Our culture is unquestionably trending toward a lack of restraint in the area of sexuality. I’m reasonably certain that human sexuality is the most drama-inducing and conflict-producing facet of humanity. And despite strident claims to the contrary, personal sexuality does, in fact, impact society. Ironically, those that pretend otherwise are the most vocal and ostentatious about their sexual proclivities.
American Christians are looking with a panic-stricken eye at the culture, which is becoming increasingly amoral (or immoral) and hostile to the Christian religion. I see continuous hand wringing over the plight of Christianity. How can these reprobates not see that they are rebelling against God? Whatever shall we do to show them that Christianity is The Way?
Actually, I suspect our culture may be more hostile to the family than religion. It’s a distinction worth noting, but that’s a topic for another time. Be that as it may, Christians individually and Christian institutions collectively are lamenting the state of the culture, fretting about the future of our society, and offering opinions on how we got from Mayberry to Mad Max. Opinions usually run along the lines of “Christians are not righteous enough,” or “We’re not maintaining our doctrinal purity,” or “Our clergy/pastors/leaders are not preaching the Word enough” (usually, this means not enough emphasis on Fundamentalist doctrine, eternal damnation, or being hard on sin—usually sexual sins). Many bemoan how the church has gotten too liberal.
An objective view, which is hard to conceptualize from inside the Institution, offers a much simpler explanation. The fact of the matter is that Christianity™ is simply not a viable alternative to a secular (godless) worldview. In fact, we do people a disservice by promoting Christianity. Part of the problem is the issue of our terminology. The word christian has become so generic and imprecise that it has lost its definition. The myriad “Christian” denominations, sub-denominations, and para-church organizations compete for the title of whose doctrine and ancestry is most authentic. Many “Christian” churches and organizations are Christian in name only. What began as a slur against followers of Christ, became the iconic identifier of a growing religion. The way of the Master became the way of the followers of the Master. It’s hard to argue that the way of the followers is anything but contemptible. Twenty-first century Americans who purport to follow Christ, proudly claim the title Christian. The term has come a long way from the derogatory term that it used to be. It is now held as a badge of correctness, as in “I’m a Christian. Therefore, I’m bound for heaven whereas you are not.”
The reality is that our spiritual life has become completely eclipsed by our religion—a religion which is a 100% human fabrication, clothed in spiritual-sounding vernacular. You see, what we’ve done, is taken the focus off Jesus, and placed it on The Industry—the industry of the Christian religion. Christianity has become a rote, ritualistic, hierarchical system that is entirely antithetical to the teaching of Jesus. We’ve lost the culture because we literally have nothing substantial to offer as an alternative to hedonism. We’re simply a hollow, discredited religion that is functionally (or dysfunctionally) the same as any other religion.
I hear frequent defenses of Christianity that state authoritatively that it is the true religion—because we believe in Jesus. But we don’t offer people Jesus and His freedom, forgiveness, redemption, and reconciliation. We offer them worship services that pass off manufactured emotion as spirituality. We offer weekly lectures that purport to be a message from God, yet downplay the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of every believer. We call the gatherings “fellowship,” then make people sit passively with their backs to each other. We call it “outreach,” but it’s really an impersonal program run by a committee.
Many Christians speak about the truth of Christianity, as compared to other religions. By this, they mean the unique aspect of the Son of God coming down to our level and clothing Himself in human flesh and dying for us. And in a sense, they are correct. Except we can’t stop with that simple message. It’s too simple. Too free. Why, people might not agree with orthodox doctrine or maintain our standards of praxis! We start piling on layer after layer of doctrine which must absolutely be adhered to. And the forgiveness that God freely gave must be earned every day in service—not to people, but to the institution.
The institution has lost its credibility. So when we hold out another ineffective, run-of-the-mill religious experience, it shouldn’t surprise us when our offer is sneered at. Certainly, there will always be those who will reject any notion of following Jesus. But we should be ashamed when we realize that many reject Jesus because of what they see in His followers: endless and vehement arguing over doctrine, a sense of superiority that many Christians project as they refuse to associate with “sinners,” and probably the most common and devastating reason—our lack of unity.
If we really want to have a positive effect on our culture, we must put Jesus first and foremost. His message of love and forgiveness and reconciliation is what we must offer to the world. We must allow the Holy Spirit to guide our assemblies rather than the clerical caste. We must allow all believers to serve the assembly in the way they are gifted. We must stop pushing Christianity and start pointing to Christ.
We have invested everything in taking the name of Jesus and building a religious empire on it. We will never be the light that our culture needs until we forsake the human empire and start living as ambassadors of the King we serve.