The dark side of Religion is when people begin to believe it is by their own merit, good works, moral compass, their right standing, their knowledge, anointing or calling that makes them “saved,” “worthy,” or “holy.” This enable pride, power, and destruction never truly being a part of God. We all know that cruel and unspeakable treatment happens in the church world. Throughout every age of religion, there have been periods of severe abuse, atrocities, slander, vicious expectations that organized religion imposed because people used religion to their own advantage. For instance, people twist doctrine and the nature of Christianity all the time for their own desires and greed. Sometimes people just want to go to a church on Sunday and belong to a group. Sometimes, people just want to feel good without ever getting to know God. This is not God. This is not Christianity. This is dead religion. The dark side of religion is that people can create it and use it just like any other tool. But, people do not create God. God is here, just not always in our religion.
I started believing in Jesus at the age of nineteen after studying an array of spirituality. The first church I attended, taught that religion was a term used to explain rules and regulations, not necessarily created by God, but people. To this day, I agree. Religion is often seen as going to church on Sundays and obeying something like the ten commandments. Too often, organized religious groups become just about how to behave according to an ideal standard. As Christians, we want our character to be loving, but not at the sake of pretending, or lying to ourselves about who we are and what we do. Again, the dark side of religion is when it becomes about what the human wants instead of what God desires.
Jesus’s message to the religious sector was that they were in fact hurting people, not helping them. In Matthew 23, Jesus reproofs the Pharisees and teachers of the law that oppressed the public. He mentions how religion puts heavy loads on peoples shoulders, how people do not practice what they preach, how church can be more about what you wear and how you look than God. Also, how true matters of justice, mercy, faithfulness are neglected. Matthew 18:6 warns to not cause anyone else to stumble, to not cause sin in another person’s life, to not give cause for hatred and resent towards the church. Matthew 12, talks about religion as brood of vipers with a heart full of evil that cannot say or do anything good. These kinds of people do not represent God, but themselves.
When people represent an establishment like a church, and constantly choose to take biblical concepts out of context for the use of personal gain and power- it is abuse. Religion has always been developed through human parameters. Many religions depend on rules and systems to keep the religion active as a spiritual practice. Systems don’t reach into the heart and mind of a person and fill them with love and worth though. Unfortunately, human agendas take prominence in a lot of the churches around the world instead of the leadership and demonstration of the Holy Spirit.
The church is made up of people participating in a faith, and all of us are in different places in our personal walks and spiritual development. God is anywhere God is wanted. When a group of people get together and are there sincerely to seek God and share in his nature with one another and learn of one another and God, then God is found. When people get together and people are fighting all the time and scheming, God is put at bay as much as the next.
So why doesn’t God just get rid of all the bad stuff in humans and keep the good? Let’s be a little more open minded about this. Hopefully, we can see that life is far more interwoven than bad and good, black and white. All things have a purpose in our lives and even the suffering is used for good. In Christianity, there are wonderful churches and also not so wonderful! We just need to remember that not every organized religious group is going to resemble God, but that doesn’t mean to the ones that do, don’t.
Christianity in it’s true nature is a welcoming spirituality that focuses on a personal relationship with our creator, not performance based living with a long line of rituals to perform or be condemned and judged. Instead, being a Christian is engaging in a spirit filled life with the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and father God. Within this relationship there is personal growth, healing, new attitudes and understanding that grows, and there is a deep acceptance of God’s love for yourself, and a deep love for others.
Many people do turn Christianity into a mere religion, something distant, something human made. It is important to separate the human being from God, this way you can know God on your own. Even though it is nice when a Christian does represent Christ-like values and God’s spirit of love, we all struggle with being loving and putting others above ourselves and at some point will be disappointing. Just because people fail, doesn’t mean we have to make God the scapegoat.
The suffering of the world is enough to make anyone loose heart, so are having horrible experiences at church. God is separate from the frailties though, of human discourse and action. Christianity is an act of humility. It is a faith of giving, gentleness, and love. It is a lifestyle of service and acceptance of others. Christianity should never be used to represent a narrow approach to values, human rights, or freedoms. In Christ there is freedom, not people who hold one another back from the times, or from their own identity, their own destiny, or from their own relationship with God.