It started with a comment. I shared a short version of rejections I experienced on the Facebook page of a nondenominational Protestant who was looking for stories about rejection.
Then somebody replied to my comment:
“Just remember that it’s by faith and not religion that we feel God’s love.”
Cue flashbacks of the usual “I’m spiritual, but not religious” anthem that I hear from a lot of people. And a facepalm.
I shared this incident with my friends who had this to say.
Olivier Coutant: On the one hand, yes, the speaker forgets that religion is the lived out expression of our faith. I also think there’s something to what that speaker said! It can be a temptation for us to get wrapped up in our pious acts and forget that our faith (our relationship with Christ) is what it’s all about.
Tristan Rios: Notice how they say “feel”. If you want to troll, maybe say, “Feel? I thought love was an action, not a feeling.” Just to kind of comment on how protestants and specifically non-denoms are overly emotional. All about the “feel good.”
Suzanne Fortin: Jesus instituted a religion: Baptism, Eucharist, laying of hands. These are always ways of feeling God’s love.
Brandon Ocampo (No relation to me): Faith in practice is religion. It’s the ultimate relationship. Where we follow His boundaries and rules to improve our relationship with Him. I might not always feel God in a pretty song, but I might feel Him by following the law. He has set forth. Jesus > Religion? Nah son. Jesus came to establish a religion. Jesus was religious. If you condemn religion, you condemn Christ. That’s not a bright move.
Rachel Gohlman: One can say “I have faith” great, even the demons believe! In fact the devils may have more faith than we do because they know it’s all real. What constitutes religion is not only saying you believe in God, but also showing it through devotions and acts of prayer. Our main way of prayer always has been the Mass and it’s not just a series of empty gestures. If anyone says it is so then ask why do people send flowers to someone they love, or write songs or take them out on picnic. Love demands action. It demands expression. This is the complement that religion gives faith.
I also would like to point out that religion is manifest in the love we give to our neighbor, in addition to the love we give to God. If a person keeps faith to themselves, there is a risk for self-assurance, an “us and them” attitude that characterizes the pharisee. By being the outward display of faith, religion obliges us to carry Christ out into the world. This is what James means when he says “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27
Therefore religion has always been part of Scripture faith. It has always been the “works” that goes along with faith. Neither by themselves save you as faith without works is dead and religion without faith is empty humanism.
While I’m not gonna respond to the comment because I don’t like starting a combox war, I will say this:
Experiencing God’s love relies on more than just feeling it. Having faith in God has to be rooted in something a lot more solid than feelings. Faith is not a feeling, after all.
Religion, and especially Catholicism, can seem particularly daunting because there seem to be so many rules. But if anything provides that tangibility of God’s love, I think it comes in the form of being Catholic.
Catholics get to see Christ present in the Eucharist.
We smell the incense that symbolizes our prayers rising up to Heaven.
We feel the Holy Water as we dip our fingers into the font and are reminded of when we were baptised, either as babies or at Easter Vigil after weeks of RCIA classes.
We hear the prayers that remind us of what we believe in.
We taste the Body and the Blood every Sunday.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
God’s authentic love is manifested in having faith, but that faith is best grown when it’s rooted in a strong foundation.