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‘I’m in the Lord’s Smarmy’ — How ‘Sham-Wow’ Christianity Threatens Western Civilization

By John Kirkwood

April 14, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Do your ears tingle when pastors use their “church voice” to promise you Jesus in a bottle? Do you play the Lord like a rabbit’s foot or a sanctified Ouija board? Have you bought into the God can serve you and give you your best, purpose-driven life now, so that you can “eat the cookie” and “buy the shoes” Christianity?

There is a heap of teachers willing to tickle your ears with the promise of God as your bellhop, but if you have been convinced that God plays Alfred to your Bruce Wayne then I’m afraid you have lost the heart of Christianity and the soul of discipleship.

Christ didn't die to make your marriage better, buttress your portfolio, inspire your weight loss or demonstrate "an example." Christ didn't die to be your marriage counselor, financial adviser, personal trainer, nutritionist or life coach.

Christ died to crush the serpent, satisfy justice, overcome death, and please the father. Christ died to make dead men living reflections of his Father's glory.

When you treat Scripture like a sanctified fortune cookie, you reduce God's message and His messenger to the level of a laundry detergent commercial and you abandon the battleground for the playground. And while modern “Christianity” plays in the “how to” and “what’s in it for me” sandbox, the hallowed ground is plundered.

Yes, there is a wealth of wisdom in the Word of God for these secondary things but God never promises you that His salvation will bring you happiness, a sound marriage, better relationships, health, wealth or long life. Don't take my word for it; just ask Saul of Tarsus, "On which side of the Damascus Road experience was your family life, peer life, health and general well-being better off?" And you won't have to wait for the answer, just compare Philippians 3 with II Corinthians 6 and 11 and you'll note the true irony:

That all the things that modern Sham-Wow Christianity offers to their "clientele" are all that Paul reckoned as "dung" in the stead of a true, vivid relationship with Christ!

Prior to his blinding engagement on the Damascus Road, Saul Benjamin Tarsus Paulus had a family (members of the Sanhedrin had to be married with children), health, wealth and the esteem of his peers. Following his conversion to Christ he was presumably disowned by his family, hunted by his peers, beaten, falsely accused and eventually beheaded. Between the lictor’s axe and the Damascus Road, Paul lost his family, friends, eyesight, comfort, reputation, and religious access; yet he welcomes this new life and calls the old one “dung.”

True, he never had the advantage of being mentored by an Osteen or a Meyer but the apostle of the Gentiles did have a couple of sessions with the risen, glorified Christ. Not too shabby.


Religion today is not transforming people; rather it is being transformed by the people. It is not raising the moral level of society; it is descending to society's own level, and congratulating itself that it has scored a victory because society is smilingly accepting its surrender. – A. W. Tozer

The Bill of Rights is treated like a piñata by our own government. The headlines are a hat tip to Orwell and Huxley. Pastors and politicians compete for the affection of the Gaystapo while abortionists boldly talk about snuffing out babies born alive - and the country yawns. Jane’s Addiction was prescient – “Nothing’s Shocking.”

We wonder how a nation of 70 to 80% professing Christians would allow this level of rot in our own back yard. Our churches have morphed into malls with Fortune 500 business models; our pastors major in fundraising and minor in Tony Robbins; our pews are filled with “crack is whack” customers coming for their weekly fix of sunshine. This is how table salt becomes street salt. Warren Wiersbe was right when he said “the church today is starting to suffer from success and the only remedy is to return to worship!”

Sermons about “how to feel good about yourself” or “your best life now” would never have produced the generation of heroes that founded this country. Nor are they suitable to protect it. Cotton candy Christianity is no substitute for the aged steak that is sound Bible doctrine. It was steak that informed and inspired the founders. And it is faithfulness to the divinely inspired Word that will nurture and preserve liberty.


In the ancient world, salt wasn’t just a condiment, it was a refrigerator and it was highly valued. The Roman Army paid it’s legionnaires with salt and one of the reasons that Philippi was granted colonial status was that they sent salt to the legions when Roman supply lines had been cut. Salt was a preservative. Imagine how quickly the steak would spoil if the salt was not available? If you’re paying attention, you don’t have to imagine much. You see it and smell it all around you. That rancid smell is the testimony of the Western Church.

A seat in the bleachers is not an option. The Christian Life is played out in the arena, and we enter it bold, battle-ready to the Glory of God or in shame dragged there by an adversary that we refused to confront or even acknowledge.

If this country fails it will mainly be the fault of “Christians” that heeded Bill O’Reilly and ignored Jesus Christ – embarrassed believers, willing to hide their light because it may offend the cockroaches. Apathetic followers sporting a “dead” faith whose worth to their Lord and their fellow man is not of much value:

“You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt becomes tasteless, with what shall it be salted? For it has strength for nothing any more but to be thrown out and to be trampled under by men.” – Jesus Christ

Friends, the shofar has blown, it’s time to put the rattle down and pick up the sword.

Image: Barnum and Bailey poster; source: Library of Congress:; author: New York, Cincinnati : Strobridge & Co., Lith; Public domain/copyright expired