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For sale, cheap…

March 26, 2007

America, land of the free, home of the brave, and I’ll even throw in Christianity as an extra bonus to the first one million customers.

One of my favorite theologians is a man named James Montgomery Boice.  He is now absent from the body and present with the Lord.  His writings that remain though have been of tremendous boon and blessing to me.  He humbly tackles tough subjects and chapters of the Bible with his eyes focused on the magnificent character of God. 

He quotes a man named Michael Scott Horton who wrote a book named Made in America:  The Shaping of Modern American Evangelicalism where his thesis is the impact of American culture on Christianity.  I’ve added this book to my must read list.  One of the cultural influences that Horton discusses is the god of consumerism. 

Boice paraphrases Horton’s point in the following quote:

"In America everything is sold–from toothpaste to politicians–and the way it is sold is by appealing to the dreams and desires of the people.  Nothing bad is ever faced.  Disappointments are ruled out.  This has its effect on Christianity.  In order to sell Christianity–and selling it is big business today–anything unpleasant or demanding is suppressed, and the gospel is commended rather as a cure for failure and low self-esteem, as well as the path to power."

As unpopular as a belief can be, there are distinct roots and philosophies of the seeker sensitive movement in this god of consumerism ritual.  How many church marquees have you ever seen to advertise, "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted," (2 Tim 3:12)?  Or why not post Jesus’ words, "All men will hate you because of me," (Mt 10:22)?  Not exactly the type of thing that pulls them in, huh?

This quote is from Horton’s book:

"In consumer religion, Christianity becomes trivialized.  Its great mysteries become cheap slogans.  Its majestic hymns are traded in for shallow jingles…And its parishioners, now unashamedly called audiences, have come to expect dazzling testimonies, happy anecdotes, and fail-proof schemes for successful living that will satiate spiritual consumption."

Ouch!  I have found myself amongst that audience, seeking to be entertained and flattered by ear-tickling on how to live a good life and still have my felt needs met in a timely manner and easy 8 step method.  Yes, and it doesn’t work.  The feel good apart from truth doesn’t last and leaves a bad aftertaste.

Here’s what Boice says, in contrast to what current evangelicalism demands:

"How different is biblical Christianity!  In the Gospels Jesus spoke often of the cost of following after him in faithful discipleship, without which there is no salvation and no Christianity.  What is more–and here the situation becomes even more impossible for today’s marketers of religion–he warned that those who identify with him would be hated.  Instead of being popular and successful, Christians would be hated and rejected, as he was.  What a way to ‘sell’ Christianity!"

There is definitely a choice to be made.  I haven’t read Horton’s book and therefore, do not claim this post to be any sort of exhaustive review.  I will be reading it, and plan to post about it later.  The thesis alone challenges me to examine exactly what I both buy and sell–cheap Christianity or a costly Cross.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 26, 2007 10:44 pm

    This is one of the best posts I have read on this topic…great points!

    Thanks for this! I have linked to this on my blog.


  2. March 27, 2007 6:24 am

    Thank you for speaking so clearly about this. I find it very frustrating that so many don’t see anything wrong with the way church is done today – with such a focus on entertainment and ear-tickling and the shallow promises of health and wealth.
    God Bless.

  3. March 27, 2007 8:36 am

    James M. Boice was/is one of my favorites! We have his tape series on Renewing the Mind and it is overflowing with insight and conviction.

    There’s a new church nearby that is advertising, “10:00 Breakfast, 10:30 Worship”. It’s a gimmick and it smacks of consumerism. So many people walk away from church each Sunday with full stomaches and minds, but malnourished hearts/spirits. May God have mercy on us.

  4. March 27, 2007 5:02 pm

    Great post, Elle. I haven’t read Horton’s book, but your quotes make me think it’s an important one. The topic of consumerism and commercialism of Christianity is one we should all take seriously. It really bothers me that I can buy just about any product under the son with a Bible verse on it.

  5. March 28, 2007 8:14 am

    What a fine line we walk between “being all things to all men so that by all possible means I may save some” and “to suit their own desires they gather around them teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

    Words worth pondering indeed.

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