June 26, 2011
Overt, in-your-face paganism in the Church—it’s not hard to find, these days. I’ve written about it before. (See my blog, LeeDuigon.com, and scroll back a couple of pages for a series of those articles.) But there’s also a soft-core paganism in the Church, so hard to see, it’s practically invisible. In this it resembles termites munching away at the timbers of a house. To see it at all, we have to approach it indirectly.
A colleague of mine who is involved in missionary work says there’s a new fashion in the mission field. Missionaries now are telling potential converts that they can become Christians and still live entirely within the bounds of their culture. It’s a good deal: they get personal salvation, but they don’t have to change their way of life. Missionaries in Muslim countries have found it’s much safer to be a Christian if everybody thinks you’re still a Muslim. In some of those places, it’s a capital offense to convert to Christianity.
So today’s missionaries seek to create an “insider movement”—that is, the new Christians remain “inside” their native culture, whatever it may be. If it were only a matter of personal safety, who would blame them?
But Christ commands us to teach His doctrine and make disciples everywhere (Matthew 28:19-20), to be salt and light to the pagan culture all around us (Matthew 5:13-14)—indeed, to change that culture into a Christian culture by being the one lump of yeast that leavens the whole loaf (Matthew 13:33). Instead, the missionaries teach the new Christians that they can just keep on keeping on: all they have to do is pop into church now and then to get a dose of Christianity.
They get saved. But the culture that’s around them doesn’t.
That’s what the new missionaries learn in seminary.
In other words, the missionaries are handing out the same kind of shy, pietistic, selfish, feeble, limp-wristed, slack-jawed “Christianity” as is being dispensed by all too many of our churches here at home.
What does Jesus say about it?
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name have done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye workers of iniquity.” (Matthew 7:21-23)
And this: “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:36)
Well, see, Lord, if we did those things, people would think we were trying to show them up. They’d think we were peculiar. They’d make fun of us. They might even persecute us. So we’ve found it best not to be conspicuous. We don’t make waves.
It’s only being smart, Lord; that’s all it is. That’s why we send our kids to the same anti-Christian public schools that the unbelievers sent their kids to, and never rock the boat when the teachers tell them that “gender is a spectrum” and the Bible is wrong and full of “homophobia.” That’s why we go out on Election Day and vote for the same ungodly rascals that the pagans vote for. That’s why we watch the same reality TV shows, buy the same Lady Gaga music, go to the same dirty movies, kow-tow to the same atheist scientists, and try to make the new “Christian music” performed in our church sound just the same as the pagan music outside the church.
Lord, you can’t say we’re trying to be invisible—far from it! Don’t we go to church once a week, whether we feel like it or not? And doesn’t our church stick up for illegal aliens, partner with the local Che Guevara Club to run a soup kitchen, and donate copies of The Purpose-Driven Life to our town’s seniors’ center? All those good works have to count for something! What sense would it make for us to call attention to ourselves by homeschooling our kids, insisting that the Bible is the Word of God, or refusing to believe in Evolution? We’d stick out like sore thumbs and not be “inside the culture” anymore.
Yes, Lord, we know we’re supposed to change the culture. Some of us even know that it’s been done before, at much greater risk than any that we face. It was Christians who fought for, and won, the abolition of gladiatorial games and slavery—pleasures which some very mean and powerful people were not eager to give up. But that was all so long ago! You can’t really expect us to change our culture. And besides—what’s wrong with it?
And so it goes. The “insiders” in the Western world inhabit a culture that grows more pagan and less Christian day by day, but it’s no big deal to them—certainly not big enough to move them to stick their necks out. Who would want to change this jolly, pluralistic, loosey-goosey, rock-and-roller culture, anyhow? That’s how you wind up being called the “Christian Taliban” on MSNBC.
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Such is the version of Christianity which our churches export to the world. This is how pagan idols wind up occupying niches in missionary churches in exotic lands.
It might be possible, someday, to eradicate the hard-core paganism from the churches—goddess worship, Buddhist chants, Presbyterians dancing around in animal costumes, etc. The churches that do those things are dying out.
But to get rid of soft-core, get-along-with-the-culture paganism…
For that, we might have to wait for missionaries from Africa or Asia.
© 2011 Lee Duigon - All Rights Reserved
Lee Duigon, a contributing editor with the Chalcedon Foundation, is a former newspaper reporter and editor, small businessman, teacher, and horror novelist. He has been married to his wife, Patricia, for 34 years. See his new fantasy/adventure novels, Bell Mountain and The Cellar Beneath the Cellar, available on www.amazon.com