What is Religionless Christianity?

BonhoefferWe are moving toward a completely religionless time; people as they are now simply cannot be religious anymore. Even those who honestly describe themselves as “religious” do not in the least act up to it, and so they presumably mean something quite different by “religious.” … If religion is only a garment of Christianity–and even this garment has looked very different at different times–then what is a religionless Christianity?  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

In order to explore the question “What is a religionless Christianity?” one might first ask “What is a religion-ed Christianity?”

A religion-ed Christianity:

  1. begins with a proclamation that we are born in sin – that is, our primary identity as human beings is separation from all that is characterized as holy, one, mystery, God. As such, we are without the capacity to alter our identity, direct the true course of our lives, to be saved (that is to be connected with that which is holy, one, mystery, God.

  2. Then, posits that God wants us to become that which we cannot become on our own – that is, connected with Him(?)

  3. therefore, we need some external mechanism(s) to connect us.

  4. religion is the instrument to connect us – via law, sacrifice, circumcision, confession, participation in certain rituals (e.g., sacraments), membership in a religious society

  5. the substance of which religion is the instrument is a sacerdotal savior, access to which / whom is defined and controlled by the religion

  6. the reward for participation in religion’s instrumentality is promised after life is completed, completing the control mechanism which prevents any straying from the religion-ed path

  7. the punishment for defying the control mechanisms of the religious establishment is separation from the religious society’s instrumentation (shunning, excommunication, heresy) during one’s lifetime or the threat of consignment to Hell after this life is over.

Christian religion has been built upon the conceptual foundation of a flawed humanity needing to be saved and protected by the church.

A religionless Christianity

  1. affirms the innate connection of all life to the unity, mystery, holiness, divine nature of the universe

  2. clearly states that we are to grow into the fulness of our humanity

  3. presents Yeshua’s Way as a path toward that fulness – Messiah becomes a messianic impulse implanted in the individual and the community that promotes and supports the movement toward the wholeness of persons and the care of nature

  4. offers abundant metaphoric symbols (rituals, art, music, poetry) to celebrate the movement toward wholeness

  5. recognizes the seriousness of the shadow side of the human journey and encourages community as a locus for exploring and growing into and through the shadows

  6. the only reward for the growth toward the fulness of our humanity is the wholeness that is attained (even in its partiality or incompleteness)

  7. the only punishment for life lived away from growing toward wholeness is the experience of greater partiality and incompleteness

Religionless Christianity is built on the foundation of the holiness of life – both nature and humanity. Instead of needing to be rescued, humankind is invited to return to its more natural state of oneness and holiness. The church is a community that offers the rituals, symbols, and practices which support growth toward wholeness among people and care for nature.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran pastor awaiting execution in a Nazi prison, understood that the three-tiered universe with a majestic God had been swept away by the war and argued that a new “religionless” Christianity had emerged from history’s ashes. Elie Wiesel, a Jewish humanist and survivor of the death camps, who daily experienced the horrors attending the end of the world as it was being incinerated at Auschwitz, summed it all up with a plaintive questioning cry, “For God’s sake. Where is God?”  …  [I]t became increasingly evident that you can no longer revive a God for a world that no longer exists. (Diane Butler Bass, Grounded)

“Religionless” Christianity is an attempt to answer Wiesel’s question, for the world that does exist.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email