Disposable Faith

Faith isn't like the buffet at Golden Corral - you can't take what you like & leave the Brussel sprouts.

Just saw an ad from a local “church”. They’re having in a psychic who speaks to the dead. So I guess you can talk to your former husband or relative, and for the low price of only $50 a person! The amazing thing is that, even though the Bible warns against this kind of stuff as evil, many people who consider themselves Christians will attend.

At best, they’ll be conned. At worst, they may receive personal advice from demons.

A little religion is a dangerous thing. Too bad you can’t sue for spiritual malpractice…

When I was a jail chaplain, there were several inmates who claimed to convert to Islam during their incarceration. They would send a request to my office for a Qu’ran, which I was required by law to send them.

However, there was one big problem – we rarely had any of those Muslim holy books. Why? Because all of our books were donated. The jail was not allowed to spend money on religious materials.

So every time I received a request for a Bible, it was filled quickly thanks to the many area churches who donated boxes and boxes of Bibles.

But copies of the Qu’ran? Hardly any. Why? The answer I was told was that most Muslims believed a good Muslim wouldn’t have wound up in jail in the first place. And they were not seriously concerned with getting inmates to convert. It seems they didn’t want any “riff raff” muddying up their religion.

One major reason we found they wanted to convert was in hopes of receiving different meals from the other inmates. Muslims have very strict dietary rules, much like kosher food. The regular jail meals were not so great, so inmates thought they’d get higher quality food if they suddenly became Muslims.

Since these meals cost extra, the jail asked for a way of determining which requests were sincere. Our office had a basic questionnaire that asked some basics about Islam. Usually, inmates had trouble answering even the most basic questions about this faith that was so important to them.

I see many people today on the same religious level as my friends in jail were about their Muslim faith. They claim to believe in God…or Jesus…or Buddha, but have little idea what those beliefs are. To them, they are just a concept they’ve latched onto, much in the same way we’d by one dishwashing detergent because of the nicer graphic in its packaging.

But when it comes to what’s on the inside, too often we don’t have a clue.

For example, those Muslim converts in jail don’t seem to realize that the grace they always depended on in Christianity for a second chance is not a given in their new religion. Islam is very much a religion where you “pay as you go”, and are expected to earn your way to heaven.

That’s why some followers see martyrdom so positively: it is their only guarantee of overcoming their sins and making it to heaven. Without that sacrifice, they really have no way of knowing which direction they’ll be heading when they die.

It’s just as confusing for my trendy Buddhist friends. So much pop psychology is linked to Buddhist ideas that it has become the default religion for hip pseudo-intellectuals. They pick up on one idea like meditation and “mindfulness” and say, “That sounds cool. Guess I’ll be Buddhist now”.

What they don’t realize is that the meditation is only one small aspect of a discipline which also frowns on owning property, encourages transiency and begging for food, and has for its big pay-off Nirvana (nothingness) where your personality is lost and dissolved into the universe.

However, these faux Muslims and Buddhists are no worse than the faux-Christians I grew up with in the south. Everybody believed in Jesus there, but not many people followed Him to the cross of self-sacrifice and holiness which He required. We just took the label of Christian and bought a few bumper stickers and a Bible, and figured we were good to go.

Funny thing, when things got rough in jail, my Muslim inmate friends discovered all their new god had to say was, “Suck it up, buttercup”. My Buddhist friends eventually discover you can’t meditate cancer away, and you’ll eventually be faced with what comes after death.

Also, many of my friends who grew up faux-Christians are so close to the answer they need. However, their strain of Christianity is so weak, it can never have the power to help them. It’s only when you commit fully that you discover the joy, peace and hope Jesus promised.

Faith isn’t like the buffet at Golden Corral – you can’t take what you like & leave the Brussel sprouts.

Without commitment to God’s full calling, we’re just left with a weak strain of the virus of faith. Just enough to inoculate us from ever catching the real thing.

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