re·li·gion (ri-ˈli-jən), n. 1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usu. involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code for the conduct of human affairs. 5. the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith. 6. something a person believes in and follows devotedly.
-From Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary-
Back in my days as an Evangelical-Protestant, the phrase Jesus without religion made something stir within me. To my ears, that was the most beautiful sound. I didn’t need to go to church every week. I didn’t need to be baptized. I didn’t need to go to Confession. I didn’t need to do anything. I could do whatever I wanted because I believed in Jesus. Jesus didn’t come to ask us to be obedient to the Law but to free us from the Law through faith in him. Yes, that was why Jesus came, and unfortunately for the world, some Christians, Catholics especially (if they even were Christian) had distorted Jesus’ mission, and faith had simply become sort of ritual, and that robbed individuals of a personal relationship with Christ, which is all God wanted for us.
Obviously I don’t think that way anymore. Just by looking at the definition of religion, we can see that it would be impossible to separate Jesus from religion. With that said, the idea of Jesus without religion is probably one of the most dangerous things about Christianity today. We live in a culture, in a society, in a world, that is especially concerned with ourselves, with getting and doing what we want, and when we want. This mindset is in direct opposition to orthodox Christianity, yet it is directly applied in the idea of Jesus without religion. How nice it is to accept Jesus as we are, or to believe that he accepts us as we are and requires nothing further of us. Of course, things like going to church every Sunday or volunteering to help the poor or being chaste are helpful, they are not necessary. This is evidented by the the recent decisions by the ELCA and the Episcopal churches to grant the unrepentant and prideful sexually immoral high positions of leadership by changing core and essential moral truths. Morality is religion and we don’t want religion with our Jesus.
The only problem is that this is not what Jesus preached, nor is it what any of the New Testament writers preached. You are free to believe as you like, but you lie if you believe that Christ taught that he comes without bringing religion. If we take even a little time to actually read what Christ taught, we can see that the faith is not anything like this concept of Jesus Without Religion.