A man perusing magazines before taking a journey. Unfortunately, the most initially eye-appealing and glossy 'Christian-type' magazines are likely to be very weak in substance.
I s it just me?
During the last few weeks I seem to have picked up several glossy magazines which would - loosely at least - be considered 'Christian magazines.' My initial response in most cases has usually been something like, "Wow, now this is a quality looking product." The second thought? 'Ah, but let us see what's inside.' And here I have been bitterly disappointed; a glossy, attractive-looking front cover, often featuring a leading personality in sport, politics or the world of entertainment (surely to catch the eye and interest of those who may or may not buy the magazine and to convict them to buy), has usually given way to trivia of a most disappointing nature. All articles being shallow and short, nothing of any real substance anywhere, nothing to really provoke any deep or serious thought. The most recent one, passed on by a friend, was especially glossy throughout. Sadly, it was the usual shallow, emotional, attention-grabbing but serious argument lacking stuff. Yes, it could loosely be called 'faith-based,' but what faith? It was sheer religiosity with a few mentions of Jesus thrown in. A leading US-based triumphalist prosperity gospeller had a feature page in there, also a brief 'spread' on a (claimed) rash of miracles currently happening (we are told) in one corner of the British Isles (but only excited claims - no serious investigation or research to be found anywhere). A noted New-Age type actress believer also had something on her. Frankly, if this were all Christianity had to offer it would make me embarrassed to be a Christian!
Such magazines are calculated to appeal to those 'moderns' with very short attention spans. The reader is assumed to be not too intelligent and unable to cope with anything even a little more substantial. It is the tabloid mentality: just give 'em a little mild excitement and religious titillation but don't even think of actually explaining anything! To me, that is profoundly insulting. Perhaps one should not be too surprised: Christian TV itself is full of self-appointed "latter-day prophets," and numerous prosperity merchants. In my experience pretty much all of them deliver the same triumphalist, money-based message. Yes, a message for a greedy, selfish age in which glitz, glamour, image and appearance are everything. How have we come to this sad state of affairs?
A few months ago I wrote about the outstanding man of faith, George Muller. Muller would have been banned from modern-day 'Christian TV.' A true man of faith and man of God that, in my opinion, he surely was, Muller would not have 'cut it' for the fast-paced, gleaming teeth, silk-suited image of Christian TV. Oh, he had true utter sincerity and deep biblical faith in shed-loads but he would not have been smooth and slick enough for 'faith-based' TV. The bosses of Christian TV (in the majority, though undoubtedly not every single one) only want entertainer-type yelling preachers who will keep the money rolling in with their latest 'from-the-heart' appeals. Have you seen some of those 'appeals'? Don't they just bring tears to your eyes? Yuk!! No, they don't - that's the point; hype, sensationalism, obvious audience manipulation techniques: this is the currency these people seem to deal in. They are seemingly disinterested in true biblical, from-the-heart righteousness. They are disinterested in proving and establishing their modern heavily prosperity-based approach through careful biblical explanation and exposition (although they cheerfully go on quoting Scriptures out of context which might appear - at first glance - to back them up) . Paul the Apostle too (possibly short in stature, maybe somewhat lame and physically-unimpressive) would have been rejected. Oh, Christian TV is interested in 'righteousness' alright but only in the yelling, boastful, silk-suited razzamatazz visual form of it. The heart? Oh, please!
People are much more intellectually sophisticated than they once were; they don't fall for insubstantial emotionally-manipulative religious mush. Such an approach drives them straight into the arms of Dawkins and Darwin. Well-educated, thoughtful and well-travelled people don't fall for this stuff, it mostly only appeals to the naive, the insecure and the gullible. As one emailer wrote to me recently,
"I spent years trying to understand the Bible from TV, tele-evangelists and evangelistic hand-outs and it only led me into error. I mistook emotions and shallow persuasiveness for conversion. Only since I got rid of all those things and read more wisely, including C.S. Lewis and other great writers, have I come to really understand the message of Christian redemption. Thank you for opening my eyes and showing me the right direction because you are one of two or three who did this for me. Please go on warning the people about these big name TV preachers and their unchristian desire for more and more wealth..."
Christian magazines? They still could be - and should be - a great tool for evangelism. I have still seen one or two better ones which offer good explanations but, sad to say, they are the less visually-appealing ones; you have to dig them out. People won't pick them up before boarding that flight. Again, there are just one or two exceptions but it is a distressing picture overall. The whole thing is a symptom of a big problem within modern evangelism: offering facile arguments, 'easy answers,' and the 'you can make yourself happier, healthier and richer by coming to Christ!' message. Actually, you probably can't do that; all the true servants of God have been involved in life-long struggles. True Christianity is not about a life of ease, neither is it about helping people feel good about themselves, it is about making a lifelong committment to the Lord Jesus Christ and accepting wherever that may lead us - and it could well be a rocky road! In our day thousands have been deluded into accepting a flawed message, the message that Christianity is about leading a happier, healthier life (as long as you keep handing the money over to the tele-evangelist of your choice, of course). In this dreadful aberration of the Christian message, faith is hijacked to mean something quite different to the faith which is outlined in the Word of God. As for solid spiritual 'meat,' it is considered best avoided. Also, the focus is mostly on this present life, no longer on the kingdom of Heaven. The reader may want to read our article on faith (link at the foot of this page).
Robin A. Brace. October 21st, 2013.