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Holy Versus Happy: Combating a Consumerist Culture

With Chuck Colson’s newest book, “My Final Word,” just released, we wanted to re-air another classic BreakPoint commentary that shows Chuck’s amazing foresight.


In today’s commentary, which Chuck gave the tongue-in-cheek title, “Gimme That Hot-Tub Religion,” Chuck takes on the church of self-help. Here’s the amazing thing: Chuck recorded this 20 years ago. It still applies. Here’s Chuck.


There's nothing like visiting another culture to get a new perspective on your own.


That's what Patty and I discovered a few years ago when we went to Japan. There we visited the Perfect Liberty Church, a Buddhist sect that was at the time the fastest growing church in the world.


And no wonder. The church taught that peace and joy are found merely by exercising our individuality. It could be golf, sex, or bird-watching—anything was okay so long as you were expressing your inner self.


As I read through the church's literature, I found myself nudging Patty and saying, "What nonsense. Imagine: They're saying you can do whatever you want as long as it makes you happy. And they call that a church?"


Later, back in the States, Patty and I were surfing through the TV channels one night when a Christian program caught our eye. The set was gaudy, the furniture overstuffed, and the hosts were offering a saccharine vision of the abundant life.


You can have perfect joy and prosperity, they crooned. God doesn't want anyone to suffer or be deprived. He just wants us to be happy.


Suddenly it struck us: The message of this Christian TV program was no different from what we had witnessed in Japan. It was Christianized Buddhism.


It seems that everywhere—from Tennessee to Tokyo—religion is being permeated by a consumerist mentality.


A few years ago Newsweek magazine heralded the resurgence of religion among Baby Boomers. But it isn't anything like the old-time religion. The goal in this revival, Newsweek said, is not salvation but support; not holiness but self-help. People don't convert; they pick and choose—as if religion were just another commodity on the market. They flit from church to church in search of what makes them feel good.


In this consumerist environment, pastors feel pressure to act like businessmen, out to attract more customers. In the process they often unconsciously repackage the church's message: A little rationalizing here, a little rounding off there—and soon the church is transformed from a worshiping community into a comforting haven from life's pressures. What J. I. Packer, the great theologian, calls "hot-tub religion."


Well, the church has got to pull the plug on the hot tub. When Jesus talked about the Church, He wasn't talking about buildings or programs. He was talking about a new community—called out to give the world a foretaste of the coming Kingdom.


The Church's task is not to make people happy but to make them holy. Its gift to the world is not therapy but truth.


As I argue in my book The Body, Christians need to recover the biblical view of the church.


You can learn more about this important subject by calling BreakPoint and ordering a copy of “The Body: Being Light in Darkness.” If we don’t recover the biblical view of the Church, we’ll lose our distinctive calling to a feel-good consumerism. And we’ll have nothing better to offer the world than a Christianized form of Buddhism.


This commentary first aired November 22, 1993.



BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.

Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Publication date: August 10, 2015

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