Thursday, June 12, 2008
The Preacher’s Corner
Why are the tabloids in the theology business?
Do you know where the largest volume of theological books and magazines are now sold? You guessed it, at the checkout counters of your friendly discount emporiums — the box stores out on the edge of town. Yes, religion, too, is at a discount these days.
One of the tabloids last week has a headline, prophesying that Jesus will come back on 9/11/08. At least we do not have long to wait. I may be a man of little faith, but having studied a little history, I expect that prophecy will land on the ever-growing pile of “missed dates” for the second coming.
I have a wonderful book that chronicles all the predictions and missed dates that go back almost to the time that our Lord ascended.
As one wag put it, if I were the Lord and somebody actually figured out the date, I would postpone my return for a few days! God’s ways are not our ways, and his thoughts are not our thoughts. When will mankind ever learn?
I wonder why the tabloids want to go into the theology business anyway? It seems like it is quite a stretch for the same people who breathlessly await the next foible of a Lindsay Lohan or a Brittney Spears to tell us about the moral reckoning that is just around the corner. If the tabloids believed what they printed, it seems like their lurid interests would change.
The thing I wonder about all those tabloid prophecies and reports of remarkable archaeological discoveries is why the people who read them (and quote them) do not seem compelled to change their lives in the face of such insurmountable proof that God is real. At least I find no such accounts in their headlines.
I think that these sorts of “miracles” have little effect getting people to straighten up and fly right. After all, the same tabloid will be full of scurrilous gossip about movie stars. If one were truly converted, why would one want to read such salacious stories celebrating immorality and sin? “Miracles” make a lot of headlines, but I find they have little lasting effect on people I know.
Part of me might hope that the tabloid is right, that Jesus would be coming soon. For if that be so, then we need not worry about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and those in prison, for all those situations our Lord described in his parable of the sheep and the goats will soon be remedied.
Who needs to end war if Jesus is coming soon? Let’s just go ahead and let the dictators have their nuclear weapons! All we need to do is believe and be good — and we won’t even have to do that for very long.
I have a friend who bought into this kind of belief while a freshman at Auburn University. He decided that since the Lord would likely come before the semester’s end, studying was unnecessary and so he devoted all his time to witnessing and proclaiming the end.
Needless to say when the semester did end and his grades were mailed home (that was in the era when the university still sent grades home to parents), my friend’s father (a good, sober Presbyterian) was not impressed. The next semester, my friend David found himself at Marion Military Institute, where life was a good deal different than in the fraternity house at Auburn!
The main qualm I have about any sudden return of Jesus in the gospel according to the tabloids, is that is that according to them, most of the world is going to a warmer clime --- permanently. Oh yes, those of us who claim Jesus will be saved — but we shall be a minority — a tiny minority, in fact.
For by these lights, many if not most of those in our churches are imposters. You would think that the God who created the universe and was able to send His Son to die for the sins of earth would be able to do a better job at persuading people. It is a crying shame to think that God went to so much trouble and still most of the earth is to be consigned to perdition.
Surfing the Internet, I discovered a new Presbyterian denomination. There are already five or six Presbyterian denominations, so that our initials already make quite an “alphabet soup.” But this new denomination is made up of only three churches. One is in Wisconsin, one in Florida, one in the Dutch West Indies. There are three ministers and each church has one lay elder.
When they have their General Assembly, if everybody makes it to the meeting, there are just six people participating. There is a fourth congregation seeking to realign into this new denomination. This little group says they are open to working with others, but they haven’t found many who believe just as they do.
My point is this: that if we allow tabloids and the Internet to teach us about religion, we will get exactly the morality the tabloids embrace. Articles predicting the sudden return of Jesus are exciting to be sure, but what if they give us an excuse to do the things that Jesus says? One preacher I respect says that we spend a lot of time preaching Jesus, but not very much preaching what Jesus preached. Even if He comes back tomorrow, He is going to expect to find us caring for the poor, ministering to the oppressed, sharing out of our wealth with those who have little, and doing all those things that would make heaven and earth seem one.
I say this because those tabloids sell lots of papers. Jesus said that “No one knows the day nor the hour.” But what He wants us to do in the meantime, I think He has made pretty clear.
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