Functionally Atheist Part 2
This is just a quick follow-up to my February 1 post, “Functionally Atheist.” Despite what Christians profess to believe, most live their daily lives as if God is not present, and they really don’t expect him to show up. A prime example can be found in attitudes towards stewardship.
Most denominations lift up tithing–the practice of giving ten percent of one’s income to the church–as the benevolence goal that Christians should strive for. (Deuteronomy 14:22 is a key passage supporting this concept, but there are others.) I can’t tell you how many times I have had heard the stewardship campaign testimony of somebody who claimed that when they made a generous gift to the church God poured out all kinds of blessings in their lives–material and otherwise. The idea is do your part, give to God, and God will guarantee a return on the investment. Most church fund-raising drives work on some variation of this theme. In reality no major denomination that I am aware of even comes close to achieving the ten percent goal. The typical mainline Protestant member will give around 1.5% of his/her income to the work of the church. Roman Catholics do worse–less than 1%. Evangelicals do slightly better than mainline Protestants. Mormons do best of all. They are more rigorous than others in enforcing the tithe, but even they only achieve 5.5% on average. (For a Mormon to earn the exalted status of receiving a “temple recommend” they absolutely must demonstrate that they have given ten percent. How can the church authorities prove that? They check tax returns, of course. But the majority of Mormons do not earn a temple recommend and that’s why the giving average for the whole denomination is much lower than ten percent.)
If Christians really believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation and that everybody who does not become a Christian is destined for an eternity separated from God, then you would think no task on earth could possibly be more urgent than the church’s work of evangelism. If the eternal salvation of every soul on earth were really at stake, then a Christian would spare no expense to achieve the salvation of as many souls as possible. An old missionary hymn still sung frequently in Protestant congregations urges: “Give of your own, to bear the message glorious,/ Give of your wealth, to speed them on their way.”
Clearly most Christians do not believe this to be true in any way, shape or form. Despite what they may claim to believe, they simply do not order their financial priorities as if the eternal destiny of billions of souls were on the line. Why?–because deep down they don’t buy any of it.