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The Gospel of Escapism…

January 26, 2009

2d144c2d103410a2551b1cd2b534238aChannel surfing the other night I happened upon the new Jim Bakker show.  I Googled it and found out he is beginning a new show today.  (I don’t know how I was able to see it the other day).  His guest was Larry Bates and the were talking about biblical prophecy, the end times, economic disorder and what Christians should know about living in these perilous times.

The main message I got as I listened to this conversation was that Christians should flea to sparsely populated areas–rural agricultural lands…the hills.  They were saying that within five years urban areas in this country are going to be a war zone because of the erosion of the economic order.

Bakker’s new show is connected with Morningstar ministries a Christian retreat center/community  in Branson, Missouri.  I really don’t know anything about the outfit, but here is what I am thinking about.  Does the Gospel of Jesus Christ call us to escape the world in self-protective isolationism?  Or are we called to live in the world and be the hands and feet of Jesus.  Christ has no body here but ours.  Incarnation.  The Word made flesh.  Hope–not fear and escapism.  Death and resurrection–not everybody stockpile weapons and dry goods.

All this apocalyptic sensationalism.  Hmmm.  I wonder where THAT could be coming from.  And yet the Left Behind series is not the culprit–it is only a symptom.  As is any other of its counterparts in that popular Evangelical fiction genre.  The underlying issue is a Gospel that specializes in spiritual salvation of the individual.  A gospel where the Incarnation–the life and the teachings of Jesus have little to do with our bodily life in this world.

So we have these gospels of sin-management (Dallas Willard) which then focus on reading the signs of the times through a spiritualized reading of revelation (both the apocalyptic texts and the whole N.T.) as an overlay for contemporary events.  The message of these gospels seem to be- protect yourself for the end is near.  Y2K revisited as gospel hucksters play upon the fears and anxieties of human beings bathed in the waters of addictions to all you can eat food buffets, bus tours to touristy places where there is plenty of shopping and entertainment.  This gospel provides a titillating adrenaline rush.  It calls Christians to huddle together with those of like belief–a Christian compound mentality.

dcao0128This is a gospel of escapism.  It is the gospel of entertainment and ease.  It is not the gospel of Incarnation, of the cross, of the martyrs.  Call me a cynic, but it seems to me there is a fairly healthy market for the gospel of escapism.  The success of the Left Behind series is certainly a barometer for this appetite for Text which frames the battle of good versus evil in external ways.  Call me a cynic, but I can fairly imagine that the demographic to whom this gospel appeals might readily reach for their wallet and make a PayPal contribution to the prophets of this gospel.  They will take the bus trip to the Ozarks.

This gospel of escapism is also one that promotes the freedom and independence of the individual.  Indeed, in a gospel driven by marketplace dynamics, the consumer is god.  The gospel of escapism does not have any language (liturgy) with which to frame the church as a community of submission and discipleship.  The gospel of escapism specializes in- you take care of yourself and your needs.  Community is a drag.  And hey there really is not a market for that kind of message anyway.  Not to mention that people may begin to think that you are a communist, or at the least anti-American.

So my prayer is this.  Whatever is of God, may it prosper.  Whatever is a false gospel, may it be exposed.  And may the contemporary community of Christ followers respond to adversity like those in the early centuries.  They became known as a community of love who took care of those whom no one else gave the time of day to.  They cared for the sick, poor and destitute.  This while at the same time facing the threat of persecution and death because of their subversive faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

I pray for a church that witnesses to an undivided gospel.  Good news that is integrated and whole.  Spirit and matter.  There is not such thing as a social gospel…a spiritual gospel.  This is a false dualism which must be rejected.  It is gnostic and heretical at its core.  The Incarnation means that we are called to the rough places.  The way we live is the way the light continues to shine in darkness.  You can’t buy that way of living with the latest teaching tapes or book.  It is the ancient path.  It is a narrow path.  Not much of a market for it these days.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. beinganddoing permalink
    January 26, 2009 8:53 am

    Amen and Amen!

  2. January 26, 2009 9:51 am

    Yes – AMEN! very thought provoking and well written. It’s amazing that the longer one exposes him/herself to the language of individualism, escapism, fear, rights to prosperity, etc., the more it sounds right and we can start to uncritically adopt the words and nuances. THAT’s what is REALLY scary! We need these “shakes” once in a while to wake us up to be on our guard against such messages.

    Not to sound paranoid or apocalyptic, but somewhere in this mess and message, I believe, it is the work of the anti-Christ, using the desires of our society and way of life to destroy the Church and the message of the Gospel.

    Yes, we must pray for the Church as you say in your last paragraph! Thank you.

  3. January 27, 2009 1:51 am

    I agree with you. I am just learning that this whole modern day escapism ( known mainly as pre- mid or post tribulation doctrine ) just gained popularity since around 1830’s or so. before that time most of the church believed in Covenant Theology in some form. I attended a pentecostal bible college for two years and pre-tribulation was the main “last days” doctrine taught. I used to believe it myself until the Lord led me to some good Christians who knew the scripture. I’ve heard so many different variations of this teaching it has became comically sad. I was blessed to have found a good solid charismatic church in the 1980’s and the pastor there was sound in his doctrine. I have finally come to the place in my Christian life where everything is centered around 3 main things:
    1.Jesus Christ and the Lordship of Christ over the whole of humanity.
    2. The New Covenant that God cut in the body of Jesus Christ
    3. The Kingdom of God and how that affects my life here today in my relationships.

    There are other things but, these 3 seem to keep my grounded in both spiritual truth and present realities.
    I believe with all my heart that there will be a worldwide revelation of Christ before He returns but it may cost everything I own and am in order it be a part of that.
    I also believe that that revelation doesn’t take place in a vacuum but through those who profess the name of Christ is upon them and have committed themselves to His work, power, resurrection, suffering, nature, and calling.

    This was a good article, thanks for posting it and I’m glad I found it.

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