The other night we were being entertained by some late-night infomercial tv. First, there was the offer to buy some videos that could show you how to make more money in a day selling stuff on ebay than most people make in a month. (Yeah, right - read the fine print: "Results not typical...") Then there was the infomercial on the Swedish foam rubber mattress. (Well, better than the ebay thing. At least I've seen the ads in U.S. News & World Report, but I'm not currently in the market for a new mattress, and it wouldn't hurt to check out Consumer Reports on that one, either.) Then there was the infomercial posing as an interview to plug an author's book.
But it wasn't just any author; he was a well-known evangelical Christian author, and he would probably be recognized by most evangelical Christians in the States. He was plugging a book and series of videos that purported to help people find meaning in life - just follow the simple steps that he discloses. All you have to do is call the number on the screen and order the set - only 3 easy payments of $X each. But wait! If you call within the next Y minutes, he will cancel one of those payments! Such a deal! How on earth did we ever survive without the insights divulged in this wonderful offer?
If you spend any amount of time in your average Christian bookstore, you will wonder how the Church has managed to survive 2000 years without the benefit of the cumulative wisdom and insight of 20th/21st century Christianity. We've got everything boiled down to a step-by-step approach to the problems of life, which evidently revolve mainly around the individual's personal happiness and fulfillment. And God is not only eager but anxiously waiting to help everyone (Christians and non-Christians alike, I guess) develop their full potential and thereby lead healthy, happy, productive lives.
At least that's the impression that I get from Christian bookstores - and definitely the main message in the Christian infomercial. The author mentioned God from time to time, but not once in the course of the 30-minute "interview" did I hear him mention the name of Jesus Christ. Not once did he mention the possibility that sin might be a bit bigger problem than failure to live up to one's potential. Not once did he ask the question, "What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" (Mark 8:36) I suppose some will argue that Christians already know this, so it would be superfluous to cover that angle.
Two problems with that attitude:
1. What about an unbeliever who would be watching the infomercial? He wouldn't necessarily be expected to have heard it before, and after watching, he would remain in his ignorance.
2. Are you certain that it is superfluous to remind Christians that there are far more pressing issues than personal fulfillment?
The Christian media tell me otherwise. They tell me that most Christians are so earthly-minded that they're no heavenly good. Christian diet books, romance novels, and apocalyptic thrillers sell far better than books on theology and doctrine. You're more likely to hear a radio program about "how to improve your marriage" or "how to get along with your coworkers" than one that offers solid exposition of a Biblical passage. You're more likely to hear songs about how happy God makes me than ones that glorify God.
I tremble when I think of the current state of the Church...