Is it possible for the Christian Religion itself to be an idol? I believe it can be and here is why.
- Yes, if it’s point is to show our superiority over others. Many of us Christians sit in our churches and seem to snub our nose at those who are not like us. We are convinced that we have all the answers to life and everyone else just needs to come to us to get it right. When we have this kind of mindset we have turned our religion into an idol. We must realize that we are all in the same boat when it comes to our salvation and eternal life. None of us earned out way into the Kingdom of God so therefore none of us is any better off than those we sometimes snub our noses at.
- Yes, if used to pass judgment on others. The church in past history tortured and killed others who they call heretics. If this practice had continued into today there would be thousands of inquisitions going on right now! After all we currently have more than 35,000 versions of our Christian religion in the world today. Judging others is something that almost seems to be inherit in any religion and ours’ is not exempt. Although Jesus told us that that should not be the case.
Yes, when you pick out something in the Bible that contradicts everything else and then use that as our prime reason for being a church. The prime example of this seems to be the version of Christianity around today that says that Jesus expects all Christians to be millionaires! They use one or two verses in the Bible to validate their position and ignore the other 99% of the text. It takes a very narrow mindset to fall into this type of church but there are indeed thousands who have evidently done so.
- Yes, when churches are used at the defenders of tradition they are not following Christ’s lead. Many churches today say “we can’t possibly change our worship service; after all we have been doing it this way for years!” We, like the Pharisees in the past, confuse our traditions with our dogma and doctrine. Jesus chastised the Pharisees and I’m sure he will do the same thing to us if we fixate on our traditions over his demand for love and non-judgmental behavior.
Churches throughout history have done things that are directly against Kingdom issues. Jesus made it clear that one of the primary foundations of being Kingdom people was to love one another. As pointed out by Greg Boyd in his book The Myth of a Christian Religion
Church history is full of people being tortured and put to death for such heresies as not acknowledging the authority of the Church, baptizing wrongly, and denying the Trinity. Yet we don’t have any record of anyone so much as having their hand slapped for embracing the worst heresy imaginable—namely, failing to love and do good to one’s enemies, as Jesus commanded. That leaves me speechless! Defenders of the tradition sometimes argue that we can’t hold ancient Christians to modern humanitarian standards. Life in the ancient world was just more violent, they claim. This argument, however, is not very compelling. Jesus and the early church lived in eras that were at least as violent as any in Church history, yet they managed to love their enemies rather than engage in violence against them. The same could be said of a number of individuals and groups throughout Church history. For example, when Calvinists, Lutherans, and Anglicans tortured and killed Anabaptists in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the victims followed the example of Jesus and refused to fight back. Their faithfulness to the Kingdom bears witness against the faithlessness of those professing Christians who persecuted them. This is not to suggest that we can pass judgment on Calvin or anyone else in Church history. We are ourselves sinners who have planks sticking out of our eyes, so we must leave all judgment up to the One who alone knows the innermost hearts of people. But this doesn’t mean we can’t discern what is and is not the Kingdom. We can’t place ourselves above others—not even those who murdered “in Jesus’ name.” But we can and must clearly separate torturing and killing in Jesus’ name (or for any other reason) from the beautiful, Christlike Kingdom. Insofar as the Church engaged in activities like this, it was involved in the most heinous form of heresy imaginable—its orthodox beliefs notwithstanding.
The established church is oftentimes a stumbling block to many in learning to love and follow Jesus. What many non-religious people see when they look at churches are expensive tax exempt buildings filled with hypocrites. They see people who show a marked sense of superiority over others. This behavior often masks out any Christ like love they may intend to be displaying. When churches fail to live in love for their fellow human beings they are indeed serving idols, not Jesus Christ.
Lets, each one of us, be constantly on the guard at our churches to make sure we follow Kingdom principles of unbiased love for one another. Yes, even for those sinners who are not yet members!