"Christ, not Christianity, is the power that has soothed and satisfied the spirit of the great multitude which no man can number."
Why do we need religion in our post modern condition? This type of question turns off many believers, yet it's a question any person of faith will deal with- whether we want to or not. Our doubts and insecurities are real. The manner in which we deal with these doubts is what will build or crumble our faith. Christians around the world are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus, yet our influence on the world is lessening. We aren't as effective as many of us would like to be, and some of us won't even try to make a difference. How have we (Christians) become so impotent?
Let's work backwards. What if Jesus was merely the teacher of a social gospel and moral philosophy, would we still follow him? What if he didn't die for our sins, would we still ground our morality and ethics in his teachings? If we struggle with any aspect of either question then we have reduced our salvation to a market style quid pro quo. In essence we are telling God that we will spread the gospels and worship, if one day we are granted power and eternal life. This type of worship is more common than most of us inside the church are willing to accept. We either get God the ATM or God the attack dog.
I see three forms of religion being practiced today. The first form is diagnostic ideological religion. Practitioners of this form of religion use the teachings of Jesus and his disciples to offer critiques for the condition of the world. The men and women who subscribe to this particular kind of religion believe that all of the worlds ills could be solved by a greater commitment to the teachings of Jesus. I don't disagree with them, but the choice to come to the father is one each of us has to make on our own. The call for a mass commitment to Jesus seems improbable. Instead of working to change things many are comfortable offering their diagnosis.
The second form of religion is medicinal. Practitioners of medicinal religion seek to find comfort from the conditions the world has imposed on them. Many have resigned to the fact that their kingdom shall come and that they will one day become what they cannot presently be. The trap of medicinal religion is acceptance. Medicinal religion's impotence comes from a lack of trying. Instead of embracing God's omnipotence as a way of shaping the here and now, they settle for the promises to come down the road.
The last form of religion I see practiced is empowerment religion. When you're around someone who truly embraces this form of religion you can't help but notice their attitude and spirit. I know people who are connected in a way that I wish I was connected. There isn't an obstacle you could place in front of them they won't give God the glory during their attempt to overcome it. They have a belief so strong that they never outwardly doubt the circumstances of life. It's this group of believers that accomplish what was previously thought to be impossible. The sad thing about empowerment religion is that there aren't enough of them. They have no problem diagnosing societal ills, they are assured of their place in heaven, yet they set out to do the hard work of changing their communities.
As a child I believed that God sent his only begotten son to die for our sins; later in life I found myself not believing this as much. I now find faith in the faith of others. When I'm around someone who really believes I'm comforted by their convictions. Jesus said follow me; he never called on people to worship him. This distinction matters because it creates the space for those who are weak in their faith and those who have no commitment to faith. If Jesus wasn't the perfect sacrifice of God he would still be worth emulating. If Jesus was just a myth, his lessons can still provide valuable insights for those who are lost. I thank God that he sent his son to die on Calvary. I believe what I can't provide physical evidence for. Jesus was the turning point in human history. His birth fulfilled a prophecy from God, and his impact is still felt 2014 years later. You can't look at a calendar without recognizing that we track the days since his arrival. I need the teachings of Jesus to sustain my sanity during crazy times and to comfort me during times of distress. I need religion because of the state of the world we live in.