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IDOLATRY: Money, Family, Sex, Sports, Guns and Power

IDOLATRY: Money, Family, Sex, Sports, Guns and Power

COMMENTARY

By David W. Virtue, DD
www.virtueonline.org
April 9, 2020

If American evangelicals are hoping for a Holy Spirit revival in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic, they will have to face some unpalatable truths about themselves if the Holy Spirit should strike. A virus has come along that has flattened all the curves of success that evangelicals have so cherished.

They will have to admit that they have behaved idolatrously for decades, worshipping the false gods of success including the family, money, sex, sports, guns and power.

MONEY. Americans are raised with the view that money signifies success, power and buying stuff with token amounts given to churches and nonprofit groups to cover their consciences. A tithe is ten percent, but who really gives that from their income. Government Statistics and the Barna Group reveal that poor people give more proportionately than the rich, while rich people give proportionately less.

Only five percent of Americans tithe and 80 percent give only two percent. What does that say about us? Materialism, the worship of stuff is a much bigger sin than most people realize. Materialism is the tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values.

Prosperity preachers have made a mockery of the gospel, but evangelicals are not far behind. Wealth is still considered a sign of God's pleasure on the industrious, He withdraws it from the less industrious.

SEX. Despite their strong pro-family values, evangelical Christians have higher than average divorce rates, according to a report compiled by Baylor for the Council on Contemporary Families. In fact, they are more likely to be divorced than Americans who claim no religion. One out of two marriages go down the drain. Upper income people marry more and divorce less, it is the reverse for lower income families. However, as of 2016, both marriage rates and divorce rates in the US are decreasing. Millennials are living together and putting off marriage. Many of them are evangelicals.

PORN. in his book, "Addicted to Lust: Pornography in the Lives of Conservative Protestants," Samuel L. Perry draws on interviews and survey data to show how the availability of Internet porn is affecting traditional, (read evangelical) religious Christians. Focusing on America's theological conservative Protestant majority, and specifically its pious members, Perry finds that pornography is leading to depression and unhappiness, and it's disrupting marriages and communities.

How are you defining conservative Protestants? They are people who take the Bible very seriously and take the Christian sexual ethic very seriously.

A number of evangelical leaders admit that porn viewing is rampant among evangelical young people. What does that say? "Pornography is a plague much more damaging than any physical virus, even one that kills victims physically. This plague destroys souls," says Michael Voris of Church Militant.

FAMILY. Americans and the western world in general have praised the nuclear family. It is the cornerstone of our civilization. The family first has been upheld and pushed by Christian Leaders for decades. "Honor they father and thy mother" is biblical, but so also is what Jesus said; "Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."

Nowhere do we read that Jesus praised the nuclear family. While preaching in the temple his exasperated parents questioned his absence enroute home. He replied, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

We read nothing about Joseph after this incident, and the last mention of Mary in Acts 1:14 she was in the company of the apostles. So, what are we to make of this? The apostle Paul was not married and so were at least half of the apostles. Paul praised the single life and said those who married had obligations to their wives and families.

In its extreme form, the idolatry of the family leads to the mafia where family is everything and murder and mayhem is used to maintain the family structure. Families come and go. In time we all die. The church continues. It never ceases.

SPORTS. Americans worship players and teams. Evangelicals, (and Americans in general) know more about the personal lives of individual players than they know about Jesus. When a national sports game conflicts with a Sunday service, everybody including the pastor will get through the service fast so everyone can get home in time to huddle around a TV set where more enthusiasm is shown than a "revival" church service. Billions are spent on stadiums and players. Everyone knows that Tom Brady is traded for $50 million! He is adored and worshipped. Does Jesus get the same adoration?

GUNS. Americans' love affair with the almighty dollar is only matched by its love affair with guns. Truth be told it bewilders almost every country on the planet who watch with bewilderment on the nightly news how 100 Americans die every day in domestic violence. I remember sitting in a bar/restaurant in Marrakech, Morocco with my Islamic guide as yet another shooting in America appeared on television. He turned to me and asked, "What is it with Americans and guns? You think we Muslims are crazy. Last year in Morocco we had 11 people die of guns. You had 36,000! You slaughter each other like animals. I thought Christians believed in a Jesus who preached peace on earth!" I had no comeback.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE CULTURE OF CELEBRITY. You think you are not hooked? Think again. More people know more about the Kardashians taking New York than they know about what St. Paul taught about justification by faith. Justin Bieber has 131.8 MILLION followers; many are evangelicals. Jesus couldn't get that many followers if he had his own twitter account. He's not exciting enough. He apparently never sang, that we know of.

How many Christians sit around for two hours and examine a book of the Bible, versus watching a NETFLIX or PRIME movie?

Evangelicals score above average on Scripture and sola fide, but Pew did a survey which included basic questions about religious beliefs and practices; Old and New Testament stories; and religious demographics in the US and globally. Americans answered 14.2 questions right on average (44%), while evangelicals got closer to half, with 15.5 right.

Though evangelicals fared the best on this pair of questions, still fewer than half (35% and 37% respectively) got them right. (The State of Theology survey from Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research has similarly found that a surprising number of evangelicals affirm heretical beliefs or simply do not know where they stand on certain teachings.)

POWER. How many priests and bishops do I know who are more enamored of their power, than the authority of Jesus who eschewed power. Would you turn down an offer to go to the White House even if it does nothing for your career or your ministry? Would it just give you bragging rights? Jesus stood before the powers that be as he faced his death and was silent. When pressed, he still said very little and then went to a cross and died. That's about rejecting power not adoring it.

American evangelicals have been enamored with power ever since Jerry Falwell announced the formation of the Moral Majority. It reached its apogee with the public endorsement of Donald Trump by Franklin Graham, (something his father would never have done.) Evangelicals have given up speaking truth to power. Evangelicals are in bed with Trump and it is heady stuff, an aphrodisiac that many evangelicals cannot resist. Dietrich Bonhoeffer refused to bow to Hitler and lost his life.

God is stripping away all the safety nets that evangelicals cherish and is yelling at us. He is asking who are you really loyal too?

Archbishop Wong of the Province of the Indian Ocean fired a shot across evangelical bows when he wrote, "In three short months, just like He did with the plagues of Egypt, God has taken away everything we worship. God said, "you want to worship athletes, I will shut down the stadiums. You want to worship musicians, I will shut down Civic Centers. You want to worship actors, I will shut down theaters. You want to worship money, I will shut down the economy and collapse the stock market. You don't want to go to church and worship Me, I will make it where you can't go to church."

"If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7.14

END

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