Thursday, May 2, 2013

What Good Is Religion?

by guest blogger, Jacob Schwaegler.

Ever have a bad weekend?  I just had one.  Rough weekends are never fun, but what made this one so frustrating was my expectation that it would be great.  On paper, it should have been.  Four friends and I drove to Okoboji to volunteer at a church camp that’s pretty special to me.  Before we left on Friday I was excited to help the camp, hang out with friends, and spend time with God free from distractions.   So I was pretty disappointed when I returned to Omaha exhausted, confused, and mad at the same God I wanted to move towards.  To make a long story short, I got impatient and bored, and my retreat turned into more of a struggle.  The passion with which I went into camp on Friday had long since burned out by Sunday afternoon.  That moment was pretty disheartening.  I found myself sitting in bed at midnight wondering how on earth to reach God; wondering what good is religion? 

Studies show the people of our country aren’t moving toward organized religion, but running away from it.  But why?  Is it hypocrisy?  Laziness?  Apathy?  Maybe.  But I’d like to propose something different.  I actually think people are being reasonable.  In fact, I think people are moving away from religion because they’re being honest with themselves.   Time for a full disclaimer: I’m a follower of Jesus.  I believe in the virgin birth, the church, and trust Jesus.  But I’m not much for religion.  Not because it’s boneheaded or bad, I just think it’s inefficient.

I’m by no means an expert, so I understand if you take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt.  But in my experience as a Christian, everything I’ve learned about religion can be summed up in a single sentence: “If I do ____, then I’m good with God.”  Fill in the ____ with your favorite religious practice (tithing, confession, etc…) and you have religion.  I’d like to say I’m surprised when students leave the faith, but when we tell our kids God will love you if you pray three times a day and give up something for Lent, we really shouldn’t wonder why they’re running away at 18. 

The “rise of the nones” isn’t necessarily a terrible thing. I think many people leaving the faith are just being honest.  One of these people is my friend Brock.  Brock’s been one of my best friends since high school and is someone I really respect.  He’s also an agnostic.  Though I can disagree with Brock, I respect him for his honesty (and fashion sense, but that’s not really relevant at all here).   I think he represents my generation when he looks at our current system and doubts that a couple of prayers here and there will get God on our side and get us to heaven.

I think kids like Brock are tapping out because they feel religion is missing a solution.  A real one.  In my experience, actions, prayers, and gifts can’t connect me to God.  We do need to reach God, but like many in the “none” generation, I have serious doubts we can reach Him on our own.  I think the only way religion can be effective is if it focuses on God reaching down to us.

So what do we do and where do we reach?  That’s the question many of us are asking today.  All I can tell you is where I reach.  Simply put, I turn to Jesus.  I know that’s so cliché and I know how stupid it sounds.  But I think the phrase has gotten a bad rap.  Turning to Jesus isn’t me bucking up and working my way back to God’s favor, nor is it me listening to the latest liar on TV and sending him all my money.  To me, turning to Jesus is me acknowledging I can’t do it on my own and putting my trust in someone who can.  In him, I’ve got a savior who understands my weakness and knows how to connect me back to God. 

I think I’m part of a generation who sits in their beds at midnight and knows religion won’t cut it.  I admire the nones of this world for their willingness to admit they can’t do it on their own. 

Jacob Schwaegler is a junior at Creighton studying Finance and Marketing who still doesn't know what he wants to be when he grows up.  An avid sports fan, Jacob especially loves Creighton basketball, but he's also a big fan of organic food and the great state of Iowa.  Above all, he tries to follow Jesus and blogs about it sometimes at

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