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Why Americans Are Just Fine With “It’s a relationship, not a religion”

By David Wells
Above All Earthly Pow’rs, Christ In A PostModern World


In America anything and everything can be “commodified” and sold, from style to sex, from ideas to religion. In towns and cities are churches, mosques, and synagogues; in the Yellow Pages there are choices for worship on Sunday morning ranging from the Episcopalians to the Baptists to the Assemblies of God; at the local bookstore, shelf after shelf is filled with books on New Age, self-help, witch-craft, holism, and Buddhism. This is Western freedom and Western commercialized culture. Here, we have the ability to hope for what we want, shop where we want, buy what we want, study where we want, think what we want, believe what we want, and treat religion as just another commodity, a product to be consumed.

America is tuned in to spiritual matters but not to religious formulations. This makes it very easy to gain a hearing for what is spiritual but hard to maintain a genuinely biblical posture (doctrine) because that becomes a part of “religion.” It is very easy to build churches in which seekers congregate; it is very hard to build churches in which biblical faith is maturing into genuine discipleship. It is the difficulty of this task which has been lost… {M}any…churches… are meeting places for those who are searching spiritually but are not looking for that kind of faith which is spiritually tough and countercultural in a biblical way.

When the consumer is allowed to be sovereign in Church, the Church is abdicating from its responsibility because it is allowing truth to become displaced by spiritual and psychological desire. However, once the concession has been made, we then discover that satisfying needs becomes a frustrating under-taking. Needs, in the therapeutic society, multiply faster than fruit flies. No sooner is one met than two take its place. Coopting the needs to church is not the same things as seeing a sinner converted and brought into the Church.

“As sinful human beings,” Os Guinness comments, “we have an instinctual, compulsive bias toward forms of religion that we
ourselves can create and control” and that is precisely what consumer-driven religion invites us to do.




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