“True Religion”

A T-Shirt That Caught My Attention

Several days ago, while eating lunch at a fast food restaurant, I noticed two young men seated a few tables away. The back of the T-shirt of the man directly in front of me had a picture of a smiling Buddha with a guitar and the words “True Religion” at the top. The young man seated across from him also had a “True Religion” T-shirt.

“The Religion Is the People”

I wondered to myself why anyone would give such a name to a clothing company. Perhaps my initial impression was that it was just a crazy gimmick designed to increase sales. However, when someone asked Jeffrey Lubell, the creator and owner of the company, “What were you thinking of when you chose this rather strong name for your brand?” he responded, “There are many religions in the world, but there’s only one real religion — and that’s the people.” “The religion is the people”? What does that even mean?

The Meaning of “Religion”

The word “religion” comes from the Spanish word “religar,” which means “to unite” or “re-bind.” It, in turn, comes from the Latin “religare” and refers to a bond of piety by which one is “united” or “bound” to God. It is a system of beliefs and practices that creates a bond between mankind and God. “True religion” is not “the people,” as stated by Jeffrey Lubell. The people have no power, in and of themselves, to be united to God. This is because “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) and sin separates people from God (Isaiah 59:2). Therefore the “religion” that unites people to God must be something greater than themselves.

The Standard of “True Religion”

During his earthly ministry, Jesus told his disciples, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus states emphatically that that the only true and living way to be bound to God is through him. However, this is not possible without following Jesus’ word. 2 John 9 says, “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” In short, Jesus and his word, not “the people,” are the standard by which one may be united to God (Acts 4:12).

The Belief of the Masses

Unfortunately, many today would probably agree with Lubell’s theology. Ours is a world in which “the people” are the standard of truth. Everybody has it, everybody is right, and every individual is a religion unto himself. It doesn’t matter if they contradict one another with respect to creation, God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, and other “minor” details; there’s “only one real religion — and that’s the people.”

I guess what the creator of this company is saying that all we need is to be happy (like Buddha), grab a guitar, and “live and let live.” About those who subscribe to this kind of thinking, the apostle Paul might have said, “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion…, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:23).

The only “true religion” is that which believes and puts into practice the teachings of Christ (James 1:22,26-27). Jesus says that only in this way will he and his Father come and make their home with us (John 14:23).

–Jerry Falk