A Defense of Organized Religion

A Defense of Organized Religion July 28, 2023

Much of the general public–especially Millennials–are down on the concept of “organized religion.”  They are often fine with “spirituality” or even “religion,” but they don’t want it to be organized into doctrines, worship, and being part of a church.

Anthony DeStefano defends the organized part in a piece for the National Catholic Register entitled Memo to Millennials:  Organized Religion Isn’t Bad.

Citing heart surgery and business investment, he observes, “In every important area of life, there needs to be some level of organization — otherwise, there’s disaster.”

“But hold on,” comes the reply. “Isn’t the most essential thing to have a personal relationship with God? And personal relationships don’t have to be organized, do they?”

Yes, they do. That’s the point so many people miss. Your relationship with God is the most essential thing in the world. But that doesn’t reduce the need for organization; it increases it. Any successful relationship has a built-in organization — otherwise, it’s doomed to failure. The organization of any long-lasting marriage may not be apparent to the eye, but it’s there: unwritten rules that govern the relationship; a clear understanding of a million details relating to sex, child-rearing, bill paying, mealtimes, family functions, in-laws and so forth. It’s only those relationships with no organizational substructure that don’t succeed over the long term.

Another canard is that organization gets in the way of one’s feelings.  DeStefano says that this confuses emotions with reality.

C.S. Lewis understood this point well. In his book Mere Christianity, he said that if a person looked at the Atlantic Ocean from the beach, and then went back home and looked at a map of the Atlantic Ocean, he might think that his experience at the beach was more real. But that would be a mistake, he writes:

The map is admittedly only colored paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based upon what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. … In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary.

Too many people, DeStefano says, are content to stay on the spiritual beach.  But they don’t go anywhere.
A map is available.  That would be, he says, the Catholic Catechism.  We Protestants might say, the Bible, with the Reformation catechisms that lead us into Scripture.
I would also add that if you are traveling to some destination, it also helps to have guides and companions along the way.  That is to say, pastors and the fellow travelers that constitute the church.
Image by jplenio from Pixabay



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