Friday, June 18, 2010

Trapped in a Cult

We are all cultists - not the saffron-robed brainwashed variety, just the garden variety American type. We are cultists in the sense that we are products of our culture. From the moment we were born, we have been Americanized in every way. It determines everything from the foods we eat to the wars we fight. What is not determined by our culture is determined by our biology.

Researches say they have found a "God gene" that determines whether we are religious or not. But the type of religion is still determined by our culture. Notwithstanding the human right to convert from one religion to another, if we are born in a culture we are almost certainly to adopt the religion of that culture.

Because I was born in these United States to a Christian family, it was nearly certain that I would adopt some form of Christianity. In my family culture that meant some form of Protestantism. My other alternative would be secularism - choosing not to be religious - since this is a secular nation in principle.

That doesn't mean I didn't try out non-Christian faiths. To honor the myth of religious freedom, I went through the requisite spiritual search. I explored various philosophies and religions, but in the end I came back to Christianity.

I believe it was the grace of God that led me to faith in Christ. After all I am a Christian, and that is what Christians believe. But I am enough of a scholar of religion to also see my journey objectively. I know that if I had been born in India I would be a Hindu, and if in Burma I would be Buddhist, and if in Saudi Arabia then I would be Muslim. I also believe in the power of God to convert people. I just believe that the Spirit uses cultural forces to do that.

We are prisoners of our culture. This is not only true of religion but of all values. Americans share common humanistic values. We value individualism, freedom and material prosperity. We believe in "certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Especially liberty.

We firmly believe in free will. We have no choice; it is a core cultural value. We believe we make our own choices - especially when it comes to important matters like eternal salvation - whereas evidence points to the fact that our religion has chosen us. We are all chosen people, not just the Jews.

I believe that God has elected me for salvation, that I was "chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world." Why me? It is the sovereign choice of God. Why doesn't God choose everyone? I have no answer to that theological dilemma except to say that it is what God chose.

Those who believe that everyone is saved, that all religions are paths up Salvation Mountain, are just as cultic as anyone else. They have been conditioned to believe this by our culture; they have no choice. It is the logical result of the American values of equality, religious freedom and tolerance.

We are trapped in a cult. No one is exempt. "None are righteous; no, not one" as my Scriptures say. It is a Wachowskian matrix. Only the grace of God can free us. Only when we become aware of our bondage can things change. "Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free."

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