"Cotton Candy" Religion
By Pastor Norman H. Wells
Religion has gotten popular! It’s sweeping the country!! Juke boxes grind out the latest popular hymns! Movie magazines carry news of religious activities of the movie stars! More money is coming into religious treasures than ever before. Great new church buildings are being built. A greater percentage of folks belong to churches than ever before in history! Tremendous evangelistic campaigns are regularly held and thousands are in attendance and great numbers of decisions are recorded. Quite regularly the current best-seller is a book on religion. The newspapers and magazines carry regular columns by religious writers. The radio and television carry religious programs! Religious Universities, Colleges, High Schools, and Elementary Schools are growing by leaps and bounds! Religion is booming! The cry of “Revival” is heard over and over!! Religion is back — by popular demand!
The tragedy is that it has been diluted, streamlined, whooped up, condensed, smoothed out, made palatable enough to meet what the public demands in a religion. Instead of meeting the demands of God, religion has been changed to meet the demands of the public!!
In the haste to get everybody aboard the “bandwagon,” a “carnival” spirit has developed. The bands are playing, the flags are flying, and everyone is invited to a hayride of happiness — a religious romp! Popcorn, peanuts, and paper hats. It reminds me of the first time I took my youngest boy, David, to the Cincinnati Zoo. He was about four years old at the time. It was on this trip that he got his first glimpse of “cotton candy.” We stopped and he watched with great delight as the man behind the counter very skillfully spun the large, beautifully colored sticks full of this wonderful stuff. After watching with envy the others who were receiving this delicious looking delight he turned pleading eyes to me and the purchase was made. I never will forget the look of delight that came on his face as he held the huge, colored concoction and took his first bite. As the cotton dissolved into nothing in his mouth a look of amazement and disappointment took the place of delight.
Appearances had been deceiving. Thus it is with our modern “cotton candy” boom in religion! It’s big and beautiful until you really try to get your teeth into it and dissolves into nothing. It could also be compared to “bubble gum” — it makes a fine showing until it breaks and leaves behind a sticky mess!!
The popularity that religion enjoys has been purchased at a terrific price. The desire to please man has supplanted the desire to please God. Today’s religion is designed to satisfy the carnal appetites of carnal Christians and the unregenerate. “What do I get out of it” is the approach made to this religion. When the services are entertaining and make the participants “feel good” they are stamped as successful. The world’s methods and manner are as in the business world. Finances and figures have been made the test. A lot of people and a lot of money are interpreted as the sure blessing of God. It is considered sacrilege to question the doctrine or the ethics of anyone who has been successful in gathering a large crowd and abundant cash!
In view of the seeming boom in religion it would be well to consider what has happened to the gospel!! What little gospel is preached is of such a shallow, frothy nature that it would bring a snort of disgust from such a one as the Apostle Paul. The strong message of the gospel has been so diluted as hardly to be recognizable. Sickeningly cheap, sentimental appeals are made for sickeningly cheap, sentimental decisions! What has happened to the sledge hammer messages concerning the hideous corruption of sin?
Has the day of identifying the sinner past? Today it is advertised so that no one will be offended at the preaching of the gospel!! What a change! What a come down!! The gospel has always offended! It offends Satan! It offends the guilty sinner and either brings him to repentance or hardens his heart! It offends the carnal Christian!!! It offends the false teachers and their followers! It offends the promoters of sin and sinful pleasure! In today’s gospel the question of sin is dealt with in such generalities that it is almost impossible to determine who is guilty!
Repentance has become a forgotten doctrine confined to the yellowing pages of neglected articles of faith. What used to mean “Godly Sorrow” doesn’t even involve mild embarrassment today! The crowds have never responded very well to true repentance so modern religion by popular demand has discarded it. Faith has been reduced to a mere head consent, a hand shake, and a card signed.
Today’s gospel has been watered down so thin it has lost the miracle working power of regeneration and is producing a shallow, casual, unregenerated religion. Contrary to the popular idea that we are in the midst of revival stand some undeniable facts that show we are in the midst of a time of apostasy!!! There is a great “falling away!"
First of all consider the moral condition of our country. The figures have been published so many times they do not need to be reprinted here. Crime is at an all time high!! Juvenile delinquency increases every year!! Divorce rates climb every year. Jail houses, penitentiaries and detention homes are packed to overflowing!! Drunkenness and dope addicts mounts with each passing day! Illegitimate births and abortions increase ever year. Murder, rape, suicide, robbery, scream the headlines of our papers!! Sex mad and whiskey soaked! The nation reels down the path of the pursuit of Pleasure!! Check the material in the popular books, songs, radio and television shows, movies, etc. and get a glimpse of what appeals to America. True revival will check the flood tides of sin!! This has not happened in today’s so-called revival!! It is not producing hatred for sin and love of righteousness!! It does not demand that Christians live a separated dedicated life to God.
Second, consider the rapid rise and growth of a multitude of cults and false religions. This is not revival!! Real revival brings men and women a love for the truth. The entire revealed truth of God is not declared in the Gospel of today so the “converts” wander off after whatever religion suits their particular fancy. The keynote today is compromise. Everybody is to forget their “petty doctrinal differences” and join hands in a “great compromise.” In the midst of this kind of atmosphere false cults and religions are booming! Modernism marches on!!!
Third, consider the shallow carnal Christian today’s so-called “revival” produces, indeed, if it produces any Christians. May God help us to return to a gospel that glorifies God, antagonizes Satan, squelches sin, convicts sinners, produces repentance, routs false teachers, abolishes false religions, promotes sound doctrine, and brings about the miracle of regeneration that makes a hell bound sinner into a new creature in Christ Jesus.