Religion as a Relationship, Not as a Means

David Dunn ’24

I have noticed that oftentimes people tend to use very specific language when discussing their religion or faith. Many refer, foremost, to their specific tradition of their faith, and not to the purpose of faith itself. In fact, I daresay that in many instances one could discuss religion with a believer and never hear the word God being said! Further, people often frame their faith as a moral commitment and nothing more. My great concern is that we have boiled religion down to nothing more than a rule based obligation. Sadly, many believers tend to focus on what they are allowed and not allowed to do. This is contrary to what I believe to be the primary objective of one’s faith, being a relationship with the divine, or God and Christ as it is in my case. 

It is deeply concerning that many religious people seem to see religions as purely human institutions. The language that is used is often very sterile or detached, and treats faith as a moral theory as opposed to a religion. Religion is often painted as an institution that one can simply opt in and out of. Even more concerning is the importance that we assign to the human aspect of religion, and that if one encounters those doing evil in the name of good (the highest good, in this instance), that one should abandon the entire faith. 

Further, it would seem that many view religion under the pretense of “is this useful to my life at this point?” Speaking personally, my faith is built upon my relationship with Christ, not on the rules I feel I ought to follow. This is not to say that I do not believe that there are important rules in the Bible. Rather, I am merely stating that the rules are not the single most important part of my faith. What is most important, then, is my experience and relationship with God. This is, to me, the reason why being religious is so hard to defend in a logical or apologetic context. Unless I am directly able to impart upon you my two decades of phenomenological experience, it will be very difficult to give an account of my faith that would be compelling for those resistant to the notion of religion. 

Another issue that I would like to address is that of seeking out God. I would like to preface this section with a biblical verse that I believe to be applicable to nearly any faith: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7-8). When contending with religion, especially when we go through periods of doubt, or try to seek religion for the first time, it can be easy to be dismissive early on. This is all to say in a metaphorical sense that, sometimes, we perhaps knock once or twice, wait a few seconds, and leave. However, this has not been my experience with faith. Rather, it perhaps ought to be a sharp rapping, as though you were trying to wake a sleeping person in the late hours of the night. It is to yell and shout “Lord, Lord, here I am Lord!” My purpose in writing this is hopefully to provoke some thought as to how we conceive of and discuss our faith. We should not treat religion as a secular, moral set of rules that accompany some social rituals and gatherings. Rather, we should strive to develop a relationship with God, if we are to participate in religion at all. Again, speaking personally, my life would be significantly different (and worse, I should say), should my religious experience not be centered around seeking Christ first and foremost.

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