Over the past few months, I’ve had the pleasure of standing out in the yard on two occasions and talking to gentlemen who were running for office in my town of Jackon, Georgia. Both men were running for the same position and both men basically said the same thing.
“My opponent is just a few steps below the AntiChrist but a vote for me will ensure unparalleled hapiness for you, your children, their children and possibly their pets.”
In both conversations, it was very interesting to see how the candidate reacted upon finding out that I am a pastor.
“Oh, that’s great. I grew up in church.”
“Oh, that’s great. My wife is real religious.”
“Oh, that’s great. Hooray for church!”
In the part of the world where I live, being a Christian is still acceptable. Here, Christians don’t get hung on crosses. Here, Christian pastors aren’t hunted down by angry mobs. No, here claiming to be a Christian just might help you get elected. It’s still pretty easy to be a Christian in the Bible belt.
But despite the minimal threat of persecution in this country, can we honestly say that legitimate Christianity is thriving here? If we judge by the level of commitment professing Christians have to the body for which Jesus died, we have to say no.
A person who claims to really love Jesus once told me that it was just too hard to go to church when Charles Stanley was on TV at home. No offense to Dr. Stanley but I’m sure that the author of Hebrews wasn’t thinking about sitting at home in your pajamas and watching a preacher on TV when he told his readers to “stir up one another to love and good works” and to not neglect to “meet together” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Even worse is the excuse given by those who love the outdoors. “I can experience God just as good (insert “in a deer stand” or “on my mountain bike” or “at the lake”) as I can at church. But since when is “experiencing God” more important than commitment to the body of Christ (Galatains 6:2; James 5:13-20; Acts 4:32-37)? The idea of communing with God in nature instead of in his word and with his people sounds a lot more like Wicca than it does New Testament Christianity. But then again, maybe the deer hunter, fisherman or mountain biker who consistently neglects the body of Christ really is communing with his god after all.
And of course we can’t forget the Facebook Christian. For the Facebook Christain, when Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me” what he really meant was, “Hit like on that picture of me hugging a New York City fireman and try to throw a Bible verse in your status every now and then but don’t bother being committed to the people I loved enough to die for.”
At the time of this writing, Americans still enjoy freedom of speech and freedom of religion. But recent events are showing us that the days for those freedoms are numbered. If our faith, in spite of how much we claim to love Jesus, doesn’t produce anything more than a few religious pictures on Facebook or some quality time with the squirrels we should question that faith. But there’s also another question to consider. If I can’t follow Jesus in a culture where Christianity is still relatively accepted, why would I follow him when the culture becomes hostile to Christianity? To put it another way, if I don’t really love Jesus when doing so could get me elected, I’m probably not going to love him when doing so could get me crucified.
Come to think of it, maybe it’s not so easy to be a Christian in the Bible belt after all.