10.27.2005

Just what we need!

The other morning as I drove my daughter to select chorus practice (singing at 6:55 a.m.? Not me!) NPR's "Marketplace" aired a piece based on some research out of MIT. Apparently a researcher found that doubling the frequency of attending worship services correlates with a 9.1% increase in household income. That leaves one just about even if they increase to a tithe! Somebody alert Joel Osteen!

This morning that thought was nicely balanced by a blog post by Mike DeVries, who is a pastor in California. He addresses just that "instant success" theology, the idea -- often presented by well-meaning Christians -- that there are benefits from believing in God that can be measured in ways our world values. You know, we measure ways in which prayer promotes healing; we talk about "God giving back" when we give. Thinking of this, DeVries says: "I wonder. With all that is captured in the Scriptures – the emotion, the pain, the disappointment and frustration, how did we ever come to embrace this kind of image?"

Unfortunately, this theology of glory is neither new nor unusual. Martin Luther argued against it during the Reformation, claiming that the power of God revealed in the cross is so much more awesome, more beautiful, than the majesty and glory revealed elsewhere. And, for those of us who are otherwise perishing, it is the most beautiful thing in creation! Glory theology is especially prevalent in our civil religion, where God (allegedly) says "Go conquer and I will give you the victory."

DeVries reflects on the story of Jeremiah, how God inflames him with a message that, frankly, no one wants to hear. Jeremiah is mocked, shunned, threatened and, in Jeremiah 20:7, God let's him vent about it. Because "God knows. He always does." He finishes with the antithesis of the MIT research:
I think it is about time that we come clean with people. Following God does not always lead to the bigger and the better. Following God does not always to comfort and security. “Being in the center of God’s will or plan” is not always the safest place to be. In fact it might ask of you to have your life absorbed with a message that might destroy you. Being a follower means that we have embraced a larger story than our own, choosing to find ourselves in that larger story. It may mean that we never see the results of our efforts. It may mean that opposition and critique [even by those who claim to be speaking for God as well] might be our lot in life..

Hmmm. Not an additional 9.1% raise?

Well done. Read the entire post here.

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