I get plenty of emails pouring into my inbox every day. They can be sorted into at least three categories: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Two recent emails especially caught my attention because of the glaring contrast they provided to each other.
The first was an ad for a new book written by a very popular American Bible teacher. The ad assured us of what a vital book this is for the Christian community; a book with “an inspirational message that will resonate with readers everywhere”.
Indeed, we are told it “has debuted at # 7 on the New York Times hardcover advice books bestseller list”. We are also told that the author has “written more than 80 inspirational books that have been translated into over 80 different languages”. The book in question is, Eat the Cookies . . . Buy the Shoes. This is what the ad says of Joyce Meyer’s latest best-seller:
“In a fun and entertaining tone, with the new book, Meyer teaches that it’s OK to celebrate something we’ve accomplished or treat yourself to something for a job well done. With an inspirational message that will resonate with readers everywhere, the new book will help you find freedom to do something you enjoy and not feel guilty about it, to reward yourself for progress instead of punishing yourself every time you fail, and to give yourself permission to ‘lighten up’ when facing challenges – all while staying spiritually balanced and celebrating God and what He’s doing in you.
“‘This new book celebrates that we’re not built for guilt,’ said Meyer. ‘At some point, we all need to “eat the cookie and buy the shoes” in order to help us finish what we’ve started or as a way of celebrating something we’ve accomplished. Your “cookie and shoes” can be anything that you enjoy. God never intended for us to be under a heavy burden. In fact, God is the ultimate party planner and wants you to learn how to celebrate the victories in your life’.”
There you have it folks. God is the ultimate party planner, and Western Christians need to lighten up and party more, indulge more, and cater to self more. Yeah right. As if American (or Australian) Christians are in desperate need to hear that they take their faith too seriously, that they sacrifice too much for Christ and his Kingdom, that they are into too much self-denial, and that they really must learn how to indulge a little.
That is like telling Hugh Hefner he has got to lighten up a little and learn to indulge himself in a little bit of sex on occasion. It is like telling Lady Ga Ga that she needs to be a bit less serious, and learn to party just a bit more.
Sadly, the contemporary Western church is probably the most decadent, the most carnal, the most-self-indulgent, the most pampered, and the most me-centred church the world has ever known. And here we have a Bible teacher effectively telling us we need more of it!
I find it hard to believe that anyone would waste time and money on such a book. But the fact that it is already a best-seller simply tells us a lot about where most Western Christians are at today. What makes all this so utterly tragic is the contrast it provides to the other recent email I received.
The second email had arrived about a week earlier. Indeed, I have since received a number of copies of it from various places and various people. It has to do with the staggering number of Christian martyrs in the past year. From the middle of 2008 to the middle of 2009 there have been an estimated 176,000 Christians martyred for their faith around the world.
The email article says this: “That’s 482 deaths per day, one every three minutes. Martyrdom didn’t go away with the Middle Ages, according to reports from Open Doors USA, which now has combined efforts with actor Kirk Cameron of ‘The Way of the Master’ ministry as well as evangelist Ray Comfort of Living Waters ministry to focus on those who are being persecuted for their faith.”
It continues, “Emeal Zwayne, executive vice president of Living Waters, said that few Christians in the U.S. are even aware ‘that an estimated 176,000 Christians were martyred from mid-2008 to mid-2009. It’s so hard to believe that in this day and age so many Christians are losing their life for their faith. It’s as though we in the U.S. live in a different world from the rest of the Body of Christ. We want to ask the question that is on a few people’s lips – will persecution ever come to America? And if so, what can we do about it?’ he said.”
It also points out the major source of the persecution: “WND reported earlier this year when Open Doors USA released its 2010 World Watch List. The report cited North Korea, which reportedly uses Christians as guinea pigs to test chemical and biological weapons, as the world’s worst persecutor of Christians. The report said Iran, which may be using Christians as scapegoats for internal opposition to its president, is No. 2 on the Open Doors 2010 World Watch List. The report said Iran is among eight nations in the top 10 of the group’s ranking of the 50 worst persecutors of Christians in which Shariah, the Islamic religious law, is dominant. A total of 35 nations on the list are under some form of Shariah.”
It concludes this way: “Iran, at No. 2, is the highest-ranking nation in the top 10 in which Islam is the dominant religion. Following are No. 3 Saudi Arabia, No. 4 Somalia, No. 5 Maldives, No. 6 Afghanistan, No. 7 Yemen, No. 8 Mauritania and Uzbekistan, which ranked at No. 10. Laos, another communist nation like North Korea, is ranked No. 9. Open Doors estimates there are 100 million Christians worldwide who suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation.”
Christians all around the world are being persecuted, tortured and put to death, and Christians in America are snatching up books by the millions telling them it’s OK to indulge and party. In much of the world simply to stay alive and keep true to one’s faith is the main thing happening, while in the West we spend money on books telling us to go and buy a new dress and get a new pair of shoes – because we deserve it!
How much more evidence do we need of the Babylonian captivity of the church in the West? The only really helpful thing left for most Western Christians to do is to get down on their knees and plead for God’s mercy. Otherwise we will simply keep sliding into the cesspool, if we haven’t already bottomed out.