On the January 17, 2005 cover of Time magazine, a yellow happy face as the center nucleus of smaller round happy faces draws us to read the articles on “The Science of Happiness.” This “Special Mind & Body Issue” takes us into the possibility that there might be a happiness-gene in our DNA. So too, the question, “Is God in Our Genes? leads us to ponder the possibility that genetic engineering and cloning through scientific research might someday (perhaps sooner than anyone could imagine) create perfect loving, peaceful human beings who in turn could then create a loving, peaceful world. Of course, this premise of finding happiness and God through scientific and technical means assumes the benefit to humanity will be peace and love. Should the happiness and God genes be found and just need a genetic DNA tweak when needed, then human intelligence can solve all human problems. And if science and technology can find those genes, it would most certainly follow there would be no need to have religion of any kind. Christ would become a well meaning, but ancient historical figure - nothing more.
    Lee McFarland founded Radiant Church in 1996 in Sunrise Arizona. Approximately 5,000 attend each week. In a New York Times article about McFarland’s church, the writer states: “The spiritual sell is also a soft one... Almost half of each service is given over to live Christian rock with simple, repetitive lyrics in which Jesus is treated like a high-school crush... Ask people at Radiant [church] what first brought them to the church and you will almost never hear a mention of God. It might have been a billboard: “Isn’t It Time You Laughed Again?” Or the twice-a-week aerobics class (with free child care) called Firm Believers... McFarland says, ‘We want the church to look like a mall. We want you to come in here and say, ‘Dude, where’s the cinema?’”
    In the 20th Century, World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II brought about revivals and healing-tent evangelists. Churches grew and Christians prayed. The Korean War, Vietnam, the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. created major public and private stresses, arguments, and a fall away from faith, orthodoxy and spiritual matters. With shock we realized we were vulnerable to violent non-Christian fundamentalists (fascists) not only “out there” but “in here” as well. The perceived golden age of the 50s and early 60s was erased.
                          IS GOD DEAD?
    On an O’Reilly Factor segment on Fox News in late December 2004, Tom Wolfe was being interviewed about his new novel on a young female student’s fictional life in college. Mr. Wolfe shared about his two year research into the mores of college students. During the interview, he stated that the god is dead theory, an atheistic and secular point of view, was now widely accepted as true on college campuses and throughout the American public school system. He quoted the German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) as saying, “If the nations lose the idea of a creator God, they will replace the creator God with themselves.” The god is dead theory was widely discussed in the 60s and 70s. The 1966 cover of Time magazine and other articles, news print and talk media asked, “Is God Dead?” I remember studying Nietzsche in a philosophy class at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. At that time the church I attended was not into discussing such a subject. It was assumed this philosophy was not creditable enough to be mentioned. Through the years in ministry, in participating and observing the church and America, I understand more and more, if you take God out of the public arena, and let slip the standard of Sola Scriptura (Latin for only scripture - living and depending entirely, solely upon the word of God), the influence of the Christian Church in our nation will be eliminated. This is not just happening. It has already happened.
Just where is the Christian Church in America in this morass? She is entertaining, prosperity driven and greedy for numbers. According to Barna research, she has a higher divorce rate than the general public. Her ministers argue about whether or not practicing homosexuals should be allowed in the pulpit. They vote one way or the other. Some of her ministers are into pornography and are pedophiles. Others are skinning the sheep with ponzi schemes and false building programs.
    Ministers lament that the local church has a revolving door. People move from church to church looking for the perfect one – which, of course, doesn’t exist. Pastors try different venues to keep the visitors, even members from revolving out. Multi-media presentations, contemporary music, dramas and pop-group therapy, breakfast and dinner socials, merchandising inspirational goods, plush buildings and interiors are used to make members comfortable and happy. The now, with it, cool church is a part of mainstream culture, not dissenters from it. The definition of mainstream is moving with the prevailing current or direction of activity or influence. It’s important that the church be relevant - move with the times. Let’s all get along.
    You are either agreeing or you’re asking the questions: aren’t you presenting a rather negative, harsh assessment of the church? Aren’t you too hard on our democratic way of life? America offers great opportunities and has many advantages. Aren’t you painting America with a very black brush? Didn’t Paul have problems in the Corinthian church? Wasn’t that church as messy as ours is today? Wasn’t the government of Rome more corrupt and decadent than America is today? Aren’t we better off now than they were?
    But are the issues in the church and in America one of comparisons? For more than 2000 years we have had many revivals. Church history attests to the many mighty moves God has made through the church on people and nations. In America there was a great revival before the Civil War. Shortly after the turn of the 20th century there was a revival and subsequently an outpouring of the manifestation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This Charismatic Renewal spread across America reaching every denomination and independent church, whether it was embraced or not.
As Thomas Paine wrote in The American Crisis I, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” And so it was in early America. We had poverty, slavery, political issues, Civil War and our soldiers fighting in foreign countries. In the 1800s, heroin, “smoking poppy,” was rampant in America. The “roaring twenties” was a time for free love, mob violence and wife swapping. Corrupt police and politicians took money to look the other way over prostitution, gambling, alcohol and drugs. Prohibition did not quench the thirst for alcohol. At that time, abortion was practiced, albeit illegal, in hidden rooms. From 1930 to 1934, Hollywood produced R rated films. One in particular, Baby Face with Barbara Stanwyck, swept in a Production Code. Editing this film made it acceptable to the general public and ushered in what would be considered today unconstitutional censorship. At this writing, the bloody and violent series, CSI Las Vegas reruns are shown on Spike TV in the children’s 7p.m. watch time. Many uncensored dangerous and often vile web sites, blogs and chat rooms on the internet are accessible to children in libraries and homes. What was once unacceptable to the general American public is now well accepted.
    Much is being said in the church about our Christian heritage from our founding fathers in America. But if we closely look at our history, we will find we did not treat the Indian Nations very well. By wrongly using scriptures we slanted ourselves into accepting slavery. If the church researches American History, we did not apply SolaScriptura in any meaningful way in the public arena. All three principles, rugged individualism, the pioneering spirit, the age of enlightenment and reason, are the historical foundations of secularism in our country. Spend some time reading American history, look not at its rhetoric, but study its past activities and behaviors, you might be surprised at how very unchristian America was.
For decades the church has cried out for revival in America. Today many pastors and congregants fervently pray for the Holy Spirit to do something, anything to bring about cultural reform. From many we hear, “Raise up leaders to bring us into power so we can change America back to what she once was.” (Whatever that was.) However, the life-style reality speaks, “Lord, whatever you do, leave us to live our way, the American way - ever consuming, self-centered, obsessive-compulsive, in your face with attitude, life. Let us be loving, tolerant of that politically incorrect word, sin. We are only human after all.” Too often, the “we are all sinners saved by grace” rolls off church members’ tongues without understanding the cost of the grace or the nature of the sinner.
The church strives to eliminate guilt and stress in people’s lives. Our American culture also strives to eliminate guilt and stress. Both culture and church have become one in accepting both hard and soft addictions: vulgar entertainment, consumerism and commercialism, lack of moral standards and tolerance of depravity re-labeled as human weaknesses.
 The today, with-it church has the answer to those human weaknesses dilemma: self-help books, tapes, discs, programs, conferences and seminars. All are designed to move us to be better persons, to get in touch with our higher selves, our inner souls. If it has been written we will find the latest book: How to Get Things From God Through Prayer in 10 easy-to-read steps with questions at the end of each chapter. Too often in pop Christian books the underlying premises are: how to get God to do what we want, when we want it;   God wants us to take control of our lives; God wants us to be happy.
    Does this mean I believe you can’t mature in all areas of your life by reading books, listening to tapes, seeing videos and attending conferences? No.
    What I am suggesting is that the proliferation, the preponderance of all these learning helps are only as good as the student’s desire to be like Christ. Even before we can know what we are about, who we are in Christ, we need to know how depraved and unable we are to manage our lives. Our sin nature is not eliminated because we can quote scripture, discuss the newest inspirational book or even preach from our pulpits. Jesus continually emphasized that man’s depraved nature keeps him away from God. While the church joyfully offers God’s forgiveness, it must equally offer the reality of man’s continuing nature to distance himself from God and go his own way.
In the last few years, leadership (with a capital L) has emerged as a major buzz word topic in Christian print and sound media. Leadership is studied with zeal as the most promising way to encourage members to involve themselves in the work of the church, particularly the local church. The premise is: everyone can be a leader. One has only to tap into knowing how. The secular business world has already learned how to be leadership successful and productive since the Industrial Revolution. American business has proven itself to bring power and prosperity to the nation. So, what’s wrong with the church plugging into the same programs and ideas?
  My husband has a Masters Degree in Business. He taught Introduction to Management at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan for 10 years, starting in 1963. Working as a manager for 30 years in a large corporation, he attended many training sessions at Leadership Conferences. He has read hundreds of books on management and leadership. After attending a Christian Leadership Conference, he said, “This is just like a secular conference.”
 “But how can that be?” I asked. “The advice seems to be based on Christian principles.”
 My husband answered, “Scriptures are thrown in to make old business ideas spiritual.”
David Callahan, author of The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead, defines cheating as: “breaking the rules to get ahead academically, professionally, or financially.” Several recent articles and websites state that 80% to 95% of all students cheat and plagiarize. That’s at every level of education. Those polled also stated it was okay to cheat. Winning was everything; getting a good job from high marks was the foundation for success in life; making money and living a comfortable lifestyle would result from achieving the best scores and grades. Considering that many polls, Barna and others, declare that 85% of Americans are Christian and 60% of those who claim to be “born again” attend church, why are the cheating numbers so high?
  From the many Christian magazines I receive, the 21st century church is targeting teenagers and young adults into its fold with evangelistic zeal. However, unless the church addresses the issues of our post modernistic world view which rejects objective truth in favor of opinions based on personal experience and relational ethics which are indoctrinated in our children and young adults through our educational system and culture, it will fail to bring about a genuine turn to living Christ-like lives.
The American bumper sticker reads, “Those who die with the most toys win.”  SolaScriptura states, “It is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God,” Matthew 19:24. Because the Jerusalem city gates were too narrow, the camels had to be unloaded before they could enter. People and baggage were inspected. Whatever was brought inside the city gates had to have Roman governmental approval. Well, we all know we die. No toys in heaven. And like the scriptural picture of the gates in Jerusalem, the only things that pass inspection - that we go in with - are the inward Christ-like characteristics and scars on our bodies to show for our service in this life to Him.
  Awhile ago an e-mail was forwarded to me, no name author, which read, “Once upon a time the church was the moral conscience and spiritual lighthouse of the nation. Now, most congregations are impotent, pusillanimous minor-league social welfare agencies or mutual comfort societies with no impact on the world around their little enclave.” The writer was calling every Christian to “stand up” and publicly pray in the classroom, before ball games, graduations, proms, courtrooms, anywhere he or she wished. “Where would they get enough jails to hold us all? How would they prosecute hundreds of thousands?” the author asks. Good question.
  But what are we publicly praying for or against? Standing up and reciting “The Lord’s Prayer” loudly and with determination at public functions would not change American legislation and/or our culture one bit. Our culture has never been based on Christian principles. The European Renaissance brought to America the philosophies and ideals of ancient Rome and Greece as well as the schisms of the Protestant and Catholic Reformation. The American way has always been and will continue to be moved: by the age of enlightenment and reason, by scientific and technological inventions, by the buying and selling of goods - marketing - profit driven, by the love of individual freedom to express anything (no matter how crass or vulgar), by the entertainment business to please the masses, by political agendas which promote situational ethics as a moral standard, and by the philosophy that each person has the right to pursue happiness even if pursuing that happiness interferes with the happiness of another.
We can’t shop Jesus in the Wal-Mart way - picking and choosing according to our momentary and cultural needs. He just isn’t merchandise mart. He says about Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me,” John 14:6. Whenever the church has tried to merchandise Jesus, as it tried to do during the Dark and Middle Ages, as it is attempting to do today, the church diminished its influence on the world. Its marketing to the masses brought about an acceptance of all that is secular – which in itself is a form of religion. The belief that man can control his environment and his destiny is a belief in man as god. Secularism is the modern world worshiping what it has created. Man is elevated as the law of civilization; man can determine what is best for himself.
Talking about the real Jesus is a dangerous thingLiving for the real Jesus is a dangerous thing. Living like Jesus is the most dangerous thing of all. But which Jesus is the real Jesus - the one belonging to pop Christianity, the one belonging to fundamental legalism (no movies, no TV, no below the neck skin showing, can’t cut hair), the one belonging to the ecumenical council of churches, the one belonging to mega-marketing or the one belonging to global unity?
  No, none of the above. He is not fashioned by the postmodern church or any church that we might visit would like to make of Him.
 The one to belong to is the real Jesus of Sola Scriptura. This Jesus is not an easy Jesus, an entertaining Jesus, and a non-judgmental Jesus. He throws the moneychangers out of His church. He tells the rich they might not be accepted. He heals and elicits hatred for His healing. This is the Jesus who rebukes Peter for aligning himself with Satan, says the Sadducees and Pharisees are spiritually ignorant, and describes His entire generation as “faithless.” He turns their lives and thinking upside down. He throws out the rituals and traditions based on man’s ideas of what pleases God. He does not adapt Himself to them. He demolishes their cultural image of Him. He demands they change from the inside out in order to be His disciples. They must leave everything behind, their thinking, their relatives, their hooky relationships, their needs and their desires. He is both exclusive and inclusive. This Jesus speaks of the Last Judgment, the sin God will never forgive, the terrible consequences of misleading children, the suffering and death of those who will follow Him, and that end times will come sooner than anyone expects - so be prepared. He does n