We live in a culture where people want choices. Sonic commercials boast that their fast-service restaurant offers more than 168,000 drink combinations. As far as the election goes, a WorldNetDaily.com poll claims 62.4 percent of voters aren’t satisfied with the selection of these two candidates for office; too bad election ballots don’t have a “none of the above” option. In Manhattan, you can choose from at least 21 radio stations, and K-State offers more than 400 clubs and organizations in which students can get involved.
It’s no wonder that many students are turned off by religion, where strict doctrines leave little room for flexibility. More people are starting to take a kind of “smorgasbord” approach, piling on views they agree with and rejecting those they don’t. USA Today’s June 24 cover story focuses on the trend of Christians to diverge from traditional doctrines, as concluded from a Religion & Public Life’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey conducted in 2007.
According to the survey, a whopping 92 percent of U.S. adults believe in God. It is apparent, however, that beliefs and practices do not always line up. Many people simply don’t find the traditional idea of Christianity to fit well into the lifestyle they want to live. Say the words “evangelical Christian” to your friends, and they’ll probably cringe and look at you funny, like some alien is walking around wearing your body. For a lot of people, the phrase carries numerous negative stereotypes: right-wing fundamentalist, close-minded, holier-than-thou, extremist.
It’s not that college students aren’t interested in religion; the number of religious organizations on campus testifies that they are. For some, religion becomes unattractive when it questions the way you live, how you spend your time, and your priorities. Religion becomes unattractive when it is inconvenient or restraining.
The survey shows that 70 percent of Americans believe many religions can lead to eternal life. Where did this idea come from? Perhaps it’s the idea of tolerance. Who am I to tell my friend the truth? John 14:6 says, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” How strange that so many people miss that detail. Jesus lays it out right there. He doesn’t say, “Hey, man. If you follow me, I’m one way to have eternal life. But if my style doesn’t suit you, you can also have it by dedicating your life to Buddha or Mohammed or that guy down the street who says he’s God. Or if you like animals, you can worship that cow and it’ll give you eternal life.” Sound ridiculous? That’s because it doesn’t work that way.
Another common misconception of Christianity is the idea of heaven. This poll asked participants, “Do you think there is a heaven, where people who have led good lives are eternally rewarded?” Seventy four percent said “yes.” Now, Christianity does support the concept of heaven, but I’d like to have a word with the creators of this survey about their poorly-worded question. The last part is misleading. Yes, there is a heaven, but you don’t get in by leading a good life. In Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul writes, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
When it comes to truth, there is little room for options. It’s truth or lies. People don’t like hearing that it’s not OK to sleep with whoever they want, anytime they want, party their brains out, and still lead respectable lives once they decide they can’t be 18 forever.
American culture thrives on choice and the individual. Despite suspicions toward institutionalized religion, you can’t always “have it your way.” Christianity is cool when it destroys boundaries. Try to restrict the party-animal instinct in you, and it’s easier to get angry and blow Christianity off as a right-wing political ploy to ruin your life.