“Can Religion Become an Addiction?”

"Can Religion Become an Addiction?"If a little of something is good, a lot of it must be a lot better. Isn’t this the addict’s philosophy? As alcoholics and drug addicts move through the stages of recovery, they may find that they are replacing their obsession with alcohol or drugs with other things-TV, exercise, sex, cigarettes, food-to name a few. In some cases, the replacements appear innocuous, even healthy. Isn’t it better to spend your time at a gym than in a bar?

Religion is another entity that can become a kind of “addiction” for some. It must be said, that when compared with the damaging and detrimental effects of substance abuse, the Church is a comparatively safe thing about which to be obsessed. Yet there is a difference between true, saving faith in Jesus Christ and an obsession with religion.

True recovery isn’t about the transfer from an unhealthy addiction to a healthier one. The addict will only use the new substance to his or her own ends. In this selfish pursuit of pleasure, stimulation, distraction, or love the addict will inevitable find him or herself unfulfilled and empty. An obsessive approach to anything, even religion, can cause us to hurt ourselves and others.

But how can one’s fixation on religion be bad? What could be safer than the Church? True, saving faith is about relationship-a relationship of trust and dependence with Jesus Christ. Anytime a relationship becomes obsessive or addictive, there is the risk of perverting the relationship for personal gain. This is not a mark of recovery.

Crossing the Line From Healthy to Obsession

Church obsession can also skew the new believer’s understanding of what it means to be a believer. He may believe that salvation is something he must earn. If only he works hard enough and does service in the church, God will accept him and forgive him for his prior sins. He will work and toil in fear without ever knowing God’s grace to sinners. He will come to resent God and the Church. He will feel no peace.

This imbalanced approach may also cause the individual to neglect other important areas of his life like job and family. In recovery, we learn that God is first and foremost in our lives and we desperately need our relationship with Him in order to be freed of our addiction. But God also has work for us to do in the world. Our real world, daily-life callings are no less significant. For God there is no separation of secular and spiritual. We serve him and love him in all that we do-even if that is simply showing up at our jobs, bringing home the paycheck and staying out of the bar. Loving and serving God in our daily callings and seeking to know Him more is the recovery approach to religion.

In Matthew 11:28 Christ says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Go to him, know him, serve him, rest in him.