Living in Tennessee, it’s hard to avoid hearing about national icon Dolly Parton. Dolly is incredibly talented and in many ways, she is very good. Giving away more money than you and I will ever see in our lifetimes, she has instituted amazing programs to serve kids and their families. But, I have big concerns for Dolly. If she was my friend I would do what someone did for me 20 years ago. I would take her out to coffee and tell her she is on a path that leads to death. Not only that, I would tell her the lies she is spreading about the nature of God and our duty to Him (or the lack thereof) has hurt our country in ways from which we may never fully recover.
Since our family is heading to Dollywood this week, an interview I watched with Dolly last year has been on my mind. In the interview, Dolly gave a brief explanation of her religion and a quick tour of a beautiful sanctuary where she worships privately in her home. As I was listening to her speak, I thought to myself, “Wait a second, I’ve heard this before.” Although I got the impression Dolly felt her “spiritual but not religious” mindset was unique, in fact, Dolly’s religion is the THE religion of our day. It’s the religion that has been used to justify any sort of departure from Scripture since the beginning of time, the only religion celebrities, Presidents and college professors tip their hats to… and apparently, since the pandemic, the religion that “respects the science” …. the religion of selfism.
Selfism simply promotes the worship of the self (as if we needed any more encouragement in that department). My views, my dreams, my ideas, my happiness….sadly, these are the things that matter the most to the vast majority of both church going and non going people in our country.
I grew up thinking the church goes the way of the culture. But, the older I’ve gotten the more I’m convinced it’s actually the reverse. The culture goes the way of the church. What the church approves of, the world will approve. Wherever the church is weak, the culture will become weak.
If there ever was a time for the church to be crystal clear on what the Bible has to say about the meaning of life, the nature of God and human responsibility, the time is NOW! Confusion on these things is wreaking havoc, especially for our nation’s most vulnerable.
These three lies have so permeated our society, they don’t even sound controversial to the vast majority of “Bible believing Christians” but if you, friend claim to be a “Bible believing Christian”, these three lies should be easily spotted by your discerning mind and you should give your life to fighting them with the truth of the gospel.
Lie #1 People can be “spiritual” without being “religious.”
How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m spiritual but not religious” (especially during the pandemic, when people could use Covid as an excuse not to attend church)? “You know, it’s just me and Jesus” or “I don’t have to attend church to be a Christian” or “It’s the religious people Jesus had a problem with.” There is truth in each one of these statements but, just like any good lie, the deadly part is easily consumed since it comes in a pretty package.
Of course we are spiritual. That’s a no brainer. We know we are more than just flesh and blood. In fact, Scripture says we know a lot more than that…
They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.Romans 2:15
The question is not if we are spiritual or religious. The question is to whom lies our allegiance? Ourself or the God of the Old & New Testaments?
Lie #2 Your thoughts about the nature of God are equally as valid as the next person’s.
“My truth” “My journey” – these are phrases our culture prizes, while proclaiming there is no absolute truth. But actually there are certain journeys God forbids and there are many things we assume about God that are just plain wrong.
This is the most sinister lie Dolly and other well meaning celebrities have given their lives to preaching throughout our country. If I can create a God who loves what I love and hates what I hate, then I can create a God who is cool with 63 million babies being murdered. If I can create a God who thinks like me, I can create a God who doesn’t bat an eye at adultery or laziness or theft.
Lie #3 If church people have let you down, you can leave. God understands.
Of these three lies, this is the most understandable to my sinful heart. In another interview, Dolly spoke about being afraid of her grandfather who was an evangelical preacher. She didn’t give the details of why she was afraid. Perhaps he was a very kind man, but she simply felt intimidated by him? In any case, the church has been a hiding place for wicked men and women who have used Scripture in sinful ways to control and abuse others. If this is what Dolly meant, my heart breaks for her. God does not take that kind of sin lightly. In fact, Scripture says…
It would be better for him if a millstone was hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.Luke 17:2
Be that as it may, experiencing the faithlessness of those who were supposed to be faithful to you is no excuse for your unfaithfulness to God.
We attend church with all kinds of people, young and old, from different backgrounds with various histories and hopes and disappointments, not because it’s cute or fun or trendy or because everyone there is always nice. We do it because the God of history gave us a book which tells us this is what we are to do.
God made it clear the local church is one of His biggest means of grace in our lives. We need to remember who we are and who our God is through the preaching of His Word and we are needed to be hands and feet in caring for whomever He brings through the doors.
If you’ve been spiritually abused, you don’t get a pass. The church exists for Jesus. He is the one Who instituted and sustains it. If you’ve been struggling to see the point in joining a local church, give this a listen. I promise you’ll be encouraged. https://www.truthforlife.org/broadcasts/2015/05/01/why-join-a-local-church/
This also ought to be a sobering reminder to us in the church and as parents that we are to model the gospel faithfully to our children. (Don’t miss Idaho Rambler Lindsey Briggs’ comments on this regarding the Uvalde school shooting http://redstateramblings.com/tuesdays-tragedy-in-uvalde-texas/ and Michelle in Texas’ admonition to disciple and love our children well http://redstateramblings.com/disciple-them-well-raise-them-well-love-them-well/)
Rod Dreher says it best…
We serve a God who created all things for a purpose. He has shown us in the Bible, especially the Gospels, who we are and how we are to live in harmony with the sacred order He created. He does not want admirers; He wants followers. As Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, God suffered with humanity to redeem humanity. He calls us to share in His passion, for our sake and for the sake of the world. He promises us nothing but the cross. Not happiness but the joy of blessedness. Not material wealth but richness of spirit. Not sexual freedom as erotic abandon but sexual freedom within loving, mutually sacrificial commitment. Not power; but love; not self sovereignty but obedience.Rod Dreher, “Live Not by Lies”
May you and I love our friends enough to speak the truth even when we are misunderstood and lied about and hated. The gospel has always been enough. May dear, sweet Dolly and may our hurting nation leave the lies of selfism and find true rest in Christ alone.