Question of the day: Is group affiliation more important than personal transformation?
Historically, religion has more often been a belonging system or a belief system, than an actual system of transformation. When belonging and believing is your primary concern, you do not really need healing or growth, or even basic spiritual curiosity. All your homework is done for you and handed to you. If you let the group substitute for your own inner life or your own prayer journey, all you need to do is attend. Church for several centuries now has largely been a matter of attendance at a service, not an observably different lifestyle. Membership requirements predominated, not the "change your life" message that Jesus so clearly preached.
Membership questions become an endless argument about who is in and who is out, who is right and who is wrong? Who is worthy of our God and who is not? This appeals very much to our ego, and its need to feel worthy, to feel superior, to be a part of a group that defines itself by exclusion. The Country Club instinct, you might say. That is most of religious history. The group's rightness or superiority becomes a convenient substitute for knowing anything to be true for oneself. Where did Jesus recommend this pattern? It has left Christian countries not appreciably different than other countries, in fact, sometimes worse. The two World Wars emerged within and between Christian countries. We can do so much better.
Adapted from The Authority of Those Who Have Suffered