“Am I really having this conversation?” This thought went through my mind as I listened to the middle-aged woman in front of me explain that, while she was a committed Christian who attended a local Presbyterian church, she believed strongly in reincarnation. When I asked her how that could be squared with passages such as Hebrews 9:27, “…it is appointed for a man to die once,” she informed me the “reincarnation parts” had been taken out of the Bible. I guess her Bible reads, “it is appointed for a man to die once unless he has karmic debt to work off, in which case Christ will send him back as a bovine.” That must be somewhere in 2nd Opinions, chapter 3.
For more fun try Bruce Leininger, a professing Christian who authored a book entitled Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter Pilot last year. He recounts how several vivid dreams his nine year old son had led him to believe his boy was reincarnated WWII pilot James M. Huston, Jr. Despite raising a pre-pubescent war hero, Leininger reports his Christian faith remains intact and his wife says the situation has ‘enhanced’ her belief system. Neither of them is alone. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life reported in December 2009 that 22% of Christians believe in reincarnation, 29% believe they have been in touch with the dead, 23% believe there is spiritual energy in trees and other natural objects, and another 23% believe in astrology.
This confirms even Christians are participators in America’s favorite religion which I have nicknamed “Golden Corral Religion”. If you’re not familiar with Golden Corral, it is America’s number one buffet restaurant with 481 locations in 41 different states. It is a food-tastic experience to walk down the buffet and see salad, fruit, mac & cheese, steak, roast beef, tacos, pizza, fried chicken, buttery rolls, green bean casserole, cheesecake, and banana pudding stretching as far as the eye can see. The exciting thing about a buffet is that I can pick and choose what I want and leave what I don’t. I can load my plate with pizza, cheese fries, and a brownie while passing over peas, spinach, and liver. This is the way America views religion: “I can either choose among the beliefs of a variety of religions or I can choose one religion and shape it into something I prefer.” Thus, I walk away from the buffet of religion with an easily digestible plate of my own religion.
This was seen recently when Al Mohler (President of Southern Seminary) wrote an article about Christians and Yoga that was picked up by the Associated Press. In the article, Mohler points out that Yoga – an eastern form of physical and spiritual meditation that connects one with the divine – is contrary to the Christian faith. Mohler received hundreds of emails and comments from angry Christians who insisted Yoga enhanced their ‘spirituality’ without a single biblical or theological argument. One Baptist church member wrote: “I get much more out of yoga and meditation than I ever get out of a sermon in church. “ A Christian who ‘goes to church every service’ wrote:
My favorite image I use in yoga is that of Jesus assuming a perfect yoga position in the garden of Gethsemane as he prays. How do we know that the apostles and early Christian guys did not use yoga to commune with Jesus after he left?
Some have no problem eating from a buffet including faiths opposed to Christ as long as they have a spirituality that works for them.
Christians even turn their own faith into a buffet even if they don’t mix it with others. They choose God’s love but leave off His wrath. They practice what Jesus teaches about moral purity but not justice, or vice-versa. They believe Jesus died for their sins and gives eternal life but everyone doesn’t need him; other faiths will do. They adopt what Paul says about salvation but what he says about gender roles has to go. They celebrate the reality of heaven but deny the reality of hell – even though Jesus talked more about the latter. They teach homosexuality as acceptable but dismiss celibacy outside of marriage as quaint. While their plate comes from Christianity they see the faith as a buffet and will consume only what they deem palatable.
There are two errors that lead Christians into Golden Corral religion. First is a misplaced authority. In buffet religion the authority is the self. If I don’t like a particular teaching then I don’t have to believe it; if something works for me then I can accept it. I am the decider of what is true and what is not. I am my own little god. No authority outside of me like a book, church, or savior is going to tell me what to eat. Second is a lack of consistency; I don’t have to think through or act in accordance with my faith. I haven’t taken the time to learn and understand what I believe so I say and do things that contradict the very faith I profess. It’s like being on a strict low-carb diet and taking fourteen buttery rolls from the buffet. I still believe strongly in my need for a low-carb diet, I just don’t know what it involves or am unwilling to change my life for it.
The problem with Golden Corral religion is that it’s a lie. Since we are not gods, our declarations of what is true and what is false are meaningless. Our spirituality may work for us and we may gather a large following (see Oprah) but we’ve still constructed a fairy tale of our own making. Let us humble ourselves under the authority of God and His word and strive to think and live consistently with the faith once and for all handed down to the saints (Jude 3). The alternative could be raising dead World War II pilots while attending yoga classes more faithfully than church. Yikes.