The Sticky Sweet Poison of Easy Believism
“If you love soft preaching, you love a hard heart.” ~ Doug Wilson
“Sermonettes make Christianettes.” ~ A.W. Tozer
In November of 1970, George Harrison released the single My Sweet Lord, a folk rock tune that would rocket to the top of the international charts, all while proclaiming and exalting a love for the lord. For believers of many stripes, this was a beautiful thing. Even many Christians found Harrison’s unexpected hymn to be appealing.
It sounded so good. It sounded so kind…so loving…so peaceful.
There was no questioning the song’s sincerity; it was surely a song born of the heartfelt love of a man for his lord.
Early in the song, the Hebrew and Christian word for praise, hallelujah, can be heard permeating the chorus:
My sweet lord (hallelujah)
Hm, my lord (hallelujah)
My, my, my lord (hallelujah)
Then, as the soothing inspirational tune continues…
My sweet lord (hallelujah)
My, my, lord (hallelujah)
Hm, my lord (hare krishna)
My, my, my lord (hare krishna)
Oh hm, my sweet lord (krishna, krishna)
Oh-uuh-uh (hare hare)
Now, I really want to see you (hare rama)
Really want to be with you (hare rama)
Really want to see you lord (aaah)
But it takes so long, my lord (hallelujah)
In the span of the strum of a guitar in My Sweet Lord, the happy, probably-already-singing-along listener is treated to an unexpected revelation; a transformation from what was thought to be – and intentionally presented as – one thing, yet is revealed to be quite different.
And that intentional deception proved most significant in its impact.
In an interview with Harrison, scholar Mukunda Goswami observed, “I don’t think it is possible to calculate just how many people were turned on to Krsna consciousness by your song My Sweet Lord.”
Harrison’s responded, “My idea in My Sweet Lord, because it sounded like a pop song, was to sneak up on them [the audience] a bit. The point was to have people not offended by ‘Hallelujah’, and by the time it gets to ‘Hare Krsna’ they’re already hooked, and their foot’s tapping and they’re already singing along…to lull them into a sense of false security.”
The guiding principle is clear: The ends justify the means, and the sweeter, more soothing, and peaceful seeming the means, the easier it becomes to guide a target toward an end that might have at one time seemed an impossible goal.
Few understand and share this appreciation for contorting and concealing substance in the name of pragmatism better than those driving the American Churchianity machine.
The American Religious Empire
“The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshiping men. This she has not done deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge; and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic.” ~ A.W. Tozer
“How could we have such a low view of the gospel of Jesus Christ that we have to manipulate men psychologically to get them to come down and pray a prayer? …How many times have I heard evangelists say, “It’ll only take five minutes.”? No my dear friend, it will take your life–all of it!” ~ Paul Washer
Where Harrison sought to blur and then obliterate the line between the Hindu god of Krishna and the Christian God Jesus, American Churchianity has a much easier time creating scores of seemingly viable bridges between the Christ of Christianity and the Flu Shot/Ripcord Jesus duo of modern American zombie religion, precisely because, by design, the counterfeits are thoroughly cloaked and covered in the language and terminology of the original which they seek to displace.
The name “Jesus” alone is enough to win over the more profoundly undiscerning – a group which, sadly, has come to represent a majority of professing evangelicals.
From there selectively added Bible terminology and vaguely Christian lingo is used to build, piece by piece, scores of secularly sound bridges between truth and lies, light and darkness, and life and death.
Any out-of-context verse/partial verse or concept that can be used to paint Jesus as a character defined almost exclusively by worldly definitions of love is eagerly employed for the sake of seeker sensitivity. And at the other end of the audience prep spectrum, anything that might be an “obstacle” to said seekers (such as the holy justice, wrath, jealousy, or anger of the Jesus of Scripture) is swept aside; completely removed as to allow for easy zombie shambling across the river Styx.
This careful, deliberate preparation is, in most cases, the result of many long hours, days, weeks, and even months of careful planning, staff meetings and strategy sessions. Books are written, bought, and read; conferences are planned, attended, and digested, and denominational growth strategies are conceived, formulated, and implemented – all for the purpose of cultivating ever better zombie herding techniques. Purpose-driven American Churchianity has become much more than a mere cottage industry; it is a modern religious/business empire. And this empire builds its future and its ranks ultimately through one all-important mechanism:
The altar call.
Setting the Stage and Prepping the Marks
“Wherever pragmatism exits in the church, there is always a corresponding de-emphasis on Christ’s sufficiency, God’s sovereignty, biblical integrity, the power of prayer, and Spirit-led ministries. The result is a man-centered ministry that attempts to accomplish divine purposes by superficial programs and human methodology rather than by the Word or the power of the Spirit.” ~ John MacArthur
So the mission is set. The church is prepared. Strategies are in place and it’s time for the American Churchianity machine to roll into action.
The call goes out…
The Gospel call? No, not quite. This mission really doesn’t call for or work particularly well with anything along the lines of, “God is holy, man is evil, and judgment is coming, so repent, believe and be saved!” Nope, that really doesn’t fit here. It’s way too much of a downer to be of much use to the purpose-driven business model at play here.
The call we’re talking about here goes more like this:
We have a program for you!
We have a killer band for you!
We have a social setting for you!
…or…when all else fails…
We have pizza!
These are the sorts of evangelical calls that go out all across the nation each and every week thanks to the purpose-driven efforts of modern American Churchianity.
And while things like pizza, programs, bands, and social gatherings can be very good things, they are not the Gospel.
They are not close to the Gospel.
They are not even a part of the Gospel.
And that’s precisely why they are used.
The above piece is an excerpt from the book Apathetic Christianity: The Zombie Religion of American Churchianity.
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© 2014 Scott Alan Buss – All Rights Reserved.