A Lesson from the Pulpit

Frank Neudecker Editor The Jackson Press

Frank Neudecker
Editor The Jackson Press

I went to church yesterday where Brother Gary gave another fine sermon, as he usually does. But this time he mentioned something that sparked my interest so I started taking notes of his message.During his sermon he talked about direction or in case of most us an improper direction of wind. This is more in terms of the improper spiritual direction of man (or man, woman and child for those that feel like you are being left out); and the term that caught my attention most was moralistic therapeutic deism.

I had heard this term once before so I looked it up.

What I found is pretty much what I thought I would find. Moralistic therapeutic deism  as a term was first thought introduced in the book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (2005), written by sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton. The term (abbreviated MTD) is used to describe what they consider to be the common religious beliefs among American youth. It has also been referred to as egonovism.

The book is the result of a research project, the “National Study of Youth and Religion,” privately funded by the Lilly Endowment.

Egonovism is the belief in a god and/or a religious structure that is not determined by holy text, organized religion, or religious leaders. It is the Egonovists themselves who determine the religious doctrine. Essentially, they make up the rules, and they decide how to follow them. It is likely that a statistically large number of self-identified Christians fall into the Egonovism category.

They may not even be aware of it, but they’ve reconstructed Christian doctrine in a way that makes sense to them. Ignoring some parts deemed bad or irrelevant, embracing other areas containing relevant wisdom, and then filling in the blanks with their own ideas. It’s not just Christians who do this; people from every major religion living in Western society do the same thing.

The term “Egonovism” comes from the latin “ego,” meaning self, and “novo” to make new, rewrite, or invent. And it fits perfectly. The individual develops their own personal religions system and borrows ideas from established religions that they’re familiar with. Many Egonovists include the Christ figure in their religion, and hence they self-identify as Christians.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it…. we systematically toss out what doesn’t serve our needs and reinterpret those that might….. we do it in life, we do in church, we do it in government.

The rise to redefine Christian beliefs to suit the feelings of others mirrors the desire to redefine government into non restricting beliefs is not new. I constantly rely on the 60’s expression “if it feels good, do it man” mentality.

For churches, it has gotten this bad… Barry Kosmin, an author, researcher and professor at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., says “The rise of non-denominational Christianity is probably one of the strongest trends in the last two decades.” The Baylor Survey of Religion echoes this in reporting that nondenominational churches are the fastest growing Protestant churches in America. In Knox County, Tennessee 51 congregations identify themselves as nondenominational. This makes them the third largest religious group represented in the county behind Southern Baptist Convention and the United Methodist Church, according to the Association of Religious Data Archives. Nationally, they are now the second largest Protestant group. Over time with marriage and intermixing, ethnicity became less important.

I couldn’t help but remember what it was like when we were looking at non-denominational churches. I found there were two ways to attract people to their congregation: great worship bands and/or charismatic teaching. Both engender the “cult of personality.” Editor’s note: Don’t get me wrong…. traditional churches have done the same thing in the past and we tend to practice it today. A church may have an attractive, highly talented worship leader that causes people to flock to the service. Or a church may have an articulate and intelligent speaker, able to enthrall with a blend of Scripture and pop-psychology. Both aren’t dangerous in and of themselves. However, when they are seen as the focus of attending church, it can cause problems in a Christian’s spiritual growth. At best, it can stunt development. At worst, it can lead to becoming part of a cult.

I think that Walter Russell explains it this way…  The Holy Crap Must Go…… I am also reminded of FDR’s words in a speech to California Commonwealth Club where he said, “The final word belongs to no man; yet we can still believe in change and in progress” and that progress meant greater giveaway rights to some men and at the same time lessening the rights of others not on an individual basis but on the mass scale.

Because this is what we want is it not? To be free of encompasses, to continual change with the prevailing wind, to elimate the base beliefs, to enslave our fellow man…. I mean hell, neither the Bible nor the Constitution really don’t say we can’t do that………. right?



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