Consider this incredible quote I found attributed to the Venerable Fulton J. Sheen:
“Most people today want a religion which suits the way they live, rather than one that makes demands upon them. Religion thus becomes a luxury like an opera, not a responsibility like life.”
Don’t these words sum up what is wrong with Christianity today, particularly in the United States? It’s been noted that most “mega churches” today are located in affluent suburbs. I know firsthand that for many of these folks, the idea of faith is just a nice thing to have around. Like most material gain, the novelty eventually wears off and that’s about the end of it.
Perhaps I’m being bitter and negative, but I prefer the term “disillusioned.” Imagine what Joel Osteen’s fans would do if he suddenly reverted to some semblance of orthodox Christianity and denounced contraceptive use. Or abortion. Or serial marriage. The place would be a ghost town. Too much sacrifice. Not enough fun. Not enough luxury. And very, very sad.
I really don’t get this kind of faith. Christ came to earth, declared Himself to be God and gave very simple terms: eternal life in exchange for our entire being. Our whole heart, our whole mind, our whole soul. It took me a very long time to accept his offer because I knew that everything about my life would have to change – everything! Though I sin like any other person (oh, do I), indeed nothing about my life resembles the life I used to live. The ship changed direction. Certain dreams had to be revised. Certain relationships were altered. Some of it has been very unfun. Very unluxurious. Blessed and grace-filled times, but very hard.
Here’s what puzzles me – who on earth would bother with Christianity unless they were really “sold out” for Christ (to borrow a term from my Evangelical youth group days)? What exactly is the point? To feel good about life? To be emotionally stimulated during five worship songs every Sunday? Atheist me would have rather stayed home. Venerable Fulton Sheen’s seemingly pessimistic quote about “luxurious” Christianity is sadly correct. Religion is becoming a first-world luxury. Its what all the put-together people are wearing.
I’ll never forget the scary period of my life when I considered “quitting” my faith. I was a faithful Protestant and hit a massive road block in my faith that I couldn’t reconcile. Somebody asked me, “Why do you care so much about being right?” That person didn’t understand that I wasn’t trying to be right – I was trying to be faithful. If I didn’t care to be faithful, then to hell with it all. Self-styled religion is a waste of my time. Call me a pessimist, but I’m with Venerable Fulton Sheen on this one.