St Anthony of the Desert

Orthodox Christian Mission

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Fr Gabriel

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Enough Religion Already! Look For Freedom.

Let’s put this flatly: a direct line connects such outrages as the enormous wealth of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, a self-styled new age guru of the Seventies who eventually fled the US after bilking thousands of gullible followers out of many hard-earned dollars, to the followers of Jim Jones who went to their poisoned deaths by the hundreds in “Jonestown” almost thirty years ago, to the death and illness recently suffered by people who forked out almost ten thousand dollars a pop to participate in a New Age “personal transformation workshop” in Sedona AZ.

The direct line is this: people are looking for the next messiah and are gullible enough to follow one – or more. Furthermore, many are willing to submit to his (usually it is his, though there have been some interesting women) power and influence to give us the big word that will fill up the holes in our souls – and we are willing to pay for it into the bargain. We like to think humanity is moving toward enlightened fulfillment, but many continue to be bilked today as they were by the mystery religions two thousand years ago. Nothing much changes over centuries.

This is religion, folks, and it’s precisely the opposite of genuine Christianity. The early Roman Empire called Christians atheists because they would not play the game; they would not submit to the religions of the age because they knew the gods were hollow and, essentially, nonexistent. Religion keeps you coming, so to speak, because it cannot fulfill you. That’s part of the reason people flocked to the mystery religions. It continues to be the reason people follow one fake teacher after another. And they think we’re nuts to believe in Jesus as the Christ.

In genuine Christianity, the search comes to an end. There is fulfillment and so there is no need to keep an eye out for the next messiah coming down the pike. One was enough, thank you very much, and we can find rest here. Not only that, but we gain a built-in resistance to flim-flam artists masquerading as spiritual gurus. We don’t have to run to the local big barn bookstore to fetch the next messenger whom Oprah touts.

Jesus’ method for being our messiah is unique. On one hand he appears, in the pages of the New Testament, as God in human form who ends the search for a renewed connection to God. On the other hand, he calls us to our own inner resources. “The Kingdom of God is within you,” he proclaims; and when a rich young man comes to him seeking entry into this Kingdom, Jesus tells him that the price is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. You know the way to your own freedom, he is saying. This Kingdom is near you, ultimately within you.

I wish everybody would come into this Kingdom, but it is not going to happen. I’m not trying to buttonhole you into my shop. Does this mean I don’t want people to become members of the Orthodox Church? Hardly. But I am not trying to sell something you can have for free: God’s grace.

Superficial Christianity may look as insipid as anything we get from suave suntanned spiritual guides.  But if you follow step-by-step, you discover a depth that fulfills your search for meaning and purpose. Furthermore, you will not be bound in submission to your spiritual teacher. Christ means freedom and he brings that freedom into your whole life. The choice is yours: endless searching or coming home to fulfillment.

published 20 Nov 2009