God hates religion. He even the Christian religion, according to The End of Religion, written by Bruxy Cavey. Cavey is a popular speaker and teaching pastor of The Meeting House, a rapidly growing multi-site church in the Toronto area.
According to Cavey, we have forgotten that the Bible is a "holy hand grenade" which points to the coming of Jesus, who put an end to religion and leads us to a "non-institutional, deeply relational approach to Scripture." The End of Religion is written for skeptics and seekers who are tired of religion but would like to connect with God.
Cavey defines religion as "any reliance on systems or institutions as our conduit to God." He outlines the legacy of religion, which he calls a "Chamber of Horrors." The Christian religion gets its own chapter. "Eventually, the institutional church severed itself from its head [Christ] and, in the process, became one of the most violent religions in history." The chapter does not mention any of the positive contributions of Christianity.
Cavey's solution is a radical commitment to the teachings of Jesus. In his ministry, Jesus contested the popular understanding of the main identity markers of the religion of his time. He overrode Torah by breaking its rules, trounced tradition, undid tribalism, redefined Temple, and subverted symbols. According to Cavey, religion died when the veil of the Temple was torn in two at the death of Jesus.
As a result, "religion does not bring us closer to God – it gets in the way." We live by love instead of law, and guard against dependence on tradition and routine.
Cavey raised several issues in my mind he did not fully answer: for instance, the role of the Law under grace. I am not sure everyone will agree with his dichotomy of spirituality and religion – others define religion as a system of faith and worship, which would include, I suppose, Christian spirituality. I also wonder if some will read "The End of Religion" as "The End of Church" when Cavey is really calling us to a Biblical view of church as the people of God.
Nevertheless, The End of Religion is provocative and easy to read. Cavey does a good job of showing how scandalous Jesus' teaching and actions were to the religious people of his day, and reminds us of the centrality of relationship with God through Christ. His book is an effective invitation to those who are turned off by dead religion, and a wake-up call to those who may be "Christian" but have missed Jesus.
Note: This review covers the original self-published version of The End of Religion, published by Essence Publishing. A new version is being released by Navpress in August 2007. Links to the new version are below.