I've got something to confess.
The other day, a man who personally ruined my old Bible study group invited me to have a discussion about the Holy Spirit. I'll admit up front that I lied to get out of it. I shouldn't have lied, but I lied boldly. I couldn't think of anything else to say. What do you tell a man when he gives you the option to meet at any time and you can't tell him he sucks? You don't want to be mean -- you don't want to tell him that he drives you nuts. The most tasteful option at that point was to to say that I hadn't been interested in religious discussions for some time now, which is a lie -- because I'm very interested in having religious discussions. I'll have religious people over for dinner and talk religion with them for hours. I think he was one of the three people I know who I wouldn't have the discussion with even when I was religious, which meant my apostasy for once was actually useful. But he tried, God bless him; and when I shot him down he used a tactic that's always disturbed me, which was to tell me that he didn't want to have a religious conversation either. He said Jesus didn't want us to have religious conversations. I immediately knew what's coming next. They say because Christianity isn't a religion, and then they always find a way to add because Christianity is a relationship.
I have two problems with these statements, the first being that Christianity is in fact a religion -- and not even a religion, but the religion: the world's largest religion. If it has a theology, and specific rules, and its own lingo and a place for meeting and a host of rites and a holy book it is absolutely a religion and it should be called a religion. Saying that Christianity isn't a religion because you don't have to work your way to heaven is a lot like saying Zen Buddhism isn't a philosophy because it (ironically) de-emphasizes the value of printed doctrines. It's all a play of words, designed to sucker "unchurched" types into going to church -- or if the term church doesn't cut it, maybe we'll call it The Big Warehouse with Bad Music.
But there's a second reason these statements bother me. If the concept of religion gets botched, then the concept of a relationship gets worse. And here's why. Let's say you're in a relationship with a man you've never seen. It's a possibility, anyway. Maybe you've heard his voice. But if you haven't heard his voice, maybe you've seen the letters he's sent you. If a third party is receiving the letters before you and then relaying them to you this is unlikely, but still possible. If someone's relaying information to you that was addressed to somebody else, the relationship begins to get silly. If someone has to repeatedly and constantly explain the context of the information, you should be getting suspicious. If this information was written to you over two-thousand years ago, it's only fair to say it wasn't actually written to you, or that you might have been dumped since it was. If you believe it was written to you two thousand years ago, then maybe you might also equally assert that you have a relationship with Plato. If you believe, after reading Plato's works repeatedly and imagining what he might say in various situations, that Plato is speaking to you in your heart and that this constitutes a relationship, then by some kind of a miracle you might end up in a relationship -- with a psychiatrist.
This being said, if you're going to pretend to have a boyfriend, at least have a picture of him. If you're going to be in a religion, be content with saying that you follow God (even if you don't always entirely). And since you're probably wondering what I'm going to do about my lie, I'll tell you. I'm going to contact the man and tell him, in the kindest way possible, that I'm really not interested in meeting up -- and leave it at that. There's nothing worse than being a liar; I intend to keep myself honest from now on.