Religion Stinks Because It's Fake

Manuscript from Live Teaching on 3/10/2019 (Watch or Listen)

My name is Joe Porter, and I am on staff here at Whitewater. My primary role is leading the Communication and Video teams and I have a blast doing it. So glad you guys are here! And so glad you guys are joining us online. Everyone in the room is secretly judging you and jealous of you at the same time. For real, no matter where you are joining us I am glad you are here. No judgments.

Now some of you when you hear a series title called Religion Stinks, you are nodding your head, like, yeah it does! Maybe you were exposed to a religious system growing up that felt like the cactus to your balloon of life. So glad you are here today and you haven’t totally given up.

But others might get a little prickly when we say the words Religion Stinks. Because Religious systems are comfortable to you. It’s what you know. I am also glad that you are here.

So what about this for the title this week? Fake religion stinks. I think we can agree on that. Fake religion feels more like a Transaction than a transformation. It fuels image management. And this image management is exhausting and is sucking the life out of us. Take a look at the wall. Which leads me to this revelation.

That’s the first crossword in your bulletin. It just stinks. So I’m going to say FAKE, then you guys say STINKS. So let’s try it. Good!

Of course, we see plenty of fake things on TV. The one genre of TV that particularly feels fake has always been the reality show. I think it’s because they literally use the word “reality” to try and fool us into thinking it’s real, when it is not. “Remember a few years ago, when all of the writers in Hollywood went on strike? Guess how many reality TV shows got made without writers? None”

My wife and I used to be full time photographers, and we’ve seen all kinds of fake things with family photos. You know how it goes. You want the picture to say that (13) we are put together and happy. But all a photo is a reminder of how we felt that day. Now all you’re going to remember how miserable you were and your mom screaming at you to smile.

I wanted to take a team portrait for my daughter’s soccer team. And it was fine. But you know what photo she has hanging in her room? This one. It was taken on a cell phone right after the first game they ever won. Because it’s real. Close up slide.

Fake stinks on instagram too. It’s no secret that we only show people what we want them to see. Check out the strategic framing on these. (Fire 16-20 at about a second each) That’s why you should never compare your normal to someone else’s highlight reel!

Researcher and Author Brene’ Brown “Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought; if I look perfect and do everything perfectly I can avoid and minimize the painful feelings of shame judgment and blame.” 

I don’t care what your stage of life is right now, you get this.

If you’re a student you are trying to be 3 different people to fit in and belong. Fake stinks.

As a husband, you are at a job that is killing you to keep up the appearance that you are successful to buy the things you think successful people should buy. But you can feel the emptiness setting in. Fake stinks.

As a person of faith you have been following the rules all your life and it is just now starting to feel like a prison. You have no joy, are always angry and are exhausted trying to all the good things Christians do. Fake stinks.

But sometimes the things we do at church or in the name of religion feels so fake many times because we aren’t really doing the things for God. It’s all about the appearance for us. Comedian John Crist loves to poke fun at some of the fake things we do as Christians. Like Christian Girl Instagram. (play video)

Faking it in our religion is nothing new though. People who have been trying to follow Jesus have been struggling with this for centuries. One of the most famous Christians in history was Paul. He wrote most of the New Testament in the Bible, and was previously a notorious leader who killed anyone who claimed to be following this radical teacher named Jesus. So now he is writing about an interaction he has with another huge church leader, named Peter. They were both brought up in the Hebrew faith and are now following Jesus. This comes from the Message translation.

Galatians 2: 11-13 Later, when Peter came to Antioch, I had a face-to-face confrontation with him because he was clearly out of line. Here’s the situation. Earlier, before certain persons had come from James, Peter regularly ate with the non-Jews. But when that conservative group came from Jerusalem, he cautiously pulled back and put as much distance as he could manage between himself and his non-Jewish friends. That’s how fearful he was of the conservative Jewish clique that’s been pushing the old system of circumcision. Unfortunately, the rest of the Jews in the Antioch church joined in that hypocrisy so that even Barnabas was swept along in the charade.

So basically Paul is telling Peter it’s not cool that he is being hypocritical and acting one way with a group of people, but totally different from others. We’ll come back to this story in a minute.

Ok, so we’ve established that fake stinks. What’s the antidote? How about practicing authenticity?

Authentic is messy. Real is messy.

Kind of like a family. This is mine. Amanda, Alex and Brooklyn. This photo is a couple of years old, but I like how it shows everyone’s personality. Seems real to me.

But authentic is messy. There is something powerful and messy about someone sharing their story in a real and vulnerable way. It’s incredibly scary but so rewarding for the person sharing their story and for those that hear it. Joey went all-in with his faith on our last baptism day. Check it out. (Play Joey All-in Story)

Remember earlier, I quoted Brene Brown? She goes on to say “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen. The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or more acceptable but our wholeness, even our wholeheartedness actually depends on the integration of all our experiences, including the falls.”

I wonder what it would look like if we let some our true selves be seen at church? Maybe even on Sunday morning?

So I figured we practice being authentic right now which may get a little messy. In a moment you stand and will introduce yourself (leave up for the entire segment). Now normal small talk is News-Sports-and-Weather, but let’s do something different. Grab somebody near you and if you yourself are on a volunteer team at Whitewater tell them what you do and why. If you’re not, ask the person if they are on a team. If neither are, maybe talk about where you have volunteered in other places. That’s like, better than weather, but still not too personal. If you are watching online, sorry, this is one of those non-downloadables.

Play Song: Sometimes I Cry by Chris Stapleton

One exception to being authentic: Feelings tend to follow action. Or you may have heard, “Fake it til you make it.” The idea is that there are certain healthy practices that we know are good for us. Like praying. But I don’t always feel like prayer. But I do it anyway and maybe even feel like I’m faking it a bit. But the feelings of peace and contentment follow the action. I will actually talk more about this concept on Eagle Country radio tonight.

Ok, Back to Galatians where Paul called out Peter’s hypocrisy.

14 I spoke up to Peter in front of them all: “If you, a Jew, live like a non-Jew when you’re not being observed by the watchdogs from Jerusalem, what right do you have to require non-Jews to conform to Jewish customs just to make a favorable impression on your old Jerusalem cronies?”

That’s what most of the un-religious people in the world are saying to churches today. How can you judge us when you are living a double life? I don’t really have a good answer for that. Except for: Religion stinks (sometimes). And also, even if living authentically is better than being fake, it doesn’t mean we live a perfect life.

Paul writes about this in another letter to some churches living in Rome. Actually, HE quotes scripture from Psalms. And now we are going to quote scripture being quoted from Psalms. It’s like Biblical inception!

Romans 3:2
There’s nobody living right, not even one,
nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God.
They’ve all taken the wrong turn;
they’ve all wandered down blind alleys.
No one’s living right;
I can’t find a single one.

Then later Paul goes on to say that the result of all of this lack of actual goodness is eternal death separated from God. Ok, got it. I’m not 100% sure what that looks like, but it can’t be good. So that’s it? Just Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die? Sounds good to me. See you guys next week!

Follow Jesus.

Let me set it up. There’s this doctor and author named Luke. He hung around a guy named Jesus who was making some pretty bold claims to be God. So obviously, he started taking notes and turned it into a book. Wouldn’t you?

Yes, I just compared Kanye to Jesus. Just making sure you were awake. I didn’t say he WAS Jesus. So Jesus tells a story and Luke records it:

Luke 18 Slide 1
9-12 “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’

Luke 18 Slide 2
13 “Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’”

14 Jesus commented, “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”

Notice Jesus doesn’t give a formula or a list of actions. He tells a story to get his point across. And what is the point? Man is obsessed with the outward. (50) God is all about the heart. He’s all about the intent. A humble heart turned towards Him. God’s not interested in all the good things you can do for him.

Religion stinks when the church becomes full of people who are more concerned about the outside. It’s when we show up all put together and sing songs that we don’t mean. It’s when we convince ourselves we are keeping most of the rules in the bible so we’ve earned the right to judge others.

But there’s nothing like the church when it’s working right. When the people in the church have a humble spirit and know it’s not all about them. When we start to follow Jesus and obey his teachings because we are excited to be a part of his mission. When we aren’t afraid to get a little messy.

For some of you, you’re happy sitting on the side of a mountain somewhere and talking out loud to God. That’s me. But for some of us, it’s nice to get some tips on how to get started or started again following Jesus. Please don’t misunderstand this as a checklist though. Let’s just call them:

Next Steps.

Talk to someone today:
Every Sunday we have some really great people hang around down front who would love to chat with you for a few moments. If you need some prayer or help with following God, come down after the service.

Read more about Jesus on your own:
Jesus tells many other stories to give us a glimpse of what it looks like to live an authentic faith. Get one of those old school Bibles that have Jesus’ words in red and start there.

Develop some authentic relationships:
Start with your own family. Then maybe consider developing some relationships here in the church. Don’t make Sunday or Thursday the only time you say hi to a few people and only go skin deep.

No matter what step you might take, be authentic and follow Jesus this week.

We continue the series next week when David Vaughan will talk about how Religion Stinks because of all the guilt.

Don’t forget if you are newer around here, stick around for 3 minutes after the service over at the word wall.

Let me pray over you guys.