“Christianity is a relationship, not a religion.”
How many times have you heard that phase? Every time I have heard that phrase, I have been genuinely confused. Of course Christianity is a religion, by all but the most convoluted definitions of what a religion is. Do you worship a deity? Do you pray to said deity? Do you meet regularly to worship? It’s a religion. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and has all the properties of a duck, it’s a duck. To me the quote sounds like “A flock of ducks are a relationship, not a flock of birds.” Ducks, are by definition, birds. Christianity, by definition, is a religion. However, this is not the most confusing point, the relationship part is what really gets me.
I am a 44 year old American man. I have 2 brothers and a sister. I have been married 15 years to the same woman. I have a child. I have been in several adult relationships and have adult friends and coworkers. I know what relationships are with other human beings. Heck, I even have a dog, and a relationship with her. (Love my little poodle. Real men own poodles.) I know how relationships work. If I didn’t, I would not be employed, married, be part of a family, etc. In a human relationship, we speak the same language, we communicate back and forth. We share ideas, thoughts, dreams, fears, love, hate, everything that makes us human. This two way communication is the very basis of human relationships. Contrast this with a relationship with Christ. He never answers, he never talks back, he will ignore you in a time of need and never respond, in any way. If you believe he is talking back, I am sorry, that is in your own head. Even compared to my dog, this is not a relationship.
Dogs hold a special place in relationship to man. They were the first domesticated species, and one of the few allowed in our homes and even in our beds. Both of our species have benefitted from this relationship. In the beginning, dogs were domesticated because they have senses and abilities we humans lack. Early humans recognized that dogs can smell and hear much better than us, can see better in the dark, and have claws and teeth that we lack. They started as living machines to help us, but something changed, humans and dogs developed a relationship.
Ask just about any dog owner and ask if they can communicate with their dogs? Most, if not all, will say yes. I know with our own dog, she recognizes dozens of works and understands simple questions AND responds to them. She can do tricks and even remembers the names of the people in our house. If I say “go find mama” she will find my wife, not my son and vice versa. If you ask if she need to go potty, she will beg, or sit if she does not. Same thing with asking if she wants dinner. She will beg for belly rubs, or playtime The point here is that even though we are different species and have vastly different intelligence levels, we have a relationship. Compare this with a relationship with Christ. Ask a simple question, no response. It is far less of a relationship the compared to a dog, cat, heck, even a goldfish.
You can see a goldfish. A goldfish can be trained and responds to its environment. With Jesus, it is worse than a relationship with a plant. You can talk to a plant and never expect a response. It’s a plant. It lacks a central nervous system, but even a plant changes, grows, and you can adjust watering, sunlight, temperature, and fertilizer to help your plant out. The is SOME feedback there. With a deity, nothing, zip, nada. Pray, beg, write notes, you will never, ever, get a response. How, HOW is this a relationship?
I have yet to hear an Christian (or Jew, etc.) explain HOW their faith in some unseen, unknown, undetectable, deity is a relationship. How do you define relationship in a way that includes your *insert deity of your choice here* relationship? I am not being snarky here. How do you define relationship? Is this definition the same for your human relationships? If not, why not?