The Religion Racket
by Norman H. Wells
Former Pastor, Central Baptist Church, Cincinnati
Now With The Lord
© 2005 James H. Dearmore/Gospelweb.net

The Late Dr. Norman H. Wells

[GospelWeb.net Globe]

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Chapter 18

Phoney Promises

Today's religion is continually making promises that it cannot keep. The tragedy is that these promises are made in the name of God and the people associate these failures with Him. Everyone has problems, difficulties, fears, etc. and when religion promises to eliminate all these problems many are quick to seek this wonderful cure-all. To say that people become disappointed in their experiences with these false promises and turn away from all religion is to put it mildly.

The fierce competition for members between churches and denominations today prompts them to strive to outdo one another in making promises. Religion pretends to be a panacea that will eliminate everything undesirable and give anything that is desired.

Again, today's religion can be compared with the old time medicine man traveling around with a wagon loaded with bottles of wonderful elixir that is guaranteed to cure anything and everything. By the time people discovered it was a phoney the medicine man was in the next town. The wonderful elixir generally had such a high percentage of alcohol that the user was easily deceived into thinking it worked ... for a while. Rather than admit they had been hoodwinked many would pretend the elixir really worked. So it is with religion. Too many are willing to pretend that the phoney promises religion has made are really working rather than admit they have been hoodwinked.

The promises that today's religion is making are really something. One religious book, reprinted sixteen times, has chapter headings like these:

This book proposes that their idea of religion will give satisfactory answers to questions like:

Now that just about covers it all. A religious cure-all. Be successful and prosperous in everything you try. Be beautiful and charming. Get a successful business. Gain weight, lose weight. Get a lot of friends. Have pep and energy all day long. Get married. Sleep at night. Come one, come all ... just a few more bottles left!

Don't laugh. This book is in its 16th printing. And there are many more that are similar. Perhaps you bought one.

Is it any wonder when someone with a real need turns to a religion making such phoney promises that he eventually turns away from all religion in disgust?

It is an accepted Biblical fact that a great deal of the physical disease which plagues us today is closely associated with our mental, emotional, and spiritual condition. Become angry before or after eating a big meal and chances are you'll get an upset stomach. Anyone knows this and also the remedy ... don't get angry. If you stop getting angry, you have a wonderful cure for stomach upset ... sometimes. A lot of our physical ailments would disappear if our spiritual condition were healthy. To offer religion, however, as a cure-all for all diseases is downright fraudulent.

When religion gets a little more sophisticated it doesn't offer get-rich quick schemes or promise cures for lumbago, but it does put great emphasis upon such conditions as worry, anxiety, stress, guilt, fear, sorrow, etc. Elaborate claims are made concerning how to rid oneself of these conditions. Again it must be stated that a great deal of worry, anxiety, guilt, etc. will be eliminated when the spiritual condition is healthy. However, to set down spiritual rules that one can follow to eliminate all turmoil and sorrow is to deliberately deceive. This is a fake cure-all.

These phoney promises bring about another tragedy. People immediately associate the failures of these promises with the promises pertaining to eternity and come to the conclusion that they also will fail. This destroys all faith.

Today's religion seems to have forgotten some of the basic teachings and examples of the Bible. Christ said, "In the world ye shall have tribulation." (John 16:53.) It is also stated that in this life there will be tears, sorrow, and pain. (Rev. 21:4.) It cannot, therefore, be a sign of religious failure when these things come.

The Apostle Paul could speak of being "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing." (II Cor. 6:10.) Sorrow came but he could rejoice in the help he received.

Religion is not a cure-all for all our troubles but it is the best source of help we have in facing these troubles and problems. The promise of religion is to provide help in facing these difficulties ... not getting rid of them. Look at Christ, our example, when he said, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful unto death." (Mark 14:34.) Even in sorrow and death God gave victory.

Today's religion has only emphasized the attractions of religion. It is not mentioned that to be truly religious means sacrifice, denial, and a willingness to live contrary to the popularly accepted standards.

These phoney promises are also directed at another angle. "Successful" religious promoters will offer a set of rules for religion and guarantee success if they are followed. Seminaries indoctrinate their students with little pat schemes and ideas that are supposed to make them an instant success. One book that presents plans for making a Sunday School grow in attendance makes this statement, "No school can be a failure if it will use even one-tenth of the thousand suggestions which are contained in this volume." In this book, failure means a lack of a great number 'in attendance and success means a large number in attendance. It seems such a shame that Jesus, or even Paul, didn't have this book on how to be a success.

Another book on how to be "successful" in building a large church attendance states in its introduction, "The world turns its back on a failure and listens to the man 'who delivers the goods' and who has been successful 'in his field" . . . in this book he (the author) gives you the 'how' of a successful church program. "The rest is up to you."

The world turned its back upon Christ ... by this standard He was a failure. Paul, alone in a prison, deserted by his friends, and waiting to be executed would also be classified as a failure. Again, it seems a shame they didn't have one of these books written by men who knew how to be successful.

The tragedy of this is seen in the lives of young men who give themselves in dedicated service to the Lord. These phoney promises of success are held out and when they fail, too often a truly great life is discouraged and sometimes wasted.

We need to turn from phoney promises and again turn to the real thing which is far better.

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