Why being religious feels so good.

Lindsay Lohan starred in a movie called Mean Girls, with of Tina Fey, Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried and that other girl who didn’t get famous. In the movie, Lindsay plays Katie, a girl who comes from Africa where her parents studied animals. When she starts her new school, she gets embraced by a teacher (Tina Fey) who embraces Katie’s intellectual capacity and invites her to join the school’s Math team. She makes friend with the school outcasts. A girl who people think is a bitter lesbian, Janis, and her boy toy Damien. Janis and Damien, convince Katie to join the popular clique of girls, “the plastics”, and sabotage them from within. Katie, begins by sabotaging their friendships, and falls for the guy that Regina (Rachel McAdams) like. She gives Regina bars to get her fat, and, she keeps a plan to destroy her. During this time, Katie begins to love the power and authority that comes with being a “plastic”. She loves the attention. To the point, where she really is a plastic. After the schools black book of secrets, both true and made up, are leaked to the school. Katie faces immense scrutiny from her classmates, from the staff and extreme guilt for herself. This awakening, gives her the clarity to leave the plastics and become who she really was, a nerdy, attractive, outcast.

What I love about this movie, is that it really describes the religious experience, or the fundamentalist way. Most people don’t enter Christianity because they like being religious. They enter because there was something about God that seduced them, or, because they were raised in that environment.

What religion does, is that it hits our most fundamental ego structures. It gives an easy-to-do guideline for how to live our lives (legalism), where ethics and behavior is clear-cut and black and white. It allows us to be part of the inclusive group, which gives us our narcissistic need of being right and being the popular in crowd. It allows us to find our identity in something bigger, which they call “God”. It meets every need within what Thomas Merton and many other great spiritual teachers call “the false self”. Religion does a great job of making people feel superior, it allows them to feel like they’re achieving great spiritual success and separate from the masses with their “holy” behavior and Orthodox beliefs. Its something we all do at points of our lives.

The problem is, Jesus doesn’t like the religious people. He calls them Brood of Vipers (Snakes), he calls them Sons of Hell. Jesus is more interested in healing the lepers, making friends with dimwitted blue-collar workers and social outcasts and training them in his way, he’s interested in healing people from their physical and spiritual diseases. He was interested in starting a Peace and Love revolution and less interested in Orthodoxy (which is important but only if it participates in the revolution).

What’s beautiful about Katie in Mean Girls, is the fact that she was able to leave the “plastics”. She saw it, embraced it, learned from it and moved on. Which is similar to Paul’s statement “through the law I died to the law”. We are all religious at some point in our lives, but, only through religion can we die to it. Hopefully, we have the courage like Katie did, to leave it, before it becomes who we are completely. Which, unfortunately, a nice part of Christianity has been known to do.

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5 thoughts on “Why being religious feels so good.

  1. Lance Gutteridge says:

    Hey great stuff for discussion as long as we remember that Jesus never said to stop titheing the mint and cummin, just to remember what matters most. Of course we don’t want to become leagalists but we need to remember He gave us His Word too, Holy Spirit tells us how to interpret that in light of what we are facing. Just don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Romans 7:16 / 1 Cor 9:20-23 / Luke 11:42.

    You rock Bro GREAT piece!

    By Grace

    Lancer

    SDG!!!

  2. Great post! I really resonate with it. In college, I went through this process of what I like to call, passing through the fire of religiousness. There was definitely a before, during and after, which I now live in. This is helpful in providing another way of thinking about it.

  3. interesting idea that we actually need to go through religion. I’ve lamented I wish we never had to deal with it – but when put this way I can see how it serves a purpose (and hopefully we are able to move on from it)

  4. I like this post. I’m pretty sure God calls us into deeper and deeper religion, but with the challenge that our religion can never take the place of our faith, salvation, or relationship with God [three terms I tend to use kinda synonymously, since everyone else already seems to interchange them more than they should].

    As I once Tweeted, “I used to believe that Christianity was not a religion, but a relationship. I now believe it is a religious relationship”

  5. gwalter says:

    What great insight. I’ve not seen the movie, but from what you describe, I get it. I really do.

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