Friday, July 22, 2011

Harvey Cox on the False Religion of Today

Many Christians have asked, "What is the most pressing issue facing Christianity?" Harvey Cox, former Harvard Professor of Religion, not only identified a pressing answer to the question, but also brings it to light in a fresh way.

The collection of essays in The Globalization of Pentecostalism examines the changing paradigms of Pentecostalism. Dempster, Klaus, and Peterson have organized the essays around three themes: Changing Paradigms in Pentecostal Scholarly Reflection, Pentecostalism as a Global Culture, and Issues Facing Pentecostalism in a Postmodern World. Each essay is a window into contemporary Pentecostal scholarship that demonstrates vigorous interaction with critical issues.

The final section tackles the issues facing Pentecostalism in culture. Cox provides a provocative and prophetic challenge to the Pentecostal movement. He establishes the premise that the global culture is the form of a false idolatrous religion, which he identifies as consumerism. Consumerism in this context is defined as promoting the interests of self more than God and His priorities. How would you describe consumerism as a false religion? What elements make up a false religion?

This pseudo-religion exhibits all the qualities of a classical religion, Cox says. It has a plan of salvation and an army of missionaries, spreading their gospel by promoting consumer-centered ethics. It has an eschatology, which describes capitalism as the ultimate victor. It even has an invisible hand that guides it, under whose influence "all things work together for the common good."

Cox challenges church leaders to prophetically engage in critiquing this god and its ideology. Christians, however, are not against culture per se, but opposed to the false ethics that dictate the meaning of life. We walk the tension of being "in our culture but not of our culture." We need to recapture our uniqueness as Christians, resist this mainstream god’s values, and renew our commitment to simplicity and communal support, which marked the earliest disciples of Christ.

This issue might not be the most pressing issue of time, but it important to take inventory of what and who centers your life. Is there more to this life than just consuming until the grave? Who is it that orders your priorities?

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