Former megachurch pastor and best-selling author Rob Bell made headlines this week for coming out in support of gay marriage. In an appearance during a tour for his new book, he explained:
“The powerful revolutionary thing about Jesus’ message is he says ‘what do you with the people who aren’t like you? What do you do with the other? What do you do with the person who is hardest to love…?’ That’s the measure of a good religion.”
Really? Spiritual truth depends on whom you love? That’s how we should measure “good religion?” And what we want to measure is whether or not a religion is “good”?
I don’t want to find a good religion. I want to find truth.
Let me say up front that this post is not about my beliefs on gay marriage. What I’m writing about today is the notion that a person should choose their spiritual beliefs for any reason other than that they believe they have sought and found truth. Does that sound obvious? Consider this research finding:
1 in 5 twenty-somethings who turn away from faith say that Christianity doesn’t meet their “needs.”
Wow! At what point did these young people begin to believe that their (perceived) needs can determine the truth of a religion? This kind of personalized measuring stick for truth is at the heart of Bell’s mentality. That’s why his quote reminded me how important it is to explicitly teach our kids how they should – and shouldn’t – choose a religion.
In my professional life, I’m in marketing. I can’t help but view this needs-focused trend as an outcropping of today’s consumerism. All marketing begins with identifying a consumer need and results in telling people how a product will meet that need. With more marketing messages than ever surrounding consumers, people are constantly hearing how important their needs are. I believe that consumer-based mentality has slipped into spiritual decision making. People now ask the same questions of religions as they ask of video cameras:
What do I like the best?
What works the best?
What are others using?
What costs the least?
None of these point to the needed measuring stick for religion: What is true?
Truth is independent of what you like the best. You can’t wish truth into or out of existence.
I’m not a Christian because of what I like or don’t like about it. I’m a Christian because I believe the Gospel is true.
Truth is independent of what (you think) works the best. What “works best” is relative to a person’s self-interested desires and circumstances, but truth isn’t relative.
I’m not a Christian because Christianity works the best by my personal definition. I’m a Christian because I believe the Gospel is true.
Truth is independent of what others believe. Truth doesn’t need numbers for validation, and numbers don’t point to truth.
I’m not a Christian because most of the people around me are; most of the people around me are not. I’m a Christian because I believe the Gospel is true.
Truth is independent of what costs the least. Truth doesn’t require an easy life.
Mark 8:34-35: “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.’
I’m not a Christian because it’s the easiest life that costs me the least to live; I’m a Christian because I believe the Gospel is true.
So how do we teach our kids to choose a religion? We don’t just tell them about the “options”; we give them the right tool for choosing – the right measuring stick. We teach them not to be consumers of religion, but to be seekers of truth. We show them that what they like the best, what they think works the best, what others believe (including you!) and what costs the least frankly doesn’t matter…what matters is searching for what is true.