Summary: How does one find a faith that is relevant for the 21st century?
Several months ago I caught John Larroquette, the actor, on the “Tonight Show.” Somehow the conversation turned to religion. I don’t remember much about the conversation, but I do remember Mr. Larroquette making a comment about television evangelists that has stuck with me. He said, “Seeing those guys in their $600 suits and their Rolexes just doesn’t do it for me.”
As someone who preaches the gospel I think you should know I once owned a Rolex. I bought it from a guy in New York City. I stepped off the bus and six guys with brief cases, all filled with Rolex watches, approached me. It was a buyers market. I got mine for $12. It didn’t seem excessive to me so I wasn’t sure what Mr. Larroquette was talking about. I later found out that real Rolex watches cost thousands of dollars. That probably explains why mine quit working within a year. I was a little upset at the time, but I feel much better now. I’d rather be known as an unwise shopper than a hypocrite.
The suit I’m wearing didn’t cost me $600. Value City doesn’t have $600 suits. Well they do, but they’ve all been marked down to $59.95. That seems like a bit of a stretch to me. I asked my wife who would fall for that gimmick. She said, “The same guys who think they’re getting a Rolex for $12.
At any rate, I wasn’t affected much by Mr. Larroquettes comments. Not at first. After all, they didn’t apply to me. But the more I thought about those comments and my reaction to them the more I wondered if that isn’t part of the problem with the Christian church today. John Larroquette is unimpressed by Christianity because he is unimpressed by those who represent it, specifically those who preach it. As one who supposedly represents it and preaches it, I was disassociating myself with the culprits of the pulpits and blaming the hypocritical evangelists and the skeptics who give too much credence to the hypocrites and not enough to the poor, honest, Christian folk, like myself.
There’s another problem that the Christian church battles. This problem is evidenced by the fact that many people believe the stories of the Bible, they just don’t see any connection between those wonderful Bible stories and the lives of individuals today. I recently saw a survey that said 70% of Americans believe in God, but only 30% attend church regularly.
These are troubled times by many accounts. Psychiatrists, therapists, and a vast array of counselors are over-booked with patients. Psychics have their own 900 number and the non-fiction best-seller list always seems to include a “self-help” book or three. There apparently is no shortage of clientele in need of some life-transforming encounter and a willingness to pay whatever the price might be to experience it. With so much need for change and such willingness to seek it in whatever avenues are available, the only thing that could keep people out of church is a lack of faith in the church’s ability to provide that change. So we are left with a community of believers convinced of God’s existence but unconvinced of his presence or power in their lives.
Today’s situation is somewhat reminiscent of the wanderings of the Israelites in the wilderness. They didn’t question God’s existence but they did question his motives. The Israelites at least generally took their questions and complaints to God. Today we cry out, not so much in verbal murmurings as in desperate or superficial actions that belie any hope for the future.
I teach in a public school system. I serve on the Student Assistance Program (SAP) team as they are generally called. SAP teams are educators who intervene with students at risk because of drug or alcohol involvement or emotional problems. I knew we had some troubled kids in our school. But I never realized the extent of their problems or the large number of students involved until I became active with the SAP team.
Let me give you just one example. Two sisters revealed to one of our team members that they feared going home in the evening because they didn’t know their father might do to them or their mother on any given evening. They were crying for help. For a number of reasons the social agencies that should have been able to help them were unable to do so.
The sisters are representative of many of the kids with whom the SAP team becomes involved. They make up perhaps 10% - 12% of our student body on a local level. I can’t begin to imagine the enormity of the problem on the state or national level. As we talk to these kids or hear their stories we get an overwhelming sense of hopelessness or despair on their part. They feel isolated and alone. They are crying for a loving, caring presence in their lives; someone to deliver them from their wilderness.