A Back-handed Compliment

Has anyone ever said something to you that left you wondering if they were complementing you or cutting you down?

“Hey, you’re not nearly as ugly as you used to be!”
“Your pimples really look nice today.” “Don’t feel bad. There must be three or four people in the free world even stupider than you are.”

I felt a bit like that when I read a “religion-friendly” article that Charles Blow wrote for the New York Times recently. (“Defecting to Faith,” By CHARLES M. BLOW, Published: May 1, 2009) He seemed to be trying to explain the reasons behind a study by the very serious, Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life which questioned nearly 3,000 people and found that most children raised unaffiliated with a religion later chose to join one.

“While science, logic and reason are on the side of the nonreligious, the cold, hard facts are just so cold and hard,” Blow writes. “Yes, the evidence for evolution is irrefutable. Yes, there is a plethora of Biblical contradictions. Yes, there is mounting evidence from neuroscientists that suggests that God may be a product of the mind. Yes, yes, yes. But when is the choir going to sing? And when is the picnic? And is my child going to get a part in the holiday play?”

I’d love to stop and respond to some of those outlandish statements but the Times op-ed columnist continues, “As the nonreligious movement picks up steam, it needs do a better job of appealing to the ethereal part of our human exceptionalism — that wondrous, precious part where logic and reason hold little purchase, where love and compassion reign. It’s the part that fears loneliness, craves companionship and needs affirmation and fellowship.”

Without putting words into Mr. Blow’s mouth, it seems his idea is that religion responds to the sociological needs of man (which is true but there’s so much more). In this worldview, God doesn’t need to exist, in fact there is almost no discussion of God in the article—more the sociological ramifications of religion.

Can I suggest another reason that these unaffiliated people may be joining churches or religious organizations? “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” Augustine said.

Why did Chinese house Christians brave beatings, imprisonment, separation from family and other Christians? Was it for the right to sing in the choir, see their children in the Christmas play, and munch KFC at the church picnic?

Or was it because they loved the Lord Jesus with all their hearts? Even in prison, surrounded by people who hated their message, they continued to talk about Jesus. Results? There may be more Christians in China today than members of the communist party.

Results? This house church movement has a vision to send 100,000 Chinese missionaries back down the Silk Road preaching the gospel until they reach Jerusalem. They must pass through some of the most anti-Christian cultures on earth if they succeed and they know that many will suffer and even die for their faith.

Are they doing this because they have a sociological need or because they have a compelling relationship with their Creator?

Many years ago a fellow was doing quite well in his religion. All his sociological needs were being met. Then something happened that blew all that out of the water and responded to a much deeper, much more vital need in him. Let him tell his own story:

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Phillipians 3:7-10, NIV)

There are needs that bubble up in our soul much greater even than the need for others. It’s the need for Him. Don’t stop at mere religion, go all the way to God through His Son, Jesus.



Intimacy is progressive and only the hungry heart knows the depths of intimacy with God—or  with another person for that matter.

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