How do you like your spirituality these days?
A large portion of Christianity for tradition’s sake?
A slice of New Age thinking to spice it up a bit?
And for desert, an occult experience or two to finish off the meal?
A just released Pew Research survey indicates that this “cafeteria” style approach to religion is all the rage in our society today.
The religious beliefs and practices of Americans do not fit neatly into conventional categories. A new poll by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that large numbers of Americans engage in multiple religious practices, mixing elements of diverse traditions. Many say they attend worship services of more than one faith or denomination — even when they are not traveling or going to special events like weddings and funerals. Many also blend Christianity with Eastern or New Age beliefs such as reincarnation, astrology and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects. And sizeable minorities of all major U.S. religious groups say they have experienced supernatural phenomena, such as being in touch with the dead or with ghosts.
The Pew survey certainly confirms what I have experienced both as a radio talk show host and as a pastor.
I have been shocked to hear people who self identify as born again, evangelical, Bible believing Christians excitedly share the amazing insights they received at Madame Lasagna’s Fortune Telling and Guaranteed Winning Lotto Number Emporium.
(Just an aside, but if these people were really in touch with the supernatural, why would they have to ask for our name and credit card information when the session begins? If they really were clairvoyant, couldn’t they just ask the spirits for that info? But I digress..)
I have also seen people equally shocked when I have shared that according to Jesus, all religious rivers don’t flow to that one great ocean which is God.
The root cause of this phenomenon is pretty is easy to spot.
We live in a culture where we believe that man is the measure of all things. If something feels right and good to us then we go with it.
Want truth? Ask the man in your heart for the answer.
After all, who are we to say our way is right and others are wrong? These days, that kind of “narrow-mindedness” is considered as big a social blunder as slurping your soup or belching at the dinner table.
And if God hasn’t spoken to us, then your view, my view, the view of the guy who worships citrus fruit are all equally valid.
But consider a radical thought – What if God has spoken to us?
Wouldn’t it make sense to ask the Creator the purpose behind His creation?
Wouldn’t it make sense to ask the One Who lives forever what lies beyond the grave?
If God has in fact spoken to us in Jesus Christ, then we should run, not walk to our nearest Bible!
Interestingly, those who have come to grips with this challenge find themselves a lot less likely to buy into “Cafeteria Christianity.
The Pew Research people identified this trend in a remarkable way.
Compared with other religious traditions, white evangelical Protestants consistently express lower levels of acceptance of both Eastern beliefs (reincarnation, yoga) and New Age beliefs (spiritual energy in physical things and astrology). For example, roughly one-in-ten white evangelicals believes in reincarnation, compared with 24% among mainline Protestants, 25% among both white Catholics and those unaffiliated with any religion, and 29% among black Protestants. Similarly, 13% of white evangelicals believe in astrology, compared with roughly one-quarter or more among other religious traditions. There are few differences among religious traditions in belief in the “evil eye,” though black Protestants stand out for high levels of belief on this question (32%).
Among Protestants, high levels of religious commitment are associated with lower levels of acceptance of Eastern or New Age beliefs. Among both evangelical and mainline Protestants, those who attend church weekly express much lower levels of belief in reincarnation, yoga, the existence of spiritual energy in physical things and astrology compared with those who attend religious services less often. Among Catholics, by contrast, frequency of church attendance is linked much less closely with these kinds of beliefs, although those who attend less often do express higher levels of belief in astrology compared with weekly attenders.
Did you catch the trend?
The more committed to Christ one is, the less likely a person is to buy into bizarre and bogus beliefs.
And catch this as well.
The more one’s commitment to Christ is manifested in regular involvement in fellowship with other Bible believing Christians, the less likely we are to wander off on a spiritual rabbit trail.
The cure for “Cafeteria Christianity” is pretty clear.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23-25)
Can you be a solid, Bible believing Christian and not be in regular fellowship?
I suppose it is possible.
But like the old proverb, “He who represents himself in court has a fool for an attorney”, we might also say, “He who sits under only his own Bible teaching has a fool for a pastor.”
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