A while back, I noticed that a friend of mine had, "Love Jesus, Hate religion" as her Religious Views on Facebook. I understand the sentiment. What my friend means to say is that she has a personal relationship with Christ, but is not so fond of the institutions that claim to follow Him. Likely this is a way to engage others who are fed up with (or have been burned by) institutional religion. "Jesus isn't the problem. Jesus is cool. It just His followers whom I can't stand, with all their rules and hypocrisy and petty infighting, sectarian differences, etc." Or, on a larger scale, "Religion is a cause of every major conflict the world has ever seen, and continues to see today. If the Muslims and Christians could just agree that Jesus is cool, and follow his teachings to 'love thy neighbor' than we could be rid of all the killing. I'm not like any of the so-called Christians you've met before. I follow the Way of love, and I hate rules and hypocrisy. Let's talk."

Please understand, I am not about to pick on my friend. I know that she is a dedicated Christian who sincerely desires to engage others in religious dialogue. I am, however, offering a critique of the method. I think words matter. Especially words found in the Scriptures. If you broadly claim, even broadcast, that you hate "religion" without any nuance or qualification whatsoever, then you forfeit an important Biblical term. James writes, "Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world (James 1:27, The Message). So, James likes religion. In fact, the very best religion is that which cares for defenseless people (i.e., orphans and widows).

Similarly, many have jettisoned the word "Christian" for the less hypocritical "Christ Follower." Again, the word is an important Biblical term (see Acts 11:26). Followers of Christ have been called "Christians" for more than 20 centuries. Is it important to drop the term because of bad ambassadors?

Nit picking? Quarreling over words? Hopefully not. I'm just asking for a bit of nuance. If you love Jesus and hate religion, I'll ask why you hate caring for orphans and widows. But if it's hypocrisy you hate, or false religion, than simply say so.

Finally, please understand that I understand that bumper sticker slogans and t-shirts are designed to be provocative--to blow up categories (barriers, even) in order to promote a healthy conversation. I'm all for it. And I'll even do it on occasion. But with awareness that some of those categories will have to be remade further on down the road. I'm a Christian. I love Jesus, and real religion.