Every time I bring up the topic of friends, my wife starts to cry. It’s a sore subject with her. With me too.
What is a friend?
A friend is someone who sticks with you through thick and thin. They don’t quit on you. A friend would give you the shirt off their back. Most of all, nothing can change this. You know you will be loved and accepted forever. Period.
Sadly, most people are dying for a friend. That's why we binge on shows like M.A.S.H., Cheers, Seinfeld, Frazier, The Office, and Friends. It's not just because they’re funny. It's because they’re family. For twenty one blissful minutes we feel like we have some friends. We find a place where even weirdos like Cliffy and Klinger and Kramer and Niles and Dwight and Phoebe fit in. If they can fit in, we can too. It feels wonderful.
Religion ruined our friendships
Most of Julie’s and my friendships have been ruined by religion. The problem with religion is that it allows friendships only with those who live in its system. The God of religion doesn't accept those on the outside. So if you live outside the system you are not a friend. Instead, you're a missions project.
Over the past year, Julie and I have been publicly and privately denounced but we do not fault our old friends for this. It's the nature of religion. The people are better than this. Religion forced their hand. In the past, we have been in their shoes and felt the same pressure. That's why we had to get out.
Jesus wasn't like that
The irony is that Jesus had notoriously tacky taste in friends. He would hang out with anyone! If Jesus is any indication, God will be friends with anyone, love anyone, forgive anyone, lay down his life for anyone.
I suspect Christ hates the religion that bears his name. It’s too much like the Pharisaic Judaism he clashed with so strongly. If you tell someone you are a Christian, beads of sweat form on their forehead and they eye the door. They assume you have an agenda. You probably do.
A faith that was true to Jesus would provoke the opposite reaction. If someone said they were a follower of Jesus you would think, “A follower of Jesus? Cool! That means I’m accepted! Let’s go get a beer.”
Wanna be friends?
Julie and I are sick of religion and are looking for some friends.
Here’s our promise: Our hearts will remain open to you—period. We don’t care who you are, how you live, who you sleep with, how you vote, how much money you make, what you worship, or anything else. There will be no effort to convert you (We wouldn’t even know that that means.) You will not be judged. We’ll just love you.
More fundamentally, though, I’m convinced that “church” as we think of it today is not at all what Jesus had in mind when he used the word ecclesia. This summer I’ll be thinking through church in the summer Curb Your Dogma podcast series. The concept of church is long overdue for a reassessment. Click here to see the Summer schedule.