Craig Groeschel: Why Rules Create Toxic Religion

Something rings hollow in Craig Groeschel's discussion about rules and religion. From the very start, it seems somewhat disingenuous for a Pastor to fend off an anti-religious naysayer with the statement, "We've got a lot in common then. I'm not religious and I can't stand religious people either!"

This feeling is further compounded when the article rails against those who have poisoned the Christian message with their determination to attach to it unnecessary rules and regulations. "Religious people," the article reasons, "focus on an outward expression rather than inward transformation." However, when a curious reader follows the link through to Lifechurch.tv (of which church Craig Groeschel is the founder and senior pastor) it is not long before he is confronted with a page of suggested Next Steps, all of which strike me as being an "outward expression". Attend church regularly, read your Bible, and pray are presented as "First Steps"; Getting baptized, and giving are claimed to be "Essential Steps".

Essential for what? Clicking through to "Beliefs" it soon becomes obvious that if a person does not follow these essential steps all they can look forward to is an eternity separated from God and "to be eternally separated from God is hell." I don't know about anyone else, but these sound a lot like rules to me - rules which make for a toxic religion.

The article tries to differentiate between "religion" and "relationship".
Religion says, "If I obey God, He will love me." Relationship says, "Because God loves me, I can obey."
Essentially, these two statements mean the same thing. They both contain the word "obey". It is holding up the Bible as God's rule book, and saying, "Obey, or else." It doesn't matter if this warning comes with a benevolent smile, it remains nothing more than a not-so-veiled threat. And so, as he says in his article, "No wonder then that many non-Christians can't stand Christians."

In the end, it is difficult to shake off the feeling that you have fallen victim to the ol' bait'n'switch. Drawn in with the tantalizing promise of a form of worship free from toxic rules, the inquisitive will very quickly find themselves confronted with all sorts of "toxic rules" being passed off merely as God's requirements for our salvation.