Sunday, 22 January 2012

What is Natural? (A Parable)

  There once was a girl named Jane.  When she was in her early teens she would announce almost every day to everyone around her how much she delighted in being a woman and a Christian.  She sang songs about Christian femininity, and she had a green canvas knapsack with "Ovaries Are A Gift From God: Use Them Responsibly!" on it.  She campaigned ceaselessly against abortion, though she herself had never been pregnant and was not, of course, sexually active.  But she could be found many weekends, standing with a small group of middle-aged ladies in front of restaurants with signs depicting scarlet bloody abortions.  She did not think this at all strange or unnatural for a teenaged girl. It was what teenaged Christian girls should all do.  It was what Jesus would have done.
  "Remember every day to be as grateful as you should be that you were born with the ability to Bear Children for Christ, or you just might LOSE that ability!" she would tell her friends, if they played organized sports, got short haircuts, or went outside without their makeup.  She was always troubled when girls around her did not act as she felt they should.
  Every morning she got up early and had her vitamins and daily chapter of scripture from her little tan bible.  Every night she either went to an evening church activity or watched an episode of Touched By An Angel, Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman or Road to Avonlea and retired early.  Still, no teenaged boys showed any abiding interest in her or her obedience to scripture and interest in bearing Christian babies.
  As she approached twenty, she started to become increasingly restless.  "I'm a woman.  I should be pregnant" she mused.  "It's what Jesus wants. What is wrong with men?  Only interested in One Thing."  She daily sang her songs about the privilege of being born female and Christian, and wrote poems about loving to sing about Jesus, fallopian tubes and uteri, and derived some small satisfaction from them, but still she fretted.
  "What kind of a woman am I?" she eventually despaired.  "I should be pregnant for Jesus, and I'm not.  What good is it being female if I'm not going to have a baby? I'm of prime child-bearing age.  I'm wasting it!"
  To try to improve her attitude toward her Special Burden (and to meet godly Christian young men), she took courses in Christian Women's Studies at venerable old, red brick Blessed Triumphant Savior College (not accredited).  For eight years she worked part-time at a little Christian book store to be able to afford these courses.  She went to bed early each night and woke up bright and early each morning, filled with an undying resolve to do what she'd been Designed For one day. To do what Jesus wanted her to do.
   Eventually Geoff, one of the professors at Blessed Triumphant Savior College, consented to marry her. He was young and keen, having himself only gotten his PhD from bible college (unaccredited by man's Academic system) the year previous. She'd come to his office wanting clarification on some of the finer points of Proverbs 31, but he'd wanted to lecture on the Song of Songs.  
  "The bible is a book filled throughout with lyrics of various kinds by sundry authors," he'd intoned, looking off somewhere above and an only occasionally stealing glances at her, sitting there in her jean skirt and pink "Abortion Is Murder" cardigan.  "But only that one ancient Semitic poem cycle commonly attributed to Solomon is sometimes called 'The Song of Songs.' Very telling. And that entire work is a quite frank, lyrical depiction of erotic love and acts associated with those ancient, very natural feelings.  So, according to the editors, translators and book titlers of the very Word of God itself, the best song, the arch-song, as it were, the over-song, a Song Above All Songs, is a song  From this earth-shattering scriptoerotic epiphany we have to humbly agree that all of the very best songs, from time immemorial right up to the present day with its Katy Perry and its Justin Bieber, are without exception, always and only about that very scripture-sanctioned, divinely-approved topic. Eros."  And then he looked directly at her for just a moment, as if he'd said something daring.

  The wedding was all Jane had hoped for.  For that one day, she was the princess she'd always imagined she was when she was little and had imagined Jesus as her Fairy Godmother.  Everything was white.  The dresses, the tuxes, the cake, the chairs, the bunting.  All were the same radiant white.  Everyone there (besides the catering staff of course) was as well.  It looked so pure and holy.  It cost a fortune, but it was so worth it. It was just what Jesus wanted of a young Christian woman who just really wanted to please him.
  Jane breathed a giant sigh of relief in her life.  Now things were going to work out.  Now she could do what she'd been Made to Do.  Now she could REALLY serve Jesus, as a meek, submissive, grateful wife.  She could begin filling the world with the Christian-raised fruit of her very womb, just like the apostle instructed all Christians to do. And she could home-school her children to preserve them from the secular taint that less loving Christian mothers weekly exposed their wretched little get to, sending them daily on that big yellow bus to that reeking pit of rank humanism.
  Geoff continued to teach at the Christian college, where he was spending more and more time lately.  Every morning Jane took her vitamins and read her chapter of scripture (often reading Proverbs 31), and every Saturday night, she made love to her husband.  Just as Jesus wanted.  Naturally, she refused to engage in any kind of sexual activity which was unlikely to result in her conceiving a child.  

  But the months rolled on apace, and with every month came, as regular as clockwork, her inescapable menses.  Like wretched Hannah of old, every month she sat on their gleaming white toilet and wept bitter tears.  "How I have failed my Lord!  It is fitting that my eyes cry these salty tears even as my womb cries bloody ones, mourning the death of yet another potential Child of God!" she cried.  "What am I doing wrong?" she wondered. It had to be something.
  Had it been that time when she'd cut her hair shorter than usual and Geoff hadn't liked it?  Had it been her tendency to sometimes argue to an unseemly degree with her husband (strangely, often on Saturday nights)? Well, it was so difficult to submit to such an ungodly man!  Had it in fact been the result those few occasions she'd let her (clearly hypocritical, unloving and depraved) husband lead her astray into Unproductive Acts?  There'd even been that one time when she'd almost felt she'd liked... but then she cast that unworthy thought from her like a live viper, and continued weeping, soul-searching and praying.  Because that's what Jesus wanted.
  Whatever it was, she knew it was her fault she wasn't conceiving.  Oh yes, it was very tempting to blame Geoff and his depravity, but she'd been raised well enough to know not to act like Eve blaming Adam for her own disobedience.  Her duty to successfully bring healthy, pinkly Christian babies to term was hers and hers alone.  It was what a Christian woman did for God. Something was disrupting that delicate relationship between Jane and her Saviour...  Was it the presence of too many garishly secular woman's magazines in their house, like insidious tares among the good wheat of the more modestly hued Christian ones?  And sometimes the wrong kind of secular ones?  (The kind which told women how to orgasm, rather than how to make casseroles and sweaters?) Sometimes she just couldn't wait in line at the supermarket without being led astray by one of those... As her mother used to ominously quote from her old King James Bible "What hast thou in thy house?"

  Two years went by and she purged the house of all secular magazines in a manner which Geoff insisted was, but she denied was anything like, superstitious.  Either way, it was obvious that spiritually, she was keeping her fingers crossed.  She made it clear to her husband that if it wasn't Saturday evening, and if it wasn't a Saturday evening when his seed was likely to Take Root in her, and if the act wasn't even designed to implant a blooming heaven-sent baby in her God-given abdominal birth arena, then the pearly, glistening Gates of Heaven were closed to him, and that even Saint Peter himself would not have been able to prevail against them.
  She retooled both her diet and her husband's, forbidding him eating or doing anything which was not clearly conducive to conception.  Everything they ate was to be 100% organic.  She'd catch him drinking a beer, coffee or a caffeinated cola and wave under his protesting nose articles dutifully snipped from Fecund Christian Wife Weekly magazine.  Articles about studies somebody or other had allegedly done which strongly indicated possible connections between indulging in these kinds of things, and in somewhat reduced male fertility.  She threw away all of his usual underwear in favour of some mail order ones she'd bought him;, ones designed to increase male fertility.  Sometimes he refused to wear them and went to the college to lecture on Christian Women's Studies "commando."  Disgusting.  Childish. So unhygienic. If the young Christian women taking his courses had any idea what was going on, unbridledly unrestrained, in his pants... She barely suppressed a shudder.
  One time she actually caught him masturbating, just as her Christian wives magazines had warned in hundreds of articles with titles like "Self-Abuse: One Family's Private Tragedy!" and "How My Tragic Addiction To Interfering With My Own Body Robbed Me Of My Christian Marriage!"  (And it wasn't even Saturday!)  To make matters worse, Geoff had been performing the act while inspired by the diagrams in an article from one of her magazines entitled "How To Examine Your God-Given Child-Nurturing Breasts For Cancer Without Inciting Animal Lust In Your Heart!"
  Jane had had enough.  "Those are MY sperm!" she'd shrieked in delicate, submissive righteous indignation, holding aloft a squelchy Kleenex and waving it graciously at him.  "You have stolen them from my very birth canal!  You had NO RIGHT!  Clearly you don't even love Jesus anymore!"
  Geoff then had the unmitigated gall to look her straight in the eye while she was meekly laying out where he'd gone wrong as to scriptural precepts, and had actually mimed pleasuring himself, with a sneering disdainful look on his face the whole time, until she'd stormed long-sufferingly out of the room!  Jane didn't know how much longer she could go on.  She told everyone in her woman's bible study group all about the incident and they told her she'd need the support of every one of them to endure the man and his obvious war against what was clearly laid out in God's Word.

  Then, as eventually happened with the manna from Heaven sent to the Israelites of old, in May her period did not come.  It was almost too good to be true.  Had her dutiful submission to What Jesus Wanted finally made one of her Saturday Evening Scriptural Unions with Geoff fruitful?  She'd just known if she made the house as pure as she kept her body, that God would honour her obedience to what was so clearly laid out in His Word for her to follow.  Because it was all up to her.  Only her.
  Four pregnancy test kits and a doctor's visit confirmed her wildest hope: she was pregnant!  Just as Jesus wanted!  God was honouring her obedience and rewarding it with blessing, as He had promised in His word always to do!  She stopped the Saturday night activities entirely at this point, of course.  After all, what was the use?

  Geoff left her a month later for a nineteen year old Christian Women's Studies major who shared his love of the Song of Songs. He claimed it was over the magazines.  He actually had the nerve to say they were weird.
  "Imagine if someone had a collection of magazines about nothing but Christianity and cocks and balls and getting women pregnant.  Someone not gay, I mean," Geoff clarified with a snarl, as he got into his car.  "Don't you see how weird that was for me?  Maybe you shouldn't have thrown out my magazines about women's private bits!" And with this completely unfair sally he drove away putting, Jane felt, an unneccessarily forceful pressure on the gas pedal.
  What was wrong with men?  Were they completely blind to the Wonders of God's Creation?  Were they such slaves to their own Equipment that they had no interest in what God had designed women's bodies to do for Him?  When would they learn to take an interest inside Women's bodies?  Men truly looked on the "outward appearance" only.  They were all just penises with shoes, the lot of them.  If she hadn't been a submissive Christian woman, she told herself, she'd have called him a misogynist. He obviously hated women.
  The months wore on.  Jane was, of course, on some level, heart-broken, but at least, she told herself, the question of who was really following Jesus (and just really being obedient to God Word each day) was now settled once and for all.  For all Geoff's claims that she made an idol of children and pregnancy and the family in general, now there could be no argument.  It was she who was truly, meekly, submissively following scripture.  The ladies in her woman's bible study group all agreed.  Geoff was actually filing for divorce, unheeding of how clearly against scripture this was.  This made her feel even better.
  As the tiny life grew inside her, Jane was aglow with the possibilities.  She bought many, many Christian Pregnancy books. She took special "Expecting Christian Moms" vitamins and Quiverfull Supplements.  She took Christian Pre-natal classes, explaining to everyone there on a weekly basis that sadly, her husband had forsaken the things of the Lord and followed the mute, primal calling of his own depraved flesh with a wanton Jezebel from the college.  Jane positively lived for ultrasounds and doctor's appointments.  She managed to get her doctor to agree that she was a Special Case which bore scheduling thrice the usual number of appointments, particularly for ultrasounds (or her "Family Pictures," as Jane called them).
   Above all, Jane read books with charts which told her about the normal development of a God-fearing Christian fetus.  She regularly entreated Helen the ultrasound technicians as to whether Helen felt the development of her little one was going according to schedule.  If things were going perhaps even slightly ahead of schedule, Jane filled with the satisfaction of knowing that her dutiful attention to the tenets of scripture were truly paying off.  If Helen felt that perhaps the child was a pound less than the statistical average (as happened at 17 weeks, 27 weeks and 29 weeks), Jane panicked and just knew that if she'd lived the previous week more according to what Jesus wanted, she would have made her child develop more normally.  It was all up to her and her alone.
   But in week 29, Jane knew that if she continued in her current path of occasionally wavering faith and inconsistent devotion to scripture, her child could well be born with webbed toes like that Hall girl.  Jane's path was clear.  More reading.  Stricter diet.  No reading the covers of supermarket magazines at the checkout.  If she'd been occasionally making her womb such an inhospitable environment for a Christian fetus, what was she expecting?  It was time to really get serious. Jesus wants us to get serious.
  And so she kept at it.  She ate mountains of broccoli (God's Cure-All, Pregnancy Wonderdrug!), avoided seasonings of all sorts (including the leeks and garlicks of Egypt), and ate only Ezekiel bread (baked perfectly according to the original recipe laid out in scripture by God Himself, minus, of course, the human excrement).

  Eventually Jane's due date loomed tantalizingly closer.  On average, a woman as far along as Jane was would tend to give birth, the doctor felt, this coming Wednesday somewhere around three in the morning.  Jane was ecstatic.  This Wednesday she'd finally meet her little boy outside her body, after having given birth to him completely naturally, having felt each and every blessed birth pang without benefit of drugs, and then would continue her good work of raising him to just really value the special gift that God had given to women!  For months she'd been putting her CD player against her swollen belly and playing inspirational music and "Focus on the Family" sermons so he could be born already steeped in knowing What Jesus Wanted.
  On Tuesday Jane faithfully and quietly packed her things in a small bag and took a taxi to the gleaming metal and glass hospital late in the evening after watching Dr. Quinn.
  "What are you doing here, Jane?" the medical receptionist in the little powder blue E.R. waiting room asked.  "Have your contractions started?"  Jane's contractions had not started.
  "I'm just going to sit here and wait until it is The Lord's Time for me to give birth in the wee hours of this morning," Jane said. "It should start at any point now.  I just have a really good feeling about it, y'know?  It's just so clear in scripture."
  "Why don't you just go home and wait until the contractions indicate that it is time," the receptionist suggested.
  "Because I'm a Christian," Jane explained.  "I'm just really living for my Lord and acting in faith, truly trusting Him to bring His little one to term when it is His Own Good Time in a few hours. Everything is going to work out as it should.  I just know it, with the eyes of faith. Do you know Jesus?"
  The receptionist left Jane there reading Wombs For Jesus!, and walked away to get some coffee, shaking her head slightly. What a phenomenal testimony Jane knew she was being!

  The next morning, an exhausted Jane woke up to find the sun had risen and was shining in through the off-white venetian blinds in the waiting room at the hospital where she sat slumped in a not-particularly-comfortable waiting chair.  She looked down at herself. Disappointingly, the baby had not come in the night.  First Jane was confused.  Then suddenly she was angry, as only a woman who truly believes in God can be:
  "How could you do this to me?!  What is wrong with you?  Haven't you seen what I've done for you and how obedient and dutiful I've always tried to be?  What I've sacrificed for you and given up and endured?  I've always done my very best, and now this... I cannot believe this...It makes me doubt positively everything!" Jane shouted at her round belly.
  Then the self-doubt and recrimination that had been trained into Jane from birth slowly took hold.  "Here I am doubting.  How awful.  And what have I done?  Like Peter, James and John I have fallen asleep just when I was supposed to be watching!  Shame on me!  Shame!"  
  Jane took a taxi home, with her head held low, tightly clutching her small overnight bag, baby firmly in utero.

    Jane sat on her brown couch watching the clock on the microwave.  She slept some more.  She watched Road to Avonlea.  Still, not a thing.  She felt ashamed of herself for sleeping, but though the spirit was willing, the flesh was so weak.  She threatened to call her son "Lazarus" if he didn't blessed well come forth immediately.  Thursday evening came and went.  And Friday dawned clear and bright.
  Jane's doctor phoned to ask "Anything yet?" and Jane had to admit that though the Christian fetus within her had stirred from time to time, it had clearly not heeded John Piper's recorded advice to "rise early and be diligent!" which Jane had been broadcasting to him through her belly fluid.  Infant sluggard.  "Okay.  We'll give him until tomorrow, and then we'll have to talk about inducing," the doctor said before hanging up.

  Inducing?  Jane was at first delighted and reassured at the very idea that she need not to be held captive by nature, by the Little Tyrant within her.  Then her self-doubt and recrimination training predictably caught up with her racing thoughts:
 Would this be natural, though?  Wouldn't it be cheating God?  Wouldn't it be trying to snatch the reward from His Reluctant Fingers before His Own Good Time had Come?  Jane wept bitterly, feeling horribly ashamed at the very things she'd actually been considering doing. Why, she was no better than an abortionist!  Apart from actually killing a Christian baby, she was agreeing to let the doctor do almost precisely what abortionists did every day of their heinous lives! Laying a finger on what was not Man's place to meddle in.
  Jane now knew what she had to do.  She didn't know why she hadn't thought of this before.  There were no hospitals mentioned in scripture.  Not even one!  No obstetricians or gynecologists.  She was pretty sure there was a midwife in there somewhere, though.  She didn't remember where, but she did remember an inspiring interview with an elderly Christian midwife in January's My Ovaries Are His!  This pillar of faith had delivered four hundred and fifty three babies in her lengthy career, and had never once in all that time missed cooking her pastor husband his supper.
  One phone call, and an hour later a Christian midwife was at Jane's door.  Susan was a sturdy young woman who'd never had a child herself (not being married, despite going to bed early every night, and taking vitamins every morning with her daily chapter of scripture.)  She was a duly certified Christian midwife, having received her training at an institution whose credentials are, amazingly, still unrecognized by the American Medical Association to this day.

  That evening was the best evening Jane had spent in recent memory.  She was finally doing things just as Jesus wanted.  All of the doubt was blessedly gone.  She had a Christian midwife rather than a somewhat snarky, coldly clinical, science-obsessed unbelieving female doctor.  The house had been purged of magazines which were about...that...instead of about nearly virginal Christian childbirth. The walls rang with songs about singing about Jesus and cervix dilation.  Susan even had a hymn which she was happy to teach Jane, written by a godly midwife precisely to be sung for the glory of God while the Gates of Motherhood parted like the Red Sea, gracing the world with yet another Christian to sing His praise!
  When the baby finally came, Jane felt completely fulfilled.  She endured the suffering of the pain of childbirth brought about by Eve's disobedience without resorting to any drugs or other aids besides a bit of Tylenol and some ice packs.  Her problems were over. Her life was on track for good.  No more backsliding.
  Her little boy would grow up understanding about the bible and women, and would serve the Lord as no man had ever served the Lord before.  He would be a Mighty Warrior for God.  This little boy wouldn't be nasty like so many of the other Christian men Jane and Susan had known.  He wouldn't steal glances at women's God given chests while he was talking to them.  He would value God's Special Gift to women, and would one day seek out a godly, virtuous, submissive help-meet like her, just like the one described in Proverbs 31 (only with less unbecoming focus on entrepreneurship and export/import ventures) and go on to plant an army of stalwart Christian Soldiers in her obedient, on-fire-for-Jesus belly.
  If all went well, as Jane now trusted her Lord it would, due to her adherence to His Word, she could raise her little one to be just as giving, gracious, forgiving and mild as she was, and not like his lustful, hypocrite of a father who, sadly, only wanted One Thing.  She had only the one child, so he would be fortunate enough to be receiving her full, undivided attention right through childhood.
  Jane called his name Ephraim, and as she suckled him in the darkness after Susan left, the silence broken only by a CD of John Piper laying a beat-down on Christians who weren't Serious For God, she knew she was doing exactly what Jesus wanted.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Did Jesus Sparkle? (Okay, twinkle)

A guy who writes a pretty good blog was writing about Jesus lately, and he said (I believe) that he pictured Jesus calling stuff bullshit, but with a twinkle, like a fond old grandfather.  This clashed with my own understanding of why people wanted to nail Jesus to things.  So I wanted to comment on that.  Because I'm like that.

After a perhaps somewhat sacrilegious phone exchange in which a friend and I imagined that some Christians (not blogger Dave, of course, he's smart and probably hates Twilight) might picture Jesus nowadays as being Edward from Twilight, having died, but now still living, going around without blood (having lost his own) and having supernatural powers and perhaps sparkling (or twinkling), we settled down a bit and some stuff came out.

The original blog posting David did was in response to this viral video that's out there.  It really seems to be drawing together religious and irreligious alike.  I haven't watched it, of course.  Because I'm like that.  I have always really liked Chris Tse's "I'm A Christian (I'm Sorry)"  when it comes to poetry about Christianity which reaches everybody in the way that Johnny Cash and C.S. Lewis seemed to be able, magically, to do.

Whenever anything draws us together that, whenever something makes us feel like maybe we're all the same, and that we're united, some people inevitably tend to feel their identities threatened and want to say "No!  THEY'RE just [the one dubious thing], but I'm [the right thing]!"  I think maybe David was doing that a bit, not that my judging yes or no matters in the matter. It is equally possible he wasn't.

He was saying that this video was creating a false dichotomy (and goodness knows that gets done all the time) between claiming some kind of connection to Jesus, and being religious.  He felt, understandably enough, that loving Jesus and being religious (according to the dictionary definition of the term) weren't mutually exclusive.  That's a popular opinion, but one that seems to not work for a lot of people, to judge by the success of this video. This stuff I was now thinking about connected (in my head anyway) to some other good stuff that other Facebook acquaintances have linked to, (looking at you, Brandon) mostly talking about the difference between simply believing something is a fact, and believing it in the sense of it changing your life in any way.  I don't think believing in Jesus is supposed to be like believing there is Australia.

But anyway, I did one of my things where I wanted to respond to his blog to disagree slightly, share different opinions, put our heads together and the like, in hopes of us learning stuff from each other and I commented, and the comment got so long I decided "this comment is long enough that it should be a blog entry, and I haven't blogged since last year, so..."

So (edited and added to it a bit.  There's stuff in there that I've said before):

I think at all times when people are differing vocally from one another, there are two things going on:
-a very up front 'us vs. them' thing, which in modern times has become less of a "I would die for our side" and more a matter of cheering for one hockey team or another.  Flag-waving.  T-shirt support.  Bumpersticker fealty.  "Like this link if you'd give your life for Jesus!", "Share this video if you support supporting stuff" stuff.  It always confuses me when your average everyday American republican or democrat voters fling nasty, spiteful-sounding 'we're it and you're shit' stuff at the other side, and then if you try to have any kind of serious talk about it with them, suddenly they kind of reveal that, to them, although they kind of claim to care about it, mostly it's just kind of a game to them.  Kind of cheering for our side and booing theirs.  It's maybe nothing more than childish name-calling without any desire, interest or even ability to discuss any of it, or back any of it up any more solidly than to look right.  Ideological competitiveness, satisfying itself with burning the other side or simply making them look bad, with dismissing them out of hand as not worth thinking about, let alone talking to.  They want to say "end of discussion" to make sure there isn't one, because they're not into comprehension and understanding each other, but just competing.  Us vs. them.

-a much harder to see, and in my opinion easily missed and very valuable thing.  A situation where understanding between two quite different human beings, and their very different ways of thinking and feeling about important stuff ,is pretty much waiting to happen.  Pretty much being handed to you on a plate if you get through a discussion without being sidetracked by washroom breaks, nutritionist appointments and texting.  It would be very worthwhile to make sure it does happen, I think.  I tend to think that connecting is The Point in a way that disagreeing, differing and "taking a stand against" stuff really just isn't.  It's natural.  If you're willing to stop feeding your ego identity with the labels ("*I'M* a Christian/an atheist, while you're just the OTHER thing, you loser!") you will see how much the same you are, and how much you agree upon, and how much you can connect and work together, so that when you do find things that you differ on, stuff you care about enough to discuss, you can have a working relationship together that supports a discussion and will tend to lead to growing understanding and learning from each other.

That being said, I think Jesus wasn't very twinkly all those times when he was going around saying all those things about what he thought was weak, self-righteous, fleshly, empty religious bullshit.  You know?  The stuff "they" wanted him dead over?  The stuff people were offended at?  I can't read the gospels without seeing someone who ranted and raved enough to upset people.  Very political, very acerbic.  Prone to biting rhetoric.  Not tactful.  Certainly not consistently "positive."  Like Christopher Hitchens.  But only toward religious stuff.  Not toward ANYTHING else.  When it came to drunkards, whores and extortioners, he'd either:
-not talk about their vices at all (he simply wasn't on earth to go around stopping people from doing these things nor making them feel guilty if they did them.  Not a whit more than we are here to do that either, for that matter) 
-or blankly mention it ("and the man you're living with right now is not your husband") if it was on topic and worth talking about for another reason.  Certainly not in the same ranty, name-calling way he is reported to have frequently used when publicly standing up and loudly attacking religious practices and figures like Pharisees and Sadducees.  He never called a whore a whore, let alone referring to her as a hypocrite, a white-washed tomb, from a generation of vipers or anything like that.  He called whores "Mary," or whatever their names were.  And he called the Pharisees "the Pharisees", generalizing boldly and without reference to any single men who were shining examples of being exceptions to the problems in that group.  He'd just say "Those religious guys?  Don't live like them.  It's not good enough.  It's self-serving hypocrisy."  We don't dare generalize like that nowadays.  Except when talking about Nazis.  Because who's going to have the nuts to stand up and say "I'm a Nazi and I resent the bigotry and insensitive ignorance seen in your comments"?

As to the difference between a connection or identification with Jesus, and with what we normally think of as "religion," the apostle Paul actually defines what he calls "true religion."  In writing.  For serious.  He was defining it to correct people's existing definitions.  He defines it as doing things that Jesus actually isn't documented as spending much time doing.  According to Paul, true religion wasn't showing up at synagogue/church and singing and praying and reading.  It was helping the widows and fatherless.  Jesus certainly healed the sick and handicapped, but we don't read of him turning the widow's two mites (coins) into "an hundred and twenty mites," nor making sure that the beggar's purse kept coming up with coins.  He only did the "coin in a fish's mouth" trick to handle taxes for his own sake, and more importantly, to make a point. He fed people if they were right in front of him, hungry because they'd followed him to hear him talk, when he hadn't asked them to, and was known for trying to get away from them.  We never read of him going around feeding the poor as a routine thing.  In fact, when a woman spends money on him and a "religious" dude (Judas Iscariot) lectures her for not spending the money on helping the poor, Jesus actually tells him off, stands by what she did and pretty much pooh-poohs the concern for the poor being presented as paramount.

So, given what Paul said, I don't think going to church or singing hymns or worshiping or bible-reading is anything we are encouraged by the bible to think of or call "religious."  That's personal stuff between us and God, and it's far too intimate and personal to be merely "religious practice."  True religion is charity work.
And we seem to need continually to un-confuse discussions which blur Jesus and church together.  Probably why that guy made the poem and the viral YouTube video.  There's for a very simple reason for this needing to be done over and over: in our culture, what we call religion (in direct contradiction to any biblical definition of religion) has become for many, what the bible would call idolatry.  Idolatry is a thing you do instead of directly dealing with the divine. It's a way of abstracting things, of inserting a series of buffers, or intermediaries between you and God so you dilute the intimacy of the connection.  Instead of talking to God and seeing if you think He has anything He wants you to know, feel or think about, you focus more on your singing about Him with other people.  Instead of feeling about Him, you sing about, read about, talk about and do PowerPoint about how you feel about Him.  And then in charity work (true religion) you spend huge amounts "raising awareness" of poverty, without having to actually talk to any dirty people.
Christianity as a practiced, idolatrous "religion" is mostly talk nowadays.  A propaganda machine endlessly selling itself to its own people.   An infomercial which lowers your self-esteem and increases your guilt, while always promising to fix that for you, if you do (or don't do) certain things for it.  It's reading the Cole's notes for a book without reading it, and then writing a blog about how much you like the book you haven't read from beginning to end. (trying not to twinkle while typing any of that)

I am what you would tend to call a Christian.  But I am really not very religious in any conventional sense of the term.  The amount of time I spend in a designated church building on a yearly basis is nil, barring weddings and funerals.  I am much more about wrestling with doubt than I am about singing happy songs.  If you made a list of Christian things to do:
-plastic fish on car (in case you don't know what that is, think a rainbow sticker for a lesbian couple)
-Christian music in my iPod
-retreat/camp/missions t-shirts
-spending a lot of my money on third world problems instead of paying off my debts
-taking one of my bibles around with me wherever I go
-preaching unsolicitedly 
-telling everyone how much I claim to love Jesus (find me any New Testament author who tells his readers that he claims to love Jesus, in those terms.  I dare you.)
-dressing business casual
-citing chapter and verse to look righter when referring to concepts and situation depicted in the bible
-giving any of my time to church committees, meetings, services or initiatives
and so on,
you would find that I just don't really do any of that.  Not really.  At all.  Am I really a Christian, then?  What Christian stuff do I do?  
A better way to word that, I think, is "What stuff do I do most weeks for reasons that have to do with trying to live a life which is influenced by Jesus Christ, perhaps even working as an agent for the now-departed person of the Godhead?"  
Here's the funny thing: because of my belief as to what Jesus wants/would want (depending on your views as to the afterlife), I'm generally going to avoid talking to anyone about that stuff.  Because it's personal.  Because I'm working it out.  Because I don't know you like that.  Because I'm afraid of ever using it to look or feel Christian in order to boost my self-esteem or self-righteous piety a little bit.  Because I think it's cheating.  Because I think Jesus gave some very specific advice to his disciples to the effect that they had to do the work of being his followers, and try to make that work, but they didn't get cred or props for it.  He didn't send them out, two-by-two, with matching t-shirts about their "outreach mission."  He didn't entice them with the suggestion that they could put their work with poor people in Guatemala on their resumes.  He didn't say they could go to bible school and then write letters like MDiv or titles like Rev. before and after their names.  He didn't encourage them to ask "What religion are you?  I'm Christian!  Wanna come to my church and watch me be Christian?!"  Because it's not a club.  And it's not the Klan.  And it's not the Montreal Canadiens. It's not about identity.  It's not about you.

I just really don't think it was ever meant to be like it is now.  And that's why it makes no sense to me. (Start of discussion. Only if you really mean anything you say you do.)