Anda di halaman 1dari 2

God and religion

Jos COMBLIN
It is common doctrine and common view that Christianity is a religion. Its own authority affirms clearly that the Church is essentially a religious entity. It insists upon saying that the Church is a religious and not political entity, even if it has social doctrine, which does not justify any political doctrine. However, having a social doctrine is not common in religions. Christianity comes from Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was Jewish, but all his actions and his words criticized the official religion of his people, the religion taught by priests, doctors, and his elders. Jesus broke with the religion of the Jews and did not teach any religious doctrine, did not found a religion, and did not found any religious institution. After him, little by little, the disciples set up a religious edifice that in the early centuries remained very modest, and only grew when the Church was adopted as the imperial religion of Rome. Jesus came to proclaim a gospel. This gospel was the proclamation of the Kingdom of God on this earth. The Kingdom of God would be like a new creation, a reestablishment of humanity, free from the bondage of sin, free to form a world of peace and brotherhood and sisterhood, where God himself would live. Religion is a set of institutions where human beings go to find God, to worship, pray, thank, apologize...But Jesus said that there is no need to seek God, for God comes on his own initiative before humans even start searching. And he stays with his people in order to help in any way he can. He calls all human beings to build a new world. This is a megapolitics, a global politics, a project of transforming all social relations as well as the interior of the human being. Rather than being a religion, Christianity is the announcement of a total change in humanity in all aspects: personal, social, political, economic, and cultural. It comes not to destroy what exists--all cultural, political, and economic evolution. It comes to save what is good in the life of this world, and to straighten out what deviates from this. It preserves and promotes what is humane and destroys everything
36

Joo Pessoa, Brazil

that is inhumane. For 2000 years, the Gospel has shown that it is a force for personal and social transformation. It has awakened freedom on both the personal and societal levels. It has caused transformations of lifestyle. It has fought against slavery, war, poverty, and economic domination. The Gospel points towards a different future, rather than prolonging the past and thinking that some Golden Age has already passed. But in the history of Christianity, the gospel has been counterbalanced by religion. A Christian religion was born that had all the characteristics of other religions. Many times, the gospel was reduced to being announced by a small minority of believers in the midst of a mass of religious people who wanted to conserve the past and prevent changes for a more human future. There were situations in which the institution Church fought against those who wished to follow the evangelical inspiration. There were cases in which the gospel was being lived by people separated from the Church: the Catholic religion seemed to be the biggest obstacle in the search for a more humane world. Did not Gandhi said that it seemed strange that Christians were the least likely to understand the gospel? Religions may think that they have always existed and always remained the same. In fact, they all formed during centuries and evolved without recognizing their transformation, slowly and permanently. Only Judaism and religions born of it can invoke historical data on their founding. The human being is a religious being. Religion always was at the center of culture and was the source of the most beautiful cultural works. It is still an active source of culture, even if it is less so than in the past. It was the soul of all cultures. The current crisis of secularization does not disprove that theory. The development of technical and scientific rationality has made humans devote more time and concerns to scientific, technical, and economic activities. They have created a multitude of useful items that have led to a consumption which absorbs all resources.

They spend most of the time earning money to buy everything that is offered. No time for religion, which is a free activity, and wasted time from an economic perspective... This situation has negatively affected the large religious systems, which previously occupied a good part of the time, thoughts, and social relations of humanity. But religion has not disappeared. In the United States, there are 38,000 registered religious groups. In the large Brazilian cities, there are hundreds or thousands of groups although many are not registered. These religious groups are more fragmentary, more simplified, usually for smaller groups, without large system of doctrine, with a very small following, and almost without a religious institution. These are groups that form around charismatic people who offer a quick religious experience, accessible to everyone. No prolonged formation is required. They offer a lot and require little. They often do not ask for a personal commitment. But they respond to needs felt by almost all humans. Humans understand the meaning of their lives with difficulty. They live in a world of mystery. Scientific explanations leave out the most important parts of life. Religion explains the mystery of existence, the mystery of the length of life, of birth and death. It explains how to relate to a very disconcerting world. Why are there disasters, droughts, floods, and earthquakes? The outside world seems simultaneously friendly, useful, and dangerous. Human beings do not understand themselves: why all these emotions, fears, rivalries, utopias, all these desires, and all this emotional life? What is it that dwells in our minds? The sciences of religions, psychology, sociology, and anthropology of religion, study all these phenomena. Ancestrally, the idea came about that this world is managed by supernatural, external forces to which many representations have been given: gods, angels, saints, spirits, and occult powers. Since we cannot control or direct our lives, we need to relate to these hidden forces. The superior beings have fears and desires. They can be dangerous or helpful. Religion provides a means for overcoming fears and satisfying desires. But we must know how. Religion teaches the how. In a disintegrated society like our radical capitalist society, religion offers a identity. Like affiliation

with football teams, social clubs such as the Rotary, and political parties, belonging to a religion helps people situate themselves in an atomized society in which the economic system reduces human beings to the condition of consumer. People say: I am for team Barcelona, of such-and-such political party, or the like. But they also say I am Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Jehovahs Witness, spiritualist, etc. This situates and gives an identity to people within their society. All religions are human constructions, although they may invoke a supernatural origin, a revelation by celestial beings. We can say that they arise from the energy of God the Creator, but that also applies to the economy, art, social organization, and all that is human. There is not a separate creation for religion. Religions are conservative. They resist changes. Their ideal is the stability of everything, in politics, social organization, economics, and culture. They are the last to accept changes in society. Their world view is cyclical. They cannot understand the value of changes because they do not understand that the future can be better than the past. When a religion totally dominates a country, it stays the same for centuries. Progress only happens when new social or cultural forces manage to tilt the balance against religious conservatism. The gods do not support changes. Religions believe that changes only bring chaos. What happened to the disciples who Jesus left without religion? In the early days, they were waiting for the imminent return of the Messiah in glory. Hope substituted for religion. When they realized that the Messiah would not come so soon, they had to get used to living in this world and reinterpret everything Jesus had said and done as a guide for living in this world. The gospel was transmitted and adapted to the circumstances of each stage of history. But they could not live without religion, because nobody lives without religion. In the second century, pagans still considered Christians atheists, because they had no religion. But a religion was already forming. Jesus had not founded any religion, and he himself never wanted to be treated as an object of worship. But after Easter the disciples began invoking him in worship. Jesus had asked that they follow him, but the disciples invented a religion. They were

37