Catchphrase Christianity: A Troubling Trend
by Lenny Esposito
This morning, a friend and I met to catch up at Starbucks. While we were talking a lady sat down at the table next to ours and was reading The Shack by William P. Young. Having read snippets myself as well as many reviews (one of the more balanced and substantive may be found here), I was interested in understanding how she was processing the story.
The lady told me she is enjoying the book and liked how it “focused on relationship. It doesn’t over-complicate our approach to God and make it all about religion. I think that people try to make things too hard, when it’s all about relationship. Just like any other relationship, it depends on how you view the other person; if you spend time with them. Religion is about all those things you have to do, the stuff you have to obey.”
Now, this may sound pretty traditionally Christian, but I had a couple of red flags go up in that statement. Upon asking further, I found out she attends a “pretty laid back church”, more contemporary than its denominational roots. She also said that the church was taking a purpose-driven model in its approach. None of that is a concern in and of itself. I know that there can be really strong churches that are purpose driven. However, it seemed that all I was getting in my conversation with her were these 21st century Christian catchphrases. So I wanted to dig a little deeper and see if she understood any of this.
“So, how do you understand what Christianity is?” I asked.
“Well, it’s like I said at the beginning. It’s about having a relationship. Like in this book where the character of the Holy Spirit says ‘It seems you view your life as a pyramid with God at the top. I don’t want to be at the top of the pyramid, I want to be in the center. I don’t want you to focus on Me one or two days out of the week, then have all your other things, I want to be in the center of everything you do.’ So, it’s a relationship where God it a part of everything, not just a side thing.”
I pressed again, “But WHY do you need a relationship? Why is that important?”
“Well,” she answered “I… I… I’m really not good at explaining things like this.”
And that was my sneaking suspicion. You see, in all the talk of closeness and relationship, there was no mention of sin or a fallen nature. She didn’t have a concept of someone who has been rescued from a destiny of judgment…
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