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 19

A Virtue Vault

People usually prefer confining their religion within the four walls of a church building. They make a virtue vault out of their church.

Religion can become an embarrassing thing to some when it gets outside of the church building. Somehow when we take religion outside of the church building it makes us uncomfortable ... even ashamed. So we normally keep it stored away in the church. It is good to know it is on deposit just in case we need it ... as when we die or something.

A great number of people put on religion as they do their Sunday clothes and are quick to take it off when the church services are concluded.

The religion professed is generally in such sharp contrast with the life that is lived it seems they must be kept separate. For instance, brotherly love seems to be something entirely apart from today's fast paced, highly competitive, so called "rat race." Brotherly love? It's dog eat dog! The unselfishness talked about on Sunday morning is replaced by the "anything for a buck" philosophy on Monday morning. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is replaced by "Do others before they do you."

Truthfulness is a wonderful virtue ... on Sunday mornings. The trouble with truthfulness is that no one believes it will work anywhere but in church. Skillful lying seems to be a necessary tool in most pursuits. Honesty is the best policy ... on Sunday. Anything one can get by with is best for the rest of the week.

The Bible teaches that man is not to look on a woman to lust after her. Lusting after women is such a prominent part of life today that seemingly no one is going to allow religion to interfere. Purity, holiness, goodness, virtue, honesty, chastity ... somehow these religious characteristics just cannot be fitted into our daily living.

The task of keeping religion confined within the four walls of a church building so it will not interfere with daily living is accomplished in many different ways. The easiest way, of course, is to find a religion that is not embarrassing. The less a church believes and teaches the less embarrassing it is in actual life. This is the type of church that doesn't make much difference one way or the other and most folks find this convenient.

Another method used to keep religion confined to the church building is to give great emphasis to the differences in religion. This enables one to pretend to be ignoring his own religion so as not to offend someone of another religion. It can be said that religion should be kept in the church house so as not to be offensive to anyone. Even our government has made use of this method. In order not to offend anyone all reference to religion or God must be eliminated and religion confined to the church. Using this method it is even possible to eliminate praying from the public schools. The word "fanatic" comes in for a lot of use. After all, one shouldn't go overboard on religion and become over zealous and enthusiastic. Everyone knows how foolish some people become over religion. This makes a good excuse for keeping one's religion stored away in church ... no one wants to be a fanatic.

Of course, one can stay away from religious friends during the week and only see them on Sunday. This is a great help in keeping religion locked up in the church house.

To keep one's religion at church and not bring it into the home is a little more difficult . . . particularly if there are children. After all, what can a parent tell a child who begins to wonder why what he heard at church isn't practiced at home? Some parents have found that it works fairly well if what is taught at church can be associated with make-believe, fairy tales, nursery rhymes, etc. . . . things that are only applicable to children. This relieves the parent from having to bring his religion home. It also enables the child to grow up without being inconvenienced too much by religion and he can easily discard it about the same time he gives up fairy tales and nursery rhymes.

A husband and wife can usually reach a kind of stand-off where neither of them expects much of the other concerning religion. It can cause all kinds of confusion if one of them decides to bring religion home from the church.

When the child starts to public school he quickly discovers that religion is never mentioned. There is no particular reason given ... it just isn't classified as important enough to be considered. The child at first has a little difficulty adjusting to the fact that what he learns at church might contradict what he learns and sees in school.

Folks find about the worst thing that can happen is to discover that someone who goes to the same church works at the same place. This does bring about embarrassment. Every time one of them is engaged in un-religious activities it seems as though the other is looking and this kind of thing can lead to a complex! It almost forces both of them to bring their religion to work. Generally though, they will reach an unspoken agreement that they will both leave their religion at church . , . even if they do get mildly embarrassed when they meet in a prayer meeting or some similar place.

Another convenient way of leaving religion inside the church is to develop the ability of listening ... without hearing. What one doesn't know about religion can't affect life outside the church house. Some have achieved a high level of efficiency at this method. They can sit down in a church pew and put on an expression of intense interest while at the same time turning off their mind ... or tuning in something non-religious. This is kind of a spiritual stupor. This allows them to be exposed to religion but eliminates carrying any out of the church. They've been to church in body but not in spirit. They never really know what their religion is so it never causes them any inconvenience or embarrassment outside the church.

Closely related to this is the ability to pass on everything said in church to someone else and never let it be personally applied. If one can feel the religious truth didn't apply to him he can easily leave it at church.

In our country people move around a great deal. This affords a real opportunity for people who like to keep their religion locked up in church. For instance, a couple will get married and move away from their home town. They have found, however, that it is convenient to keep their official church membership at the old home church even though they do not live or attend there. This keeps their religion not only confined to a church building but also keeps it some distance away. This, they find, is an added advantage.

It seems some folks find it impossible to trust any one church with all their religion. They would rather spread it around in a lot of different churches. They accomplish this by not being identified with any one church but make it a practice to attend many different churches. In this way they are never associated with any one religion and it is a comparatively easy thing not to let this kind of religion invade everyday living.

A little extreme, but used quite a bit, is the method where the individual continually finds something in church with which he disagrees or he makes certain that he is always getting his feelings hurt. In this manner he keeps an excuse for not attending church. The difficulty is never rated high enough to cause him to sever his relationship with the church but is always enough to keep him from attending. This enables one to have religion at the church yet not be identified with it in everyday living.

The fact that religion is continually confined to the church house and never brought outside might be the reason it is so pale and weak. It is suffering from a lack of fresh air, sunshine, and exercise.

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