Sunday, August 27, 2006

Christianity as beanie baby extravaganza

If there's one thing I can not stand about modern Christianity, it is its reduction to the level of fad, political tool, or marketing gimmick.

Take, for instance, "The Purpose Driven Life" by Pastor Rick Warren. I have never read the book, and I am sure it is a useful tool and that Rev. Warren is a sincere and devout Christian. But his program has become a ridiculous, soul-sucking fad.

Even if I was not Catholic, I honestly would not attend a self-proclaimed "Purpose Driven church." Frankly, I would rather attend a self-proclaimed "Gospel Driven church."

The point of the "purpose driven" fad is church growth, and the point of church growth seems to be the development of mega-churches in which there are lots of bottoms in the pews, lots of dough in the collection and a feel-good, fluffy message that keeps people coming back every Sunday for their dose of soma (I mean, life-relevant teaching).

I don't mean to sound snide or to cast aspersions on the faith of those who attend or lead mega-churches or wanna-be mega-churches. But you can't say that these self-help ministers are really teaching the Gospel.

St. Paul:
"We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles." (I Corinthians 1:18-31)
Joel Osteen:
"Years ago, before transatlantic flight was common, a man wanted to travel to the United States from Europe... He went out and bought a suitcase and filled it full of cheese and crackers. That's all he could afford.

...Once on board, all the other passengers went to the large, ornate dining room to eat their gourmet meals. Meanwhile, the poor man would go over in the corner and eat his cheese and crackers. This went on day after day.

Toward the end of the trip, another man came up to him and said, "Sir, I can't help but notice that you are always over there eating those cheese and crackers at mealtimes. Why don't you come into the banquet hall and eat with us?"

The traveler's face flushed with embarrassment. "Well, to tell you the truth, I had only enough money to buy the ticket. I don't have any extra money to purchase fancy meals."

The other passenger raised his eyebrows in surprise. He shook his head and said, "Sir, don't you realize the meals are included in the price of the ticket? Your meals have already been paid for!"

When I first heard that story, I couldn't help but think of how many people are similar to that naive traveler. They are missing out on God's best because they don't realize that the good things in life have already been paid for." (Your Best Life Now)
Ya got that, Joe and Jane Christian? That is the point of Christianity. When you sign up, you get to skip the cheese and crackers!

It's the "God as Tool to Improve My Life" way of thinking that really bothers me. In case any prospective Christian ever stumbles on this blog, I would like to inform them that Christians do not (or at least ought not) use Our Lord the way secular people use motivational speakers, anti-depressants, or botox.

Christianity is not a "plan" or a "system" which in any way guarantees material success or material health and happiness in life. It is not a "program" for getting money or fame. Unhappiness, illness, financial difficulty, or any other kind of pain are not indicative of an insufficient faith. In fact, Christians are closer to God when they suffer than when everything in their lives is sweetness and light.

We do not worship and love God because it gives our lives direction and makes us feel good (although it can do both these things). We worship and love Him because that is what He, as our Creator, King and Father, deserves, and that is what we, His beloved creation, were made for.

/End rant.

4 comments:

  1. Well said, well said (written).....!

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  2. Sweet! Is this a idea you're ranting about in your column Miss Editor?

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  3. Maggie,

    Very nice post. Makes us proud to be Catholic Christians!

    May God Bless.

    My letter was scheduled to arrive to you today. Hope to hear from you in the form of a letter prior to your return to school.

    God Bless,

    Christopher

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  4. I don't mean to be rude--just as you don't mean to be snide! But if you haven't read Warren's book, and if you don't go to "purpose-driven" services, how do you know it is all a "ridiculous, soul-sucking fad"?

    God works in a lot of ways and maybe one of those ways is through a book that doesn't do anything for you, and frankly doesn't do anything for me either. But maybe for someone else it is a firt step in spirituality. People have to start somewhere, and most of us can't start at the top of Mt. Carmel.

    If I had a conversation with someone intrigued by the "purpose-driven" concept, I would not dismiss the person's experience as meaningless fluff. I would try to encourage a little critical thinking, by asking what element in particular of the concept was especially meaningful or useful or compelling. Then I would try to relate that element to a wider or more traditional spirituality (the old "compare and contrast" approach). The person would have to do a little thinking, and that could lead to a lot more thinking, and ultimately a more mature spirituality.

    But I am only a teacher, so please excuse my frank teacher's comments!

    I am happy to hear that your sister is doing well! I found her blog some time ago and always enjoyed reading of her adventures. Her happiness seemed to radiate through all she wrote. :)

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