Who creates religion?

But when they, [the disciples of Jesus], heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, [Mary Magdalene], they would not believe it. Mark 16:11

Dear members and friends,

One undeniable truth is that Christianity has significantly influenced humanity throughout history. However, this does not necessarily mean that the teachings of Jesus did the same. An unfortunate fact regarding religions of the world is that the institutionalized system of beliefs was formed by followers, especially by those who were in the ruling class, rather than the teachings of the founder of the religion. If any religion in the world were to truly follow the essential teachings of its founder, it must first of all surrender its system of making material things important and creating hierarchy among humans. After all, none of the founders of the major world religions valued anything in the physical world. Rather, all founders taught the existence of essential values that could last for eternity. 

Why did religious leaders build such systems? Oddly, the answer could be found in their own Scriptures: they failed to acknowledge the higher values taught by their founders, and thus reinterpreted their own Scriptures to justify fulfilling their worldly desires. For the Christians, in the Bible God warns humans about this. In Isaiah, we find, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (55:6) And in Matthew, Jesus points this out by saying, “So, for the sake of your tradition, you nullify the word of God.” (15:6) The reason why humans behave in such a way is because of our tendency to believe what makes sense to our own mind over troubling news, information, or truths delivered to us by a stranger or – in our own mind – an unworthy person. As we read the story in Mark 16:9, when Mary Magdalene delivered the news of meeting the resurrected Jesus to the disciples, they would not believe it. What was it that they would not believe? The fact that Jesus was resurrected, or the fact that Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene first, or both? In their own minds, it would probably make more sense that a resurrected Jesus would appear to them first, because they were his disciples after all. But did they forget the fact that they had all abandoned him just three days earlier? They must have also forgotten that Jesus emphasized many times that discipleship is neither a title nor a position, but a state of living in which one truly lives the teachings of Jesus.

My brothers and sisters in God, it is Easter Sunday! Let us come again to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ with an acknowledgment that his teachings were about cultivating higher values and living a life of gentleness and kindness. 

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee