Gimme That Ol’ Time Religion

If a man walked onto the field during the Super Bowl and began to wreak havoc with a baseball bat, I would be surprised if there would be a public outcry about the evils of football.  Reasonable folk would simply conclude that that wasn’t football.

So when I’m asked to publicly comment on the Christian religion’s propensity to promote hatred and violence, my response is simply, that’s not Christianity.

People are fond of listing a litany of malicious misdemeanors as proof of Christianity’s (religion’s) destructive core. I’m always a little awestruck by this insatiable appetite for low-hanging fruit. And I acknowledge and repent of my own.

In the case of the recent Koran burning by Florida’s Rev. Terry Jones and the murderous response his mind-numbing irresponsibility triggered, there are just a couple of things I’d like to say:

1. In my own city of Winnipeg alone, there are several hundred churches that have not, have no plans to, and wouldn’t if they could get away with it, burn the Koran. Indeed, in my 20 years and 1500 concerts in Churches across the world I have never knowingly met any person or congregation disposed to such a reprehensible deed. I know they exist, I’m just pointing to their rarity.

 2. In Winnipeg there are also several Mosques. As far as I know, not one has advocated for a violent response to Mr. Jones’ actions. This doesn’t surprise me. In my travels around the world I have met and worked with many Muslims.  All have been lovely folk with gentle souls. I’m just sayin…

The word “religion” derives from the Latin religare from which we get the word ligament suggesting that true religion is that which connects and binds together, not that which dissects and alienates.* In the case of Christian specific religion, it is the Bible (Old Testament, no less) that suggests that true religion is this: to tend to  the orphan and the widow –  the marginalized (the de-ligamented.) The New Testament suggests that God “knows” those whose devotion to God is evidenced by their self-giving kindheartedness. Conversely, those whose lives are marked by self-securing callousness, God simply… doesn’t know. Indeed, the witness of Jesus in the face of “religious” intolerance and imperial aggression was to absorb the toxicity in his person (the buck stops here) allowing for the possibility of a new way of life made possible through the mechanism of humble self-donation born of an unwavering faith in the counter-intuitive power of love.

It is my opinion that Mr. Jones and those who have responded to him murderously need not shed religion; rather, they need to get some.

Below is a song from my recent album Kin.dness.  The song is in no way meant to be uncharitable to those committed to scientific progress, or dismissive of legitimate  boundaries (be they ethnic, political, religious, gender, emotional etc.) My point is this, that bereft of re-ligamenting love, it’s hard to imagine any human endeavor coming to a good end.

* Thanks to Brian McLaren for drawing my attention to  the etymology of the word religion

Click song title to listen…

ABOUT LOVE | Steve Bell/Diana Pops/Mike Janzen

It’s not about science
or benefits the dead contest
but there’s some strange reliance yet
on particles to fix the mess.

Who knows if this thing we call life
Looks fine in another one’s eyes
Or bellies-up with the goods everyone can approve of

One thing that I’ve learned in my time
You can’t win if you have to draw lines
When it comes to the struggle to show and to prove love

Oh… It’s always been about love!

It’s not about borders
Borders have their place no doubt
But who gave the orders
To abandon hope for common ground

Who knows…


ABOUT LOVE is available on Steve’s 2011 release KINDNESS. To view CD, listen to audio samples or purchase, click HERE…

To visit a website dedicated to Steve’s 16th career release KINDNESS click HERE…

22 thoughts on “Gimme That Ol’ Time Religion

  1. Very good points Steve. I especially like the opening about the baseball bat at the football game. It really made me think. I hope that in the future I am even less likely to be the person who would call football evil..

    reply from Steve: Ha!

  2. Burning the Koran is an act of violence and only a fool would think it would not spark a violent response. It is the nature of violence to reply. This act is tantamount to complicity in the retaliation murders, and I hope that thought enters the irresponsibe pastor’s mind and heart one day soon.

  3. Steve, thanks for the gift of another thought – thought through.

    As silly voices polarize themselves, of course love emerges as the only path to peace between different worldviews. Like the day that MLK was shot in Memphis, people began to think “Hmmm – is it just me, or is this out of hand?”

    Silliness, for all the ill it brings, clarifies the questions.

    There are two stories told in the world – a creational story and a redemptive story.

    Love is part of almost everyone’s creational story. We all know it works, and heals, and startles.

    Our redemptive stories, however, are indeed different, and are not all the same by any means.

    Some redemptive stories are toxic to listen to, even when their creational story is laced with the language of love.

    If we begin human conversations with love, a shared part of a healthy creational story, we can helpfully process the unique redemptive stories afoot in the world.

    If not, we are left to warring redemptive stories.

    That’s why the man burned the book – he left his soul at the dry cleaners and forgot to love when he most needed to – the moment of choice.

    Again, thanks for the kindred soul-ness and your hearty goodness.


  4. Unhappily our language has been co-opted to the point that “Christian” has become a Bad Word in many circles. “Religion,” likewise. Some eschew that word and try to replace it with “relationship” to indicate that this re-ligamenting was fully and ultimately accomplished by Jesus. And all our attempts to religament ourselves, rather than accepting the fact that it’s done, is one of the most common ways that we keep ourselves apart from God, striving in our own sufficiency.

    I currently view all fundamentalists (radicals), who will never accept any compromise – even to the point of attacking members of their own “tribe” – as being caught up in the spirit of the enemy. While those more moderate folks on all sides, who live in the spirit of Kin.dness and look for the common ground, as being those who are in (or at least alongside) the spirit of Christ.

    Call me a heretic. ;-0 … thanks for tackling the issues Steve… (oh, another football analogy!)

  5. Low hanging fruit indeed. It is everywhere. Television writers take the most absurd things they have ever seen or heard about and then write that into a script like it represents Christians or Christianity as a whole. Makes us all look like a bunch of nuts. Trouble is it is our own fault. I once heard it quoted that Gandhi said that this Jesus he liked. It was the followers of Jesus that he had a problem with. Jesus truly was unwaivering in this unintuitive thing called LOVE. Thanks, Steve. Well said.

  6. Coincidentally, I was having this very conversation with a co-worker and fellow believer yesterday while at work. Some of your sentiments echo some of my thoughts.

    Mr. Jones and his Koran burning followers are helping to create the negativity that greets the very mention of the word ‘religion’. They fan the flames with their anti-christian behavior, making it harder for true Christians to go out and harvest God’s crop. I was at first, shocked and dismayed that a professed man of Christ, a public figure, could do something that is so against the very Bible he is trumping over the Koran.

    As you pointed out, Steve, religion, thankfully, is found in the heart. It is the kindness we show and the good deeds we do. If your heart is impure, your religion too will be impure.

    Interesting to note that Spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi was once asked what was the greatest hindrance to Christianity in India. His response, CHRISTIANS. Nuff Said.

  7. Thanks very much Steve.
    With a generation trying to shun themselves from religion, they ignorantly don’t know what it is. Many encapsulate a legalism they despise as religion. When the “Don’ts” seem to outnumber the “Do’s” it is called religion. To many, God’s law is the nemesis to God’s grace. Personally, I love the law, and when I don’t meausre up, I know I have His grace.

    Sometimes this old ligament does’t work as it should, but my desire is to stay connected with HIs body, to love those who persecute me, and to not persecute, but reach out to them by the grace of God.

  8. Way to go, Steve. I couldn’t have put it any better myself. You truly are a peacemaker. Blessings for the rest of your tour. When are you coming down here to the states?

    Be well.


  9. Amazing!
    Since “finding” this verse a few weeks ago I have been compelled to reflect on the same thing! Gal.5:6
    The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

  10. Steve, thanks for your clarion voice of kindness which sings melodious lyrics into our crazy, beautiful world. We all need to be reminded of the things that bind our humanity together. Yes, indeed, the power of love breaks down barriers and walls! (Gal. 5:14,15)

  11. Firstly Steve it’s been a while, Loved the bite’s from Kindness and lookin fwd 2 seing u friday night. My mind’s kinda warped around info overload thesedays my thoughts and prayers are for my dear Xtended family over in Japan along w/ the souls gone and thoseleft 2 manage the disaster. The Koran thing is a sad ending of one mans dilema in dealing with a sad excuse of what one might call faith based upon lies. Need one say more. we serve a risen saviour ,He’s in the world today and He walks with me and He talks with me. And I’m so thankfully glad that it is that way. Luke 18:27

  12. While the pastor’s action definitely lacked the gentleness and respect that are to characterize our Christian witness (1 Peter 3:15-16), it’s worth rememberiing that Christians have not responded (at least not in the last several hundred years) to sacrilege the same way as many Muslims have. The Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition that involved putting a crucifix in a jar of urine did not result in the deaths of hundreds of innocents as did the publication of the Danish cartoons. There is a difference between the Muslim street (not simply the Arab street that we often hear about) and the average Christiian.

  13. This leads me to hope and pray that as an election approaches in a few weeks, that our politians would find some ‘kindness’ and truth that they could direct not only towards us, as their constituents, but also towards one another. I have emailed each party requesting an end to the hate ads. Any party to do so has my vote.

  14. Thank you, Steve! I always appreciate reading what you have to say. And thank you for promoting peace! May God be praised!

  15. Thank you Steve for your blog on the resent and misguided events of the Koran burning. You spoke the heart of all who love the Lord and respect others regardless of religion etc. I could not have expressed it better. God Bless you and your family and ministry.

  16. Thanks Steve, I read this when I got home from Eastern Europe. My time there included some deep conversations with people whose perspectives range from those who live lives grounded in the healing power of a love which binds people together, and others whose lives seem to cause separation and division through a sad and destructive misunderstanding of the power of the gospel. Needless to say, I have my opions about which view demonstrates the life and work of Jesus. Thank you for being bold enough to call something out for what it is not.

  17. I am very saddened by this pastor in florida who flauntingly tried to get a message across in an unloving fashion. I am greatly taken aback though by any idea that his ability to exercise his freedom to burn a book is comparable to murdering 7 UN peacekeepers and take hostage a UN headquarter. In giving this pastor no excuse for his behavior other than freedom of expression, we need to be careful not to compare apples and oranges. After living in the middle east and looking at the Koran and the Hadith I find it particularly difficult to see peace there. Only Christ holds that truth and as christian we need to show that. That however does not mean agreeing with or making excuses for others violence, even if provoked. Our job is to show love and seek peace but that does not equate with tolerance for others violence because they were provoked.

  18. After reading your response to the koran burning I must say your written words are consistant with your music. Love will win the day,not violence. It requires faith to love those who despitefully use you but the results are worth it. Please continue to carve your own path Steve. murray m

  19. Not sure if religion is about ‘binding’, or ‘bondage’ – if religion is about man’s search for God, then we should take every opportunity to distinguish Christianity as something different as it is God’s revelation to man. As you say, any human endeavor without Love will not end in good. Religion without the love of Jesus, without his Spirit and truth, ends in angry legalism.

    It makes me nervous when I hear someone say (or sing) ‘give me that old time religion”, because I suspect they are hankering after Egypt, rather than the Kingdom of God.

    Al – no worries, the title of the blog is intended to be ironic. ~SB

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