Those inclined to accuse me of thinking like a lapsed Catholic or even being a lapsed Catholic will have much to work with in this post. First, let me admit up front to having gone through Catholic schools and Catholic colleges. In those schools I received an education in the history of religion, the history of Christianity and the granular doctrinal differences between the sects laying claim to the label of Christian.
That said, I have not counted myself as a Catholic for a very long time and I’m not much of a believer. I think the Catholic mass is the most beautiful of the Christian services, followed closely by the Anglicans, the latter having much better music. The CoE also does a first rate job designing churches. Those big red doors are striking.
Black churches are the most entertaining and have the best food. It’s not even close on the food side of things. The mail order theologians I see on TV like Joel Osteen strike me as creepy and weird. I suspect they are just con-men without a lick of faith, but I have no proof of that. I could be completely wrong, but that’s my hunch.
Having said all that, I wish you nothing but the best if you find peace of comfort watching Joel Osteen or attending a non-denominational quasi-Christian service down at the motor lodge. A world run by the followers of Joel Olsteen would be a better world than one run by Progressives. In the former you get to say “no thank you” and close the door when they knock. In the latter you better open the door and do what they say – or else.
That buildup is a lead in to some comments regarding this post Rod Dreher linked to the other day.
One of the great Evangelical leaders of the twentieth century, Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ (now called Cru) and signatory of Evangelicals and Catholics Together, published a small booklet in 1952 entitled Four Spiritual Laws. It was used for over six decades as an evangelistic tool by literally millions of Christians worldwide. And it had – indeed, continues to have – a profound and lasting impact on Evangelicalism and the way in which that movement presents the Gospel to unbelievers and those who have strayed from their faith.
Even though I count myself among those whose spiritual journey was shaped by Bright’s vision and his call to share the good news of Jesus with family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues, I have come to believe that Bright’s first spiritual law – “God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life” – presents a misleading depiction of what it means to follow Jesus.
I’ve known a great many Evangelicals and I have attended their services and even some of their Bible classes. This passive, feminine view of Christianity has always struck me as anti-Christian. It is occassionalism, the antithesis of Christianity, to believe man does not play a defining part of his destiny.
Logically, it is even nuttier simply because God’s plan could be that you have to figure it out on your own. Put another way, His plan may be for you to create your own plan. Simply blaming things on God and his plan for you sounds like an excuse to me. It also sounds like paganism, where the fates determine the course of your life.
But the decades long near-absence of the truth of the cross and the Gospel of suffering and transformation – that following Jesus is as much about getting heaven into you as you getting into heaven – resulted in generations of American Christians who spend half their Sunday services singing “hymns” to a Jesus that sounds more like their boyfriend than their Lord.
For this reason, as the hostility to Christian faith continues to mount in the United States – especially on issues that will require government coercion in matters of religious conscience –many of our fellow believers, unwilling to entertain the possibility that they must suffer as Christ suffered, will continue to acquiesce to the spirit of the age and construct a Jesus that conforms to that spirit. This Lord will wind up agreeing – or at least, not disputing – any of the pieties of the secular intelligentsia.
The economic, social, and familial pressures will seem so unbearable – so inconsistent with that “wonderful plan for your life” – they will quickly and enthusiastically distance themselves from those brethren who choose to pick up the cross and not check the “like” button. Whatever it is that hangs in the balance – professional honor, academic respectability, securing a lucrative business contract, or thirty pieces of silver – it will surely be described as the place to which “the Lord is leading us.”
Although they will claim to be devout “Evangelicals” or “Catholics,” they will nevertheless embody the beliefs that H. Richard Niebuhr once attributed to what was at the time the most dominant religious force in America, Liberal Protestantism: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”
This is already on display as many Evangelicals adopt the pagan beliefs of environmentalism. You can be sure that they will quickly buckle to pressure on gay marriage. There are already many out celebrating the love that won’t shut the hell up. How long before Joel Osteen is sporting a rainbow tunic and pointing out passages in the Bible he say are in support of sodomy?
It’s why I say Christianity in the West is in permanent retreat. Sure, there will always be people kicking around calling themselves Christian. There will be churches with decent crowds on Sunday. But, in the face of the Fosterite Cult of Modern Liberalism, it will be nothing more than Mercerism, a harmless pastime at best. A tool of social control at worst.