Monday, December 15, 2008

God-free Religion to Go

After much research, hard work, trial and error, and after consulting (and paying; they don't come cheap) a plethora of social science consultants, we have finally achieved our goal. The stakeholders are pleased; our market share is rising; our popularity is going through the roof. We have reached the ultimate reinvention.

We have made religion God-free--and in the name of God!

Our forms are fabulous, enticing the eyes, tickling the ears, tugging at the heart, drawing in the designer demographic. The choreography is cogent, spectacular, impressive. Our numbers are up, the complaints are down; our path is wide, our message inviting and inclusive.

We have put God on a leash. It is a powerful image: God for us, in our way. We celebrate the love of God without a nasty cross; the power of God without judgment and narrowness; the presence of God without any censorious legalism on his part. O God, we are free of God!

We have a Bible. Oh, we all believe it, or at least salute it at some point in the service. We don't expect you to bring your own, of course. We've moved beyond the book to the screen. We supply the multicolored, ever-moving screens. There a few positive, uplifting texts there, too--at least when it fits the mood we create. We do not mention Psalms of lament or, God help us, Ecclesiastes or Job. These do not speak to busy, postmodern people, you see. Our consultants told us so.

We have no power to heal the sick, or raise the dead, or cast out demons, or call people to repentance or to worship God in abject humility and desperation. Why should we? Who does that any more? It does not fit our postmodern context; it just is not relevant. Besides, it would reduce the numbers. The giving units would shrink. How could we afford our mortgage? When people get sick and die, we try to move on. We turn mourning into laughter as soon as possible.

Gold and silver we have plenty. In the name of our designer God, be happy! Be successful! Don't be negative. God believes in you! God bless us all!

We have a new, better, form of godliness. We have the lights, the cameras, the action. Our seats are comfortable; our platform people are pretty. Nothing is out of line: no hair uncombed, no moment unscripted, no unscheduled episodes. There are no interruptions. We even have an emergency generator. There will be no power failures here.

We have no dead air. We are busy with our program. We are efficient. We give door prizes and smile.

We have reinvented God, our designer God. Surely God is pleased. We use him in so many ways.

We have reinvented communion. Do it your way, in your timing, as you see fit. No old words and stuffy invocations and recitations. Whatever it means to you, it is. And we do it once in while, when our program schedule allow for it.

We have made religion free of God, that old God that failed. And we blink and twitch.

(Yet the remnant of true God-seekers remains.)


vanilla said...

Unfortunately, your article is 'spot on.'
God help us.


Adel Thalos said...

Sadly, you have hit the nail on the head.

Thank you,

Jeremy said...

It sounds like your ready to have "Your Best Life Now."

Gem said...

For a Blog labeled "constructive", you sound awful cynical!

On his blog, Mart DeHaan (of Radio Bible Class) takes a more constructive approach to this, IMO:
growing controversy about “a new way of doing church.”

Anonymous said...

This post is hard-hitting and highly significant. It is too common for time, effort and money to be spent primarily on seeking relevance and popularity. The desire to remain faithful to God has tragically faded.

Yossman said...

This post has been translated into Dutch and will be posted on a Christians News site. If you have a problem with that, I will contact translator and publisher (yossman at

Andrew Hay said...

Do we 'take' communion or 'receive' communion? I think the language here is significant.

Great post.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

Yes, receiving communion is the proper wording, Andrew. In the Anglican Church, you walk forward and hold out both hands to receive the bread (body). The pastors puts it in your hand says, "This is the Body of Christ, broken for you" (or something very similar). It is deeply meaningful.

I am told by pastors that some people will pluck the bread out of his hand, "taking" it. It is hard to learn how to receive from God, since we are so active and hyperactive, doing things. But grace comes from God's side; we receive, eat, drink, enter into eternal life by the grace of Another...

Lin said...

I sent this post to many friends who are experiencing the same thoughts. I sometimes despair over it and pray for a church of serious folks who have joy and an insatiable hunger to study the Word...even the parts many do not like.

We have dumbed down God to the point that many cannot accept Him in all His attributes. You said it here:

We have put God on a leash. It is a powerful image: God for us, in our way. We celebrate the love of God without a nasty cross; the power of God without judgment and narrowness; the presence of God without any censorious legalism on his part.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

The DeHann post--on the emerging church--is rather superficial and too general. He doesn't deal with specific ideas or teachers: Brian McLaren and Rob Bell (who both endorse New Age writer, Ken Wilber), Doug Pagitt (who endorses yoga), and so on.

My post was meant as a broadside against many churches and traditions, not primarily the "emerging church."