Quietly, a new religion has established itself in America, and most of us are unaware of what is happening right under our noses. It’s called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, a hodgepodge of banal, self-serving, feel-good beliefs, as described in Almost Christian by Kendra Creasy Dean (Oxford University Press, $24.95)
Quite a mouthful but it simply is this; an alternative religious vision of divinely underwritten personal happiness and interpersonal niceness, according to the National Study of Youth and Religion, conducted by Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton and reported in their book, Soul Searching, The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (Oxford University Press, $17.95).
Here are the self-centered beliefs:
- A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over life on earth.
- God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other.
- The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
- God is not involved in my life except when I need God to resolve a problem.
- Good people go to heaven when they die.
In teen talk, it would sound something like this:
There is a God, and he wants us to be nice, and I’m nice. And he wants us to be happy, and I’m kinda happy. And, I can occasionally call on him to help me, like when my puppy was sick. And, we are all going to heaven.
Not quite Christianity is it? It seems as if God is treated as a Divine butler, or like the Siri, the helpful iPhone app that serves your every whim, if you believe the television commercials.
(Billy, holding down the start button on his iPhone, hears the beep)
God responds, “God here, can I help you?”
Hurriedly Billy exclaims, “Hey God, I don’t mean to bother you, cause I know you are busy doing your God work, but could you give a Divine shout out to Sally’s dog. He has been to the vet twice this week and isn’t doing well. That’s it for right now, I’ll let you get back to your God work. Talk to you again when I need something!”
Dean refers to it as the “Cult of Nice.”
“A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world and might even be more difficult to save.” –C.S. Lewis
Is being nice all there is to Christianity? Can we possibly think that a relationship with our Lord can be so simple? As a matter of fact, can any relationship be that simple?
We are called into a relationship with God. And we communicate with prayer, every day, not just when we need something. We thank Him for another day, we ask for guidance, direction, and even help with a problem, and YES even a shout out for Sally’s dog, or better yet for Sally who is feeling badly because her pet is ill.
Almost Christian by Kendra Creasy Dean (Oxford University Press, $24.95)
Soul Searching, The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers
(Oxford University Press, $17.95).