Monday, May 07, 2007

"The polluted stream of religious professionalism..."

My praise for Eugene Peterson's Bible translation is, well, muted at best, but my praise for his books on the other hand knows very few bounds. I've been reading his Living the Resurrection, which harbors under its generally winsome tone a distinct and rather urgent critique of the church in America today.

The best I can do, as usual, is simply offer a quote. Peterson begins by citing Chesterton:
A hundred years ago, G. K. Chesterton protested against the way the specialists and experts were taking over common and essential human activities. He wrote that it wasn't so long ago that men sang around a table in chorus. Now one sings alone before a microphone for the absurd reason that he can sing better. If this kind of thing goes on, Chesterton predicted, "Only one man will laugh, because he can laugh better than the rest."

This kind of thing has accelerated in our society and it continues to infect Christian consciousness, where it is most crippling to the human condition. But we are not without Chestertonian voices calling our attention to the spiritual devastation that takes place when Christians lapse into religious consumerism and abdicate their dignity and glory as followers of Jesus. There are strong and articulate men and women--some of them reading these words right now--who are urging and guiding us to go against the polluted stream of religious professionalism that has unleashed this rampant, relentless onslaught of religious commercialism, which commodifies the spiritual life and treats the church as a free market for promoting and selling programs, techniques, and devices to the greater glory of God. I hardly think God is pleased.

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