SPECTATOR SPORT

Gaylon Embrey

Football notwhithstanding, America's favorite spectator sport has to be 20th Century Christianity. I am certain God did not intend it to be this type of game; but then God's wishes have never been of great importance to the general public.

Modern Christianity can be considered a "sport" because it is looked upon, entered into and engaged in with such a lighthearted attitude. There is a semblance of seriousness surrounding it to be sure, but there is also fun for all. It can be considered a sport of the spectator variety because for the most part its members are onlookers rather than participants. It has accurately been described as "balcony Christianity." Many professed Christians, you see, only "attend" public worship services. They attend much in the same way they attend any other performance, as spectators. In this case there is a production by the Preacher, who is the star of the show, and perhaps a special presentation by the music department. The attending members enjoy the performance, pay their money, go home and forget it.

The spectator spirit that dominates the current religious scene is further seen in the fact that most "good works" of the Christian faith are seldom practiced by those who profess discipleship, except by proxy. We may as well admit it. The actual performance, the work itself, is usually done by professional religionists specifically hired for that purpose. Regular members (as they are called) are more or less in the position of fans who pay for and applaud the feats performed by the professionals. You do not believe it? Then consider. The modern Church maintains a standing crew, a corps of professionals who stand ready to do most any work that needs doing. If a regular member finds a sinner who is willing to listen to the gospel, he merely dials the Church; there a trained personal worker stands ready to take care of the situation. If a member is confronted with a needy person, rather than personally responding to that need as a real Christian might, he calls the Church office; there he is directed to the proper department of the Church that will relieve him of his obligation. So on and on it goes. Thus have we constructed a kind of Christianity that is both pleasant and pointless; pleasant because we do not have to bother ourselves to practice it, and pointless because it does not touch our lives in any meaningful way. Needless to say, a system that encourages such spectatorship is unscriptural. It is wrong. It is even abominable. But it will not easily be changed. Of course not. We like it too much.

To speak frankly, we all find it easy to love the spectator system of religion. Under it all we need to supply is our presence (occasionally) and our money. If we "attend" regularly enough to keep the option on our seats year after year, and if we provide sufficient revenue to keep the gates open and the game going, then we have nothing to worry about. According to the Loud Speaker "victory" will surely be ours. We can continue to be spiritual spectators all our life while the Church "team" performs the faith for us. It is an enjoyable game; not as much fun as football, but quite entertaining. Too bad the game will have to end one day.