Who could argue that culturally speaking we hold our celebrities in higher esteem than God? We Christians get genuinely excited with a celebrity we admire publicly confess their faith in Jesus Christ. Yay! Prime time acknowledgement of our Lord. Like His reputation is validated by theirs. Whatever. So long as they spell His name right.
I love Oprah Winfrey. More importantly, God loves Oprah. But I don’t know what the heck she’s talking about anymore. I recently saw a video on YouTube where she referred to herself as a Christian while at the same time saying that there are “many paths to God” and also describing heaven in much the same way the Buddhists do. She’s following the teachings of Eckhart Tolle (His book “A New Earth”) who is definitely NOT a Christian. But there she is proclaiming this “enlightened” non-Christian belief system on national television to an audience who practically worships her and leading them to believe that this is all kosher (pun intended)
I’m fine with her using her platform to profess her faith. It’s a free country founded on religious freedom. I’m fine with her using her influence to lead others to seek out deeper understanding of spiritual matters. I am NOT okay with her calling herself a Christian anymore. I’m not okay with her misleading her audience to believe that you can live in conflict with scripture while claiming that you believe in the Bible.
Below the YouTube video feed was a long list of comments. Most were caustic. Some were painful to read. Almost all of them were filled with insults against Christians; Against God; against religion. I wanted so much to respond but realized it would be a waste of time.
The bible is full of stories that document the history of people; those who Believed and Served God and those who Rejected and Mocked God. Nothing is different in 2013 except that the mockers have the advantages of national television and YouTube as grand platforms to mock from. Nothing is different. The ones we read about in the bible have long since died and the mockers of today one day will too.
I fumble for what to say to them, wanting to use words that would open them up and not shut them down. I want to find words that would be relevant and meaningful to them. They’ve come to hate God and Christians based on hearsay. And suddenly I found myself thinking of all the Christians who have adopted their faith… in exactly the same way. They haven’t read the bible; they’ve settled for what they hear in church on Sundays (which might be fine if every church did an equal job of teaching what was in the Bible, revealing the reality, nature, heart and presence of God.). They may be clear about which team they are on, but they’re more spectators than players. And that’s why when they engage in debates with the mockers they sound just as silly and ignorant as the other.
Years ago Robin Williams starred in the movie “Hook” where he played the part of Peter Pan. He had grown up since we first met the character some decades ago and had forgotten all about his life in Never, Never Land. In one scene he is sitting around a banquet table with dozens of children who are all enjoying a meal that Peter can’t see. He’d love to join them, but the table he sees is covered with empty platters. They are all exclaiming how wonderful the food tastes and Peter is frustrated because he’s hungry and is unable to partake in the feast.
Church can feel like that sometimes... a roomful of people feasting on food that seems to exist only in their imagination. A shared delusion. And to the visitor it can seem either fake or contrived… sending them away in disgust, believing that there just is no “There”, there. Believing that church is a waste of time. Believing that they have just witnessed a close encounter with God and walked away empty. Hungry. Discouraged. Bored. Disenchanted.
We have created a dilemma. In a church service like that, the observer either has to join in the feast pretending that they are getting their fill, or they must suffer feeling alienated because they somehow weren’t able to see what everyone else seemed to see. They must decide that they are somehow lacking in discernment. They don’t have “eyes to see”
It’s time to get real. It’s time to face the very real possibility that if we don’t stop pretending, we are sharing in the work of killing the church altogether.