Substituting other "religions" for Christianity?
By Rev. Dr. Howard S. Russell, CHM President & CEO
A man named Andrew Sullivan has written an interesting article for New York Magazine titled “America’s New Religions.”
His premise is that as the number declines of Americans who profess belief in God, or who practice Christianity, people are substituting new “religions.”
He begins by writing, “Everyone has a religion. It is, in fact, impossible not to have a religion if you are a human being. It’s in our genes and has expressed itself in every culture, in every age, including our own secularized husk of a society.
“By religion, I mean something quite specific: a practice not a theory; a way of life that gives meaning, a meaning that cannot really be defended without recourse to some transcendent value, undying “Truth” or God (or gods).
“The need for meaning hasn’t gone away, but without Christianity, this yearning looks to politics for satisfaction,” he writes.
Mr. Sullivan’s religious attitudes, as described by wikipedia.org, are these: “Sullivan takes a moderate approach to religion, rejecting fundamentalism and describing himself as a “dogged defender of pluralism and secularism.”
Nevertheless, he’s correct in that there are people substituting other “meanings” for Christianity. What’s missing in his analysis is the true meaning, spiritual power and permanence of Christianity, the truth that makes us free.
That Christianity has been under assault by secular American society—either subtly or as the target in an ideological free-fire zone—is no surprise to anyone; but it’s not something new. The same things occurred when the Apostle Paul (ultimately beheaded for his faith) was sharing the Gospel throughout the Roman world.
After Paul proclaimed the Good News to the Athenians as described in the Book of Acts, there was a three-part reaction from his listeners: “When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, ‘We want to hear you again on this subject.’ At that, Paul left the Council. Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed,” (Acts 17: 32-34). Note that the first reaction recorded was “sneered.”
In extreme cases, such as occurred in Soviet Russia, government policy was to destroy Christianity, eliminating it as an alternative to, in effect, worship of the Communist Party and its leaders. Churches were closed and turned into skating rinks, warehouses, or put to other uses.
In today’s America we live in a society that tells us—in messages incessantly amplified daily—that we “deserve” whatever we want; that there’s something wrong with us if we don’t kneel at the altar of the trendy; and that Bible-believing Christianity is a dinosaur – and perhaps dangerous. Such messages are often aimed at young people, to kill their faith before it can grow.
Questioning is fine. It leads to knowledge. What we’re discussing in terms of new “religions” goes much farther. However, even while Jesus was alive there were the sneering, the jealous, and the hateful. Why should we think anything would be different today? We’re not greater than our Master. Nevertheless, we’re still here, despite never-ending efforts by some to lock us away, as the saying goes, like a crazy uncle in the attic.
The world never seems to run out of individuals and systems who want to debunk, destroy, or replace Christianity. It’s because this is a fallen world. It’s because Christianity is a force some fear will deny them power; wishes; desires; wants; and cravings. It’s because they fear what Christianity calls us to be about and care about: service to the Living God and his son, Jesus.
It’s also because when you’re blind, you can’t see: “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Christianity’s meaning, spiritual power, and permanence exist because from the beginning there was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Nothing has changed.
Are there new “religions” trying to lure mankind away from Christianity? Absolutely. What does that call us to do? Live each day according to His word. It’s a requirement to put up, and definitely not shut up.
The brilliant writer and Christian C.S. Lewis penned profound words illustrating beautifully the futility of those who try to bury the reality of God under an avalanche of indifference, derision, or contempt—regardless of how many alternative religions they attempt to create for themselves.
Wrote Lewis, “A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”
To God be the glory, great things he has done. And will do. Forever.