Guest Opinion

Tuesday, January 6, 2004

Have churches gotten too 'fat and lazy?'

I recently wrote a column suggesting "high fives" for our churches in their home town ministry. A popular nightly talk show moderated by President Reagan's son Michael disagrees.

He recently had a guest helper who shocked listeners, including me, by declaring, "Christianity is fat and lazy." The telephones began to ring. Some callers disagreeing and rebuking him, others praised him for having the courage to tell it like it is.

His statement blew my mind. On what basis was he making such a pronouncement about the Christian church? He and his supporters indicated their judgment was made on the fact that our nation's morals are hitting a frightening low. More disturbing is the fact it is happening on Christianity's "watch," as it is the major religion in America today.

"Fat and lazy," - what evidence supports that unpleasant accusation? Some critics call Christians "the Cathedral Builders" and they write about the billions of dollars tied up into what they call "church member club rooms." Many have cushioned pews, stained glass windows, beautiful pipe organs and altars supposedly for the Glory of God. Our critics explain, more often for the delight of members.

They point out, if the money tied up in tax free buildings and property could be released to serve and save our nation or the world, it would perform miracles. If this was done, where would they suggest churches meet for worship and mission? In community centers, organizational club rooms with plain glass windows, plain floors, folding chairs and pianos.

For the record, a new and fast growing segment of Christianity is presently doing that. They are buying unused warehouses and remodeling them with no frills for worship and serving God. They are drawing crowds. It may be out of context, but they take seriously God's words in the 5th chapter of Amos: "I hate, I despise your feasts. I take no delight in your solemn assemblies or burn't offerings. I will not accept them. Let justice roll down like water and rightness like an ever flowing stream."

We don't like the declaration, "Christianity is fat and lazy." What symptoms suggest the talk show might be right?

Family-threatening spread of gambling; dishonest CEO's of corporations stealing life savings of investors; increase of homicides; sexual abuse and misuse; anything-goes nudity and accompanying language in nightclubs, taverns, street talk and on TV; loss of respect for life and property. Add to the list resorting to the use of outmoded and ridiculous warfare to settle world disputes, expecting our youth to pay the price with their lives and the families they leave behind to pay with broken hearts and fatherless and motherless children.

The question is, are we Christians getting done what on earth our leader asked us to do? The evidence suggests we are not. It's something Christians need to be thinking and praying about.

We could do without some of the fat frills in our churches and with the help of the Holy Spirit meet America's and the world's problems head on.

God Bless.

* Clarence C. Richardson is a retired Storm Lake pastor and a contributor to the Pilot-Tribune.