Religion has brought many people much pain...
Nothing more despicable to me than when it is used, harnessed or conveyed in order to hide behind or justify behavior! Behavior which my own very embarrassing limits causes me to lastingly, deeply regret or despise.
Were it not for the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, I would have such a limited perspective & inept capacity to understand or deal with the atrocious abuse of religion. (Abuse within religion, abuse from religion, however you see or experience it?)
Often ashamed of my own past encouraging words and involvement to and with others; once I found how shamefully easy it was to be in the destructive crosshairs of the falsely righteous, religious, peers I had once called friends, brothers & sisters.
Thanks to His example of grace and wisdom I stive to forgive and work hard to effectively move on; but I could do so much better, and pray that I will!
Fun to see examples of Art and Style used to effectively comunicate such warnings and encourage others to find wisdom rather than cling to poor, misdirected sources of belonging.
Many ministries are such a blessing and an exceptional way to witness the gifts God has given some of us.
It is just a scary thing when man believes religion is the embodiment of Christ, rather than remembering that Christ is the embodiment of God, Grace and Mercy. And as unfortunate as it is; man made organizations (even those designed for worship,) more often than not, bloat into large structures of corporate worship and hierarchies of religious loyalties; becoming a place more befitting for bolstering ego, creating a since of belonging or confidence, rationales and strength or security based on numbers, etc..
Perhaps even more disturbing are the eventual sources for justification, condemnation, judgment and repute which quickly follow large structures of worship. Such contortions of God are unfortunately much more prevalent than are regular gatherings and places which are continually mindful of humility, equality, grace and pointing to the cross; therefor, each and every ministry (and those who attend them,) must be ever mindful of such tempting distortions and man-made attractions which attach to any tendency to feed one's very human and mortal ego.
The only real place of love, comfort, grace and wisdom which achieved such perfection was Christ. However, many naively find themselves on a path of years and even decades of trusting their church; instead of being mindful and steadfast to avoid piety, pride, the temptation of the ego or a false since of belonging and righteousness; simply because many peers are gathered in their midst.
Corporate worship and the exceptional ministries who often brave starting their own spin off from a large "main stream" or growing independent organization, (even with a fresh group of self-appointed "Elders",) have their place and are often glorious and impressive; however, it is a rare follower who can also distinguish from the temptations and inspirations which come from popularity, impressive speeches, ironic boastings of humility, explanations concerning the "chosen" versus those "less fortunate", or learning how to repent for sins of commission as well as sins of omission, etc...
The unfortunate majority of "followers" of religions, tend to find it VERY hard to distinguish from the inspirations their man-made ministries deliver; versus, the salvation their Lord gave to them freely.
While a gift of salvation and atonement is occasionally discussed with many (or even most) independent ministries, it is also to often wrapped in all the trappings and comforts of having much more to do with the inevitable hierarchy, and predicated since of corporate beloning and the sheer joy, power, truth and encouragement such a community fosters, rather than the originating message of love, humility and grace. (Although I will admit, women tend to be better at being and remaining independently mindful of the later.)
Another interesting bait and switch, are those large corporate groups who foster belonging and solidarity through the claims of persecution and the need to defend Gods position in this world. I find those some of the most disturbing examples of "ministry", when they are predicated on creating an image or position within this world of a frail God; one that quite frankly is in man's own image.
Folks generously wish to demonstrate the love they have for God; therefore, ministries utilizing this err of "defending persecution" as a means to justify the condemnation and judgment of others, is such a shameful ploy; and unfortunately, one I have many friends in the wake of. (You will see these type of groups tending to claim that "end-times are near", and "apathy and tolerance are rampant", etc... These groups have been out in force for 100's, if not 1000's of years in one form or another, they just conveniently deny history and facts, along with grace and Gods true sovereignty.)
You never see God warn that "without our help his Will will not be done." Or make any such encouragement, "once you find me, please find another group of like minded people whom you can boast and feel more confident about your beliefs and/or behaviors through." But you do finds millions of folks who find solace in such notions. It is truly the resulting condemnation of those who don't agree with such gatherings that are the true shame of it all.
As Christ so perfectly put it, "They know not what they do."