On (Not) Being Religious

As a faculty member at a Christian university you put yourself out there, even if you don't want to or feel inadequate, as a Christian role model. At ACU a question about being a Christian role model is included in the course evaluation forms students fill out each semester about your performance in the classroom.

So it makes you wonder, what sort of role model am I?

The other day I was discussing this with my students in my statistics class. Half-joking and half-serious I told them this:

"This is what I'm after: I want you to think I'm the most religious person you know and the least religious person you know."

That may sound weird and paradoxical, but I am getting at something real here. I think many of my students would say that I'm one of the most religious people they know while at the same time being one of the least religious people they know.

You may wonder, How's that work?

I could write a lot about this, but the short answer is this.

I use my religion to become a human being. Religion, for me, is the praxis of becoming a human being. Students can see the praxis--the hard work I'm putting into religious observance--but the outcome of that work isn't religious piety but a human being who is joyful, relaxed, kind, non-judgmental and emotionally available.

Not saying I've reached those goals, but those are the outcomes--being a human being--my religious observance is aiming toward.

Or, phrased more conventionally, I practice my Christianity in order to be conformed into the image of Jesus. Christianity is the religious praxis of becoming Christ-like.

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9 thoughts on “On (Not) Being Religious”

  1. "Or, phrased more conventionally, I practice my Christianity in order to be conformed into the image of Jesus. Christianity is the religious praxis of becoming Christ-like."

    I was only going to add "And to be Christ-like is to be fully human or- to be human in its fullest. But then I began seeing a lot more going on in your last paragraph:

    1. How does 'scientific praxis' differ from 'religious praxis'? Both are in the business of relating to reality in ultimate ways aren't they?

    2. What was Jesus' aspiration? Was he dutifully out to be the best 'Son of God' he could be, having left a context of eternity and entered ours of temporarality? If Jesus is 'the way', A. is he a way back into the eternal context, meaning that he shows us how to bide our time here in the temporal until we die and enter the eternal, or B. is his way one of 'becoming' and 'creating' in our temporal reality, where to be human is as much aspiration as it is a biological category?

    3. If B., when Jesus goes through the transformation from eternal to temporal, does he lose the ease of being god's son and in its stead, take on the arduous form of being human, where becoming human in its fullness, ain't easy, isn't automatic, and can't be spoon fed; it must be aspired to?

    4. In the 'eternal context', where does aspiration go?

    These questions sprang from your last paragraph as I read it so I don't know where they lead yet, but thank you for putting it out here..... Mike

  2. Regarding this part you wrote--"And to be Christ-like is to be fully human or- to be human in its fullest.--yes, that's the regulating assumption throughout the whole thing.

    As far as scientific praxis versus religious praxis I do think they have (or can have) different visions of ultimate reality. But the differences I have in mind here are mainly teleological. That is, what is held out as the ideal for human flourishing, personally and communally? Christians hold Jesus out as that ideal along with his vision of the Kingdom of God. I'd expect a "scientific praxis" to do something different. Though I think it's possible that a "scientific praxis" could agree with Jesus and his Kingdom vision in substantive ways.

  3. Once in a great, great while, a human being is born into this world who realizes who and what they are, and lives it to its fullest. When Jesus listened to John the Baptist, the kingdom and the child of God was realized by flesh and blood, not angels. That is why he is the 'author and finisher of our faith".

  4. Probably one of the best, most practical things I've read from you in a while. And that's saying a lot, given how much you make me think each day.

  5. You are on a roll, sir.

    Much Easter joy to you ... though you seem already to have it!

  6. Timely - just two days following the NCAA Basketball Championship.
    Legendary UCLA men's basketball coach John Wooden -
    “If I were ever prosecuted for my religion, I truly hope there would be enough evidence to convict me.”

  7. This is beautifully stated, Richard. I guess I would take it a step further and suggest that Jesus pointed to the Holy Spirit and the power to do even greater things than He. I've been been hearing a new phrase, the Epoch of the Holy Spirit, and wondering if it points to a kind of post-Christian reality that transcends and includes Christianity, thereby resisting the problem of turning Jesus into a static idol rather than a dynamism. The Holy Spirit, thus, serves as a kind of corrective to WWJD-ism.

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