In a book that should be must-reading, especially for those who put even marginal faith in government to transform culture, Wolfe hands down a stinging indictment of contemporary Christianity: "Talk of hell, damnation and even sin has been replaced by a nonjudgmental language of understanding and empathy." We're all dysfunctional now. The New York Times carried a story last week that asserts all addictions are caused by a brain ailment, not moral lapses. Comfortable now?
Wolfe observes that even people who call themselves evangelicals increasingly dislike sharing their faith with others for fear that doing so might "make them seem unfriendly or invasive."
This is spiritual shoplifting. We want the benefits from God (good health, money, contentment) but are unwilling to pay the price (conversion, devotion, commitment).
Forbes magazine's Web page (www.forbes.com) carries an essay by Luisa Kroll that provides further evidence of the corruption of the contemporary church. Titled Megachurches, Megabusinesses," it begins: "Maybe churches aren't so different from corporations." Kroll lists big churches that have recording studios, publishing houses, computer graphic design suites, satellite networks and huge TV budgets (one in Houston, she says, spends $12 million annually on air time alone). "Welcome to the megabusiness of megachurches," writes Kroll, "where pastors often act as chief executives and use business tactics to grow their congregations." How many of these misspent resources could be invested in transforming people's lives instead of building monuments to pastoral egos?
People looking for reasons why the church has lost power and real influence need look no further than Wolfe's book and Kroll's article. If the church loses its focus, how can it expect those it has been commissioned to reach to see clearly the path that leads to God? We may put "In God We Trust" on our money, but in fact, it is in Dow we trust.
In the song "To Beat the Devil," the late Johnny Cash sings: "If you waste your time a-talking to the people who don't listen to the things that you are saying, who do you think's going to hear? And if you should die explaining how the things that they complain about are things they could be changing, who d'you think's goin' to care?"
If Christians really want to see culture transformed, Wolfe's book, especially, shows they need to begin with their own transformation. Only then do they have a prayer of seeing cultural change. To expect it to happen the other way around is futile.
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