Tuesday, September 13, 2011

America's Biggest Religion - Part three of Questions From the Lifehouse Youth Group

It wasn't long ago I used to work at an old folk's home. I had some co-workers who found out about my faith and began to ask me questions. Some of them were simple, like, "Did God really flood the earth?" Some were sort of funny because I didn't expect them, like, "Do you think God could be a woman?" Once in a while, maybe most of the time, I got a serious question that turned into a lunch break-long discussion.

During one dinner shift, a cook went into some fit about churches getting tax breaks and said America's biggest religion didn't need it. "Christianity isn't America's biggest religion," I said.

He stopped and looked at me. "Really? What do you think it is?"

"Sex. More people worship that than Jesus." I think I said it because I knew he was a sex addict and I wanted to shake him up.

Fast forward to a youth group meeting where we got into a discussion about worship and idolatry. One of the girls asked, "What idol do you think people worship most?"

And because half of what I say is rehearsed to death, the word "Sex" began to form in my mouth when two things happened. First, I saw the look on my wife's face because she knew what I wanted to say. Second, I realized it wasn't the right answer. So instead, I told the girl, "Ourselves."

Of all the idols we worship instead of Jesus, I think we worship ourselves. Yeah, sex plays into that. But so does food, relationships, entertainment, and even religious activities like going to church. We do whatever we want to make ourselves feel good.

I wonder if some people hate themselves because something about their looks or personality doesn't please the idol of Self. Does that make sense? Can people hate themselves because they actually love themselves too much? Could it be such a person unconsciously knows they make for a poor god, unworthy of the worship it demands?

After all that, I don't want you to read this and think I'm promoting a new asceticism. Jesus told his disciples not to worry about themselves, but instead to seek God's kingdom first and He would give them everything they needed for their joy and happiness. I don't think Jesus meant, "Don't eat or wear clothes, but worship God," but rather, "Worship God, and you find your contentment and joy in Him."

What do you think is America's biggest religion?


MorsIndutus said...

I often make not-really-jokes about America's fastest growing religion: the Raised Christian. (When asked, members will respond with, "Well, I was raised Christian...") In all seriousness though, I think you're right, our culture is extremely self-centered and selfish to the point of it being a cult.

I came to the conclusion some time ago that hate is not the opposite of love, you can't love something without hating that which causes harm to the beloved. The opposite of love is selfishness, and if God is Love, and if we are trying to emulate Him, we will be selfless. Which is not to say we give up our personalities or desires, it means we put the needs of others above our own.

Isaiah Kallman said...

The Raised Christian. They're all over the place in Nashville. When I meet a Raised Christian, I've used the term "Nominal Christian", but I think you're on to something.

Plenty of people treat Christianity as something historic. It's like when people ask if I'm a golfer, and I tell them I played on the varsity team in High School instead of telling them I haven't played in twelve years. I wonder if it's the same for the Raised Christian. Instead of admitting they haven't pursued a dynamic relationship with Jesus in years, they talk about how they've done just enough to be apart of the club.

MorsIndutus said...

I'm not sure if they're even wanting to join the Christian club. For a lot of them, they grew up in insular environments where everyone around them was supposedly Christian. People are fallible and when everyone around you is a Christian, you start to think that all Christians are fake and stop wanting to have anything to do with them.

I went through that a bit when I left the confines my upbringing (Church, Christian school, Christian home, Christian bookstores...) and met a wider array of humanity. I liked them, they were a lot less judgmental than the people I grew up with and were constantly being condemned by Christians who didn't even know them. I wanted to disassociate myself from "Christians", not because I stopped believing in Christ, but because I was ashamed of the things done by his purported followers in his name that seemed to completely contradict his actual teachings. Thankfully, I met other Christians who were open and honest about their faults and accepting of others' and full of love, otherwise who knows? Lately, God's been reminding me that those "fake" Christians are people too and He loves them and wants me to love them too. It's the most difficult thing He's ever asked me to do.