‘e’ stands for . . . well, I’m not really that good with acrostics. I never finidhed it.

      But still, the fact that there’s no reciprocity between God and people is enough to destroy the relationship delusion.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. That is a great tip particularly to those new
    to the blogosphere. Simple but very precise info… Thank you
    for sharing this one. A must read article!

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