I understand the sincerity of people (like me until recently) who make this comment (12,980 in one Facebook group, nearly 4,000 in another, 21 million on a YouTube video, Justin Bieber). Unfortunately it implies that those who identity with “religion” neglect a relationship with Jesus Christ. Catholics certainly promote a relationship with Jesus Christ. As Pope Benedict XVI said,
“Faith is above all a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus, and to experience his closeness, his friendship, his love; only in this way does one learn to know him ever more, and to love and follow him ever more. May this happen to each one of us.”
But is that all Christianity is? Should 2,000 years of dying for the faith, feeding hundreds of millions, fighting for justice for the orphan, casting out demons, educating all, building the most beautiful structures in the world, and contributing to scientific advancement be reduced to, “It’s a relationship?” Or has an American individualism perhaps permeated evangelicalism’s thought, a sort of “me and my Jesus” that isn’t Biblical or have much historical precedent before the early 1700s? I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and I also have a personal relationship with my friends from middle school and my dog. My relationship to Christ as part of His Church and His Kingdom is far richer than what I believed as an evangelical.