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[TBC: Here is a valid critique from a conservative (not Christian) publication. The evangelical writer offers a pertinent analysis and rebuke of decades of evangelical activism and social gospel marketing.]

 From The Berean Call

EVANGELICALS’ COLLAPSING CULTURAL INFLUENCE [Excerpts]

On a day when many evangelicals are perhaps flexing their political muscles in the aftermath of their decisive votes in Alabama and Mississippi, it’s worth pondering whether evangelicals’ actual cultural (rather than political) influence is waxing or waning. I came across insightful and disturbing discussions by Yuval Levin and Ross Douthat. Surveying the devastating decline in marriage and other critical social markers in the working class, [political analyst and academic] Levin notes the failure of social conservatism outside the political sphere:

“In our time, American social conservatism has much to be proud of as a movement for justice: Social conservatives devote themselves to the pro-life cause, to human rights, and to the plight of the poor abroad. But American social conservatism has almost entirely lost interest in the cause of order — in standing up for clean living, for self-discipline and restraint, for resisting temptation and meeting basic responsibilities. The institutions of American Christianity — some of which would actually stand a chance of being taken seriously by the emerging lower class — are falling down on the job, as their attention is directed to more exciting causes, in no small part because the welfare state has overtaken some of their key social functions.”

 As a lifelong evangelical, let me add my whole-hearted agreement. During my years in the pews, I’ve witnessed a moral collapse — and a corresponding collapse in positive influence over the real lives not just of our fellow congregants but also of our fellow citizens in need. Of course it’s difficult to present a compelling witness when our own practices and lifestyle are often indistinguishable from the larger culture, but the problems get more specific. Here are three:

1. We are more focused on meeting the material needs of the poor than their spiritual needs. Spend much time in the evangelical community, and you’ll soon learn that the old-fashioned Gospel-focused mission trip is largely a thing of the past. Now, you go build schools. Now, you go dig water wells. Now, you repair houses. These are worthy goals, all, but service projects by themselves don’t change hearts and minds, they often make (frequently) self-inflicted misery more bearable. Service must be accompanied by intentional, vocal evangelism and discipling.

2. We go on sinning so that grace may abound. The secular stereotype of the modern evangelical — as a judgmental moralizer — is so wrong as to be laughable. Everywhere you go, preachers reject this model entirely, emphasizing, for example, “divorce recovery,” therapy, and treatment for the consequences of sin. Again, these are worthy things, but Christ and the Apostle Paul also emphasized holiness and discipline. How often has your church actually disciplined adulterers? How often have you intervened in the life of a friend before they made devastating mistakes? Our desire to be liked trumps all, and suffering is the result.

3. We church-shop, seeking to meet our needs rather than serving the church. Church-switching is pernicious. Not only does the church “market” breed selfishness, it also makes pastors market-oriented. As you survey church after church, each doing things their own way, ask yourself, which of these church institutions will still be present and viable in 50 years? Or 100 years? Or 1,000?

 I once heard it said that following the social and political disruptions of the 1960s and early 1970s, religious conservatives decided that they had to win elections, while secular leftists decided to win the culture — and both groups succeeded. So now here we are, enjoying unprecedented influence on presidential outcomes even as our cultural foundation rots away beneath our feet. Not even the best presidential candidate will fix the family, nor will our most generous service project save a soul.

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/293457/evangelicals-collapsing-cultural-influence-david-french

My emphasis in Bold.

kim

 

This article is from:

Authentic Spirituality

 Here is the blog address and you really should go this blog and read the comments.

http://freebelievers.com/blog-entry/authentic-spirituality

First of all, I’d like to say that I consider myself to be a “Charismatic Christian.” By that, I mean to say that I share an excitement about God that is not always visibly evident in some of the more traditional denominations. I also share the belief that the Holy Spirit is alive and moving as much today as in the New Testament. Most of my writings specifically address the Christian mindset from the perspective of Charismatic-Pentecostal because that is the background from which I come. I say that because I want to make clear that when I “call stuff out,” I am not critically standing on the outside looking in, but I am living very much on the inside. The fire with which I address certain subjects, however, does not come from my loyalty and love for a set of beliefs or a particular sect, but from a sincere love for individuals who many times are trampled to death by those beliefs.

With that in mind, I would like to address something that has bothered me all my life, but have never put into words until now. I believe that this little issue has taken its toll on thousands of genuine and honest God-seekers, and has left them feeling as though they are completely missing God. It’s time to expose one of the church’s greatest and best-kept secrets. Exposing this could set Charismatic Christianity back a thousand years. I’m about to blow a cover off this religion in a way I’ve never seen done before, so buckle your seatbelts.

My 8th grade science teacher pinned up one of those psychedelic mind-bending posters that supposedly had a picture within a picture that you could psychologically see inside, if you stared long enough and allowed your eyes to go out of focus. Those things never worked for me. I could stare for hours and I never saw anything but a bunch of squiggly lines and shapes. Supposedly this particular poster had moving dinosaurs in it. At least that’s what the first kid claimed to see as he let out a, “Wooooee, dude, I tooootally see it!” I got up close and looked till my head hurt but I still couldn’t see what he was talking about. Sure enough, one by one, people started to see the moving dinosaurs. Everyone was laughing and talking about it. There was energy and excitement as people coahed friends on how to look in just the right way to “experience” it with them. One by one you could hear people getting a “break-through” as they would finally se what everyone else was seeing. I felt ignorant, because all I saw were stupid, squiggly lines.

I quit trying about half-way through the year. I got to the point where I just ignored the poster when I came to class. Truthfully, I resented the fact that he put it up there in the first place. It was a science class. Why hang a poster with hidden dinosaurs? It didn’t make sense to me, and I found it to be a source of irritation every time another two or three people exclaimed, “I see it, I see it!!!!” I even considered lying to everyone at one point because it was only me and perhaps two other kids who were on the outs, and neither of them had a cool bone in their body.

By the end of the school year, it appeared that the majority of the school had experienced the dinosaurs and I still couldn’t see them. How embarrassing. My embarrassment was short-lived, however, because on the last day of school, the cocky old science teacher stood before the class and revealed to everyone that there were no dinosaurs in the picture. IT WAS A HOAX! He wanted to illustrate how peer pressure can easily sway others. It was amazing to see different people become angry and defensive and swear up and down that they saw moving dinosaurs. I believe those kids could have taken a lie-detector test and passed with flying colors. They fully believed that they saw dinosaurs moving!

Time and again, I have sat with sincere people who feel like they must be missing something in the God department. They tell me that they don’t understand why God hasn’t moved on them the way He has with their friends and Church mates. They are plagued with a nagging sense that they are always a few miles behind the rest of the group and regardless of how hard they try; they can’t seem to catch up. Every time there’s another testimony about God moving in someone’s life, they are reminded that they can’t hear His voice like everyone else and don’t feel the same spiritual ecstasy that their Christian counterparts continually describe and claim to have received.

Over and over, I hear people talking about “Peace that surpasses understanding” and “joy unspeakable,” as though it’s an orgasmic state of mind that truly spiritual people achieve after encountering God in a personal way. I can recall being in Bible college, watching my classmates weep and wail while lying on the floor during the worship service as though the Holy Spirit had completely taken control. They would talk about receiving a touch from God that instantly changed everything. Some couldn’t remain upright during the service because the ‘power of God was all over them.’ All the while, I felt like I did in my 8th grade class when I couldn’t see the moving dinosaurs. What am I missing here? Why doesn’t God do that to me during praise and worship? When am I going to receive a touch like that? How come I can’t hear His voice so easily? Why do I still struggle with depression? What’s wrong with me?

It began to unravel when a popular evangelist came to our Bible college. This guy was known for laying hands on people and having them “fall out” in the spirit. I was excited to receive this and nervous that I wouldn’t. After a short sermon on the power of God, this gentleman instructed us to line up side by side. He would then walk from person to person, laying hands on each one. Sure enough, they were dropping like flies. Everyone he touched turned to Jell-O and hit the floor under the power of God. I was praying a million miles a minute as he drew closer. Finally, I felt his hand on my forehead and I stood there waiting to be launched into the supernatural. I waited and waited but nothing happened. He kept praying for me but I wasn’t going down. Then he started saying things like, “Just receive it, brother,” and “Don’t hold back from God.” At that moment, I felt the eyes of everyone in the class upon me and I knew somehow it was my fault that I wasn’t receiving “the power of God.” Guess what I did. . . . I fell.

When we were in the parking lot and walking to our cars, my classmates were praising God and leaping for joy because of the incredible move of the Holy Spirit that they had just witnessed. People were talking about how awesome God was and how wonderful it was to receive a touch of His power, but I continued walking with my head down, saying, “I will never, ever do that again!” Someone asked me what it was I’d never do again and I said, “I fell on purpose.” To my amazement, every person there admitted that they had purposely fallen, as well.

I say all that to say this: For the better part of my ministry, I have attempted to take things that people say about God that are terrible and wrong and correct them. I have kept myself busy for the past ten years in an attempt to correct all the troubling misconceptions taught by the Church regarding the heart of God. Recently, however, I felt like I came to the conclusion of those bad things. I couldn’t find anything to address because I had pretty much covered it all. Then I felt the Lord strongly impress upon me that He would reveal that even all the good things said about Him are not true.

Our concept of “living in victory” has been embellished and exaggerated from generation to generation, to a point where we wouldn’t recognize the real thing if it jumped up and bit us on the nose. People talk about “freedom” as though it were a state of spiritual nirvana where nothing goes wrong and everything is blissfully perfect. I believe that in the Charismatic movement, there are thousands of people chasing dinosaurs in an effort to appear like they’re getting it when in fact, they have no real idea of what “IT” is.

I’m amazed when I hear testimonies of people in those Churches. It reminds me of “Reality Television.” The problem with “Reality Television” is that there is nothing real about it.

The editor reveals what he chooses by cutting and pasting bits and pieces. He omits certain parts and highlights others in an effort to create exactly what he’s looking for. This is what I see in modern-day Christian testimonies. They remind me of a 30-minute scripted sit-com where everything miraculously comes together in the end. The middle part that is raw and real is always mysteriously omitted so that the listener only sees the rags-to-riches part of what God did in a person’s life. “I once was lost, but now I’m found.” Nothing in the middle. That’s it. Overnight, everything changed and now there are no more struggles and strife in the Christian life, only continual happiness and fulfillment.

I think we do this because deep in our hearts we’re trying to sell Jesus to the public. We attempt to make Him out to be more than He is in an effort to spark interest. We present “life with Jesus” as though it’s a continuous mountain-top experience that comes with batteries included and a life-time guarantee. If this isn’t your personal experience with Him, something is wrong with your spirituality. Sadly, the result of this pattern of exaggeration is that people chase a carrot that is always just out of reach and then become depressed and disillusioned.

Let me be the first to say that the reason you can’t find the peace and joy and freedom that you’ve heard about is because it doesn’t exist. At least not in the way it’s been presented. The Christian life as advertised to you is a lie! The promises and claims that were made to you about Jesus were nothing but a list of sales tactics to close the deal. After all, who would reject eternal happiness and contentment? Who in their right mind would walk away from a Jesus who could make all their problems go away overnight? Who would say no to instantaneous freedom and victory? Especially when it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3. Rattle off a quick sinner’s prayer and you’re on your way to a life of constant adventure and roller-coaster spirituality.

I think there is something to be said for the way Jesus presented Himself 2000 years ago. He rode into the city on the back of an ass. Now that resonates with my life! I get this real and raw picture in my mind, “Life on an Ass,” and it rings true. Maybe it’s not a popular concept with the Christian world, but the fact is, life is humdrum. There are “up” days and there are “down.” There are times of purpose and times of purposelessness. There are extended times when there is clear direction and you know where you’re going and then there are times when you just sit and stare at the walls and go nowhere. Life with Jesus is not filled with a continuous vibration of exhilaration and adventure. Scripture never promised that to us.

I believe that until we are given permission to accept and embrace our humanity, we will be unable to possess values such as peace and contentment. Present-day Christianity seems to be about denying and even detesting our humanity and all in the Name of Jesus. We want nothing to do with out human-ness. It’s as though people present the Christian life as a rejection of the physical realm and an adoption of all that is spiritual. You’d think that some of us are embarrassed to have arms and legs because we think we’re supposed to float from here to there through the power of God. Anything physical or human is considered ugly by today’s Charismatic standards. The phrase, “In the flesh” has been coined in an effort to shame and silence anyone who might dare to be normal and live with both feet on the ground. If God was against living in the flesh, He wouldn’t have created flesh and inserted our spirits into it.

I believe that true spirituality is more physical than spiritual. In other words, it’s NORMAL. Today’s perception of true spirituality is equated with someone no one can relate to. I think it’s something else entirely. If a person is truly in touch with their spiritual side, they will connect and become relatable to everyone. They’ll embrace their flesh and be content with who they are while, at the same time, accepting it in others. Peace and contentment is not a point in life where you no longer experience pain and discomfort. It’s the point when you understand that you will experience pain and discomfort in this life and when you do, you know He is with you and nothing’s wrong. Many perceive any form of depression as evidence that God is not present or we are not receiving what we should from Him. I disagree. Being spiritual, in my opinion, is when an individual embraces every facet of their humanity with no apologies, knowing well that their shortcomings are not evidence of God’s absence but rather, evidence of life. True spirituality comes when we understand that in the midst of living, He will never leave us.

I am convinced that an authentic Christian life looks nothing like what most Charismatic churches promote. The picture they paint is not only unattainable but it’s impossible. I no longer believe the majority of the testimonies I hear. They’ve been edited to fit a story-line that’s proven to be a crowd-pleaser and a bestseller. Rarely does anyone merely provide an accurate account of their life because to do so would be flat-out boring. We don’t want a day-to-day Jesus; we want Super Jesus!

Additionally, I don’t believe all the hype that comes out of Florida. I’m telling you right now that all the people who profess to have experienced “the fire” in Florida are nothing but a bunch of self-conscious teens claiming to have seen the moving dinosaurs on a poster in science class. When asked to produce a shred of verifiable evidence of healings and miracles, the ring-leaders in Florida have come up empty-handed. Everything you are hearing about that “outpouring” is nothing but exaggerated rumors from people who desperately want to appear as if they got it too.

Matthew 24:24
“For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time. “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.”

These rumors are spread by those who sincerely want to believe that something’s happening somewhere because when they look at their own “humdrum” life, they are filled with guilt and condemnation for not measuring up to the embellished testimonies and exagerated claimes they’ve grown up hearing in the Church.

Yes, I believe that God heals and yes, I believe the Holy Spirit is alive and well. I believe in the gifts of the Spirit and I believe that God is actively speaking to His people. I consider myself to be Charismatic to the bone, but I don’t believe for one moment that these manifestations occur in the manner that we claim. The sooner we release the modern-day Christian fantasies about true spirituality and embrace normalcy, the better we’ll be.

You might be surprised to find that what you have been seeking; you already have.

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