Cafeteria Religion

Mix and match eating arrangements are common – and acceptable – in cafeterias. Grab a tray, pick what you like, and pass over the rest. This is fine for eating out. However it does not work so well with religious consumption.

That is, certain creedal-based religions simply do not allow this cafeteria-style selectivity. They tend to be an all-or-nothing affair. Judaism and Christianity are boxed sets, and believers are not permitted to simply pick those bits which they prefer, and ignore those bits they do not find to their liking.

Consider the recent case of a Hollywood celeb. It seems that Lindsay Lohan is converting to Judaism. Why? Because her lover is Jewish. Oh, that’s nice. Except for one minor detail: her lover is also female.

As the Daily Mail reports, “Lindsay Lohan is converting to Judaism in a bid to prove her devotion to Jewish girlfriend Samantha Ronson. Although raised a Catholic, the 22-year-old star announced she was planning to change her faith on her Facebook page. After jetting into London last week, Lindsay joined girlfriend Samantha at the Bar Mitzvah of the DJ’s half-brother Joshua Ronson at the Westminster Synagogue on Saturday.”

Her estranged father Michael Lohan said: “She’s exploring Judaism right now. She’s explored the Church of Scientology, she tried Kabbalah, and now this. I think it’s just another phase. But either way, she’s involving God in her life, and I’m happy about that.”

Of course one should not make too much of any Hollywood star and their latest escapades. And one should not expect too much intellectual and moral stability from them either. But I trust that someone along the way will point out to poor Lindsay one glowing contradiction here: Judaism – certainly in its orthodox form – fully condemns homosexuality.

So for Lindsay to think she can simultaneously be a good lesbian and a good Jew is stretching things a bit. The Hebrew Scriptures are clear in their rejection of any same-sex relationships and activities. The main passages (Genesis 18:20-19:29; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; and Judges 19:1-21:25) leave no room for doubt here.

Christianity too is clear in its denunciation of homosexuality. Both religions affirm that God’s intentions for human sexuality are that of heterosexual marriage – full stop. There are no other avenues permitted in the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures.

God’s intentions are made clear in the early chapters of Genesis. Gen. 2:24 states that one man and one woman only can constitute a marriage bond. As John Stott comments: “Thus Scripture defines the marriage God instituted in terms of heterosexual monogamy. It is the union of one man with one woman, which must be publicly acknowledged (the leaving of parents), permanently sealed (he will ‘cleave to his wife’), and physically consummated (‘one flesh’). And Scripture envisages no other kind of marriage or sexual intercourse, for God provided no alternative.”

As Old Testament scholar Kenneth Mathews says, “Without question 2:24 serves as the bedrock for Hebrew understanding of the centrality of the nuclear family for the survival of society. Monogamous heterosexual marriage was always viewed as the divine norm from the outset of creation.”

Or as Dr J.J. Davis says, “Human sexuality is reflected in the differentiation of two, not three or four, sexual genders, nor some androgynous combination of the two.” Homosexual couples cannot fulfil the command to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28).

Says another commentator: “It was God’s ordained design for sexual relations to be in the form of male-female union, man and wife becoming ‘one flesh,’ and God created the distinction between the sexes to that end. This creation of sexual differentiation by God from the beginning established heterosexuality as the normative direction for the sexual impulse and act.”

Moreover, this creation ordinance is constantly reaffirmed by the New Testament authors. Jesus affirms it in Mark 10:6-9 for example, while Paul affirms it in I Cor. 6:16 and Eph. 5:31. As ex-gay Bob Davies of Exodus International says, “Any alternative of this pattern is a distortion of God’s original plan.”

Thus heterosexual marriage as intended by God is the measuring rod by which we judge homosexuality or any other sexual expression. But such theological truths are not only lost on Hollywood starlets but many others who have come to believe that truth is relative, morality is subjective, and Holy Scripture is something we can treat like a cafeteria.

Such attitudes may allow us to get away with doing our own thing, but they do nothing to silence the clear Scriptural affirmations and prohibitions. But as mentioned, Hollywood celebs are not usually noted for intellectual consistency or moral uprightness, let alone theological literacy.

I suppose we have come to expect such behaviour and thinking from the jet-setters. But ordinary men and women should know better. If they don’t, they have just been informed.

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9 Replies to “Cafeteria Religion”

  1. Good article, Bill.

    If evolution over millions of years is true and all religions are an invention of the human mind then why not make up your own to suit yourself?

    But if God is real and the Bible records our true history then we have to accept reality like it is.

    Tas Walker

  2. Hi Bill. I really appreciate your articlae and find them halpful to pass on to wavering friends.however I find unhelpful that you cite telling quotes but fail to reference them, particularly when they cite some relevant research. I referencing is onerous but it is really very importantto lend credibility to articles. Thanks.
    Charles Noller Brisbane.

  3. Thanks Charles

    This is a blogsite, not a proper periodical or official journal. Thus short web articles are obviously not the place to run with footnotes and the like. (I am not even sure if this website software allows for footnotes.) I of course have all the references easily at hand. I am happy to provide all the references if you want them. Just let me know.

    Indeed, I hope to turn many of these articles into a full-length book soon, where proper referencing, footnotes, and bibliographies are rightfully required.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  4. If you wish to be faithful to God’s teachings, you have to adhere to all of them. Of less importance, if you wish to be a member of a golf club, you can’t pick and choose which rules you’ll obey and be a success. Concerning Hollywood stars, and I have interviewed a number of them, I am often amazed how some of them arrogantly believe that because they are famous and important to movie makers, then they are important to everyone else, not withstanding the fact that their opinions are usually of less value than those, who have no fame at all. They must wake up some days at the crack of noon and wonder if they’re Abraham Lincoln or Wyatt Earp, depending on what movie they happen to be involved in. With no expertise, they then run around mouthing out on moral issues and how the country should be run, giving out all sorts of stupid advice. I was very amused with Kevin Rudd’s “plan” (just after he was elected) to have his 2020 talkfest, with him handpicking, whom he described as the “best brains” in the country. Nothing came of it, but hot air. The only value this “best brains” group had, as far as I could see, was that if you listenened carefully to what they had to say and did the exact opposite, you’d never make a mistake in your life.
    Frank Bellet, Petrie Qld

  5. When I was in Bible College, we had a joke that you “highlight the passages you agree with in yellow. Those you dont agree with, you highlight in black ink.” You really can’t blame “Hollow-wood” celebs like Lindsay Lohan because she probably thought jokes like this are actually facts. What’s sadder is there are “Solid-wood” Christians who read the Bible like a cafeteria menu, selecting what they like to believe and highlight the rest in black ink!!
    Eddie Sim

  6. Are children a good and an end in themselves or are they simply a means to an end? The answer doesn’t even need stating.

    Are marriage and the family good and an end in themselves or are they simply a means towards an end? Likewise the answer is obvious.

    When Christ became the husband of the Church did He do this because it was good in itself or because it was a means to achieving ends? Was He lonely and therefore needed to satisfy emotional needs? Did he marry the church in order to obtain intimacy, pleasure, social standing, acceptance and socio – legal benefits? If this were the case, he needn’t have pussy – footed about; he could have just simply gone out and raped the church, as Muslims rape women in order to make them and their offspring Muslims.

    Christ gave his life for the church. In the same way a husband has to die to himself in order to save his wife, or to make an “honest woman of her.” The theme of the husband exercising his protective instincts and of a wife exercising her nurturing and nursing instincts is universal and not limited to the Judeo Christian faith.

    As for the constituent parts of a marriage, scripture such a Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy 2:15 and especially 1 Peter 3, make no sense if one replaces the members of a marriage with same sex partners, animals, pavements or bicycles or walls. ,

    It is a fact of nature that men and women complement one another, not just physically but emotionally, mentally and spiritually. A man becomes more mannish in the presence of woman and vice versa. Light becomes brighter in the presence of darkness and red becomes redder when placed against green.
    Canon Dave Doveton’s article, written in 2006, is well worth reading:

    Indeed he has something significant to say about the dualism of same sex marriages and how they can in no way be reconciled with the Bible.

    See 1 Corinthians 6:13-20.

    David Skinner, UK

  7. By Crickey. What a vision the term ‘Cafeteria Christianity’ evokes. How many self determined Christians practice it? Too many I suspect. Thanks for the terminology, it will help me on a daily basis to evaluate my identity in Christ. Thank you.
    Thomas Davenport

  8. Hi Bill,
    Thanks for your very interesting and helpful column and links, which I only became aware of recently when my daughter heard you speak at at Thomas More youth function.

    We have the same phenomenon in the Catholic church where “cafeteria Catholic” has been around for some time, as many Catholics, probably stemming from the contraception debate, and the confusiion since Vatican 2,have got into the habit of rejecting this or that teaching that they cannot “accept”. In fact we have got to the position that many Catholics are honestly unaware that there is such a thing as official church teaching, believing, because dissenting theologians have taught them this, that everything is up to one’s own conscience. Of course if they were to listen to the teaching coming from Benedict IXth, or read the recent Catechism of the Catholic Church they would find that doctrine hasn’t changed and the Church still claims to teach with Christ’s authority.

    But I hope you don’t mind me commenting that I find this a strange term for non-Catholics to use.
    Today we have tens of thousands of christian denominations precisely because there is no universally accepted “correct” way to interpret the Bible. Once you have no authority that can tell you the intention behind seemingly conflicting passages how can you blame anyone for making up their own mind about say, the importance of Baptism, marriage, divorce, the nature of the church, or the exact relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit (the word trinity is not in the Bible).

    It may seem that the teaching on homosexuality is unmistakably clear, but then it seems to me that “You are kepha and on this kepha I will build my church.” is very clear too. Any thoughts?

    Marita Bolling

  9. Thanks Marita

    Yes obviously there are some differences here between Protestants and Catholics on the issue of religious authority. Protestants will tend to say Scripture alone is the sole authority, while Catholics tend to say that there are really three main sources of authority: Sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the teaching authority of the Church. And as you know, Protestants would interpret Matt 16:17-19 (Peter and the rock) differently than Catholics. (Perhaps at some point I will write full-length articles on these issues, and look at them in more detail.)

    But as you admit, there are still plenty of divisions and differences in Catholicism, even though you do have a centralised authority. St. Mary’s in Brisbane is just one more recent example. But I suspect we might need to agree to disagree on some of these matters, as we seek to find common ground on resistance to various threats to the faith. Thanks for writing.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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