A simplified chart of historical developments ...
A simplified chart of historical developments of major groups within Christianity. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The World Council of Churches brings together 349 churches, denominations, and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories throughout the world, representing 560 million Christians and including most of the Orthodox churches, scores of Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed churches, as well as many United and Independent churches. Who knows the number of Pentecostals, New Testament or other types of gatherings? To be sure there is no shortage of options to the religious consumer but how many of them bear out truth? Some form of a “religion” is thought to have existed since at least 2500 BC and the Christianity nomenclature as a religion for at least 15 centuries. Many writers of history including Edward Gibbon in his book, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume One, Chapter 15, we find that there has was a change brought about by the numbers of pagans flocking into the early Christian Church and mixing their similar pagan customs and beliefs with those of the true church. So now it’s possible we have a blend of Christianity or do we have two Christianity’s?  Are the churches then teaching beliefs and customs that are not commanded by God?  Obviously the rise of thousands of Christian denominations has brought forth many different religious perspectives. Each sect produced its own view of Christ, the Bible, salvation, the sacraments, and the intended result. Each of these entities projects themselves as the “true Christianity” and this variety which could be dubbed “Christ 57”, produces stiff competition among the denominations and non-denominations as well. Kind of like commerce don’t you think? Accordingly, each sect found their beliefs increasingly under attack, which could perhaps be only marketing.  I will advertise my product because it is better than the one over there and here’s why. The following article found on the Gadfly Press site is written by Edgar S. Penn from “Religion in the Free Market. Since the Protestant reformation the world has seen an increasingly chaotic spiritual arena wherein the various faiths compete for the faithful. Especially in modern America, where the freedom of religion often threatens to nullify our other constitutional and moral obligations, the pulpit has ever become the soap box for evangelical sales-men. From gospel tracts to billboards, student organizations to Friday prayers, America’s religions have taken on the appearance of sexed-up infomercials. Dialog between the faiths are often conversations about which is more appealing – how can we make the story of Jesus more relevant to America’s youth? Why is Islam right for you? Is Mormonism the American religion? And so on. The showmanship of America’s spiritual public relations agents has indeed been enlightening: organized religion is nothing more than a business. Religious institutions have hit upon a truly exceptional money-making combination: by exploiting humanity’s fear, curiosity and emotional instability, the self-proclaimed earthly representatives of god have been able to exchange an imaginary friend for tangible items such as money and property. The Catholic Church, for example, had revenue of $202 million in 2001. Or consider the success of the Protestant Mega churches which saw an average income of $6.5 million in 2008 – nearly half of that money went to salaries. And this is all chump change compared to the Mormon Church which has an estimated net worth of over $30 billion (it should be noted that the estimation for the Catholic Church did not include its massive property holdings. According to MSNBC, the Catholic Church is the world’s largest land owner). This is the ultimate hustle. America’s religious environment is unlike anything ever seen before. While most countries across the globe have a state church (including Britain, although the Church of England isn’t compulsory) America has been staunch defender of religious freedom and as such has seen an exponential increase in the number of so-called religious groups. The first amendment says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” All you need are a couple people who think like you, some by laws and 501(c)(3) tax exemption status and you are ready to have your own recognized religion. It’s no wonder, given how easy it is to start your own faith which has made America home to some of the most outrageous religions out there. What is more extraordinary is the way American religion has evolved to adapt to these new conditions. Whereas in the past (and presently in many nations) religion could count on laws that required attendance and provided state subsidies, today’s religious organizations have to compete for members. While it is true that 78% of Americans are Christian, for instance, that is no guarantee that they will come to your church. And thus we see no lack of creative marketing strategies. There are an estimated 335,000 congregations in America today, about 1 church for every 900 people in the country, and nearly 217 different religious groups (including different Christian denominations). Clearly the market is wide open. Just look around your college campus, your community, and your city; there is no lack of religion – and religious competition – in America. This begs the question: are there really 217 ways to commune with “god”? “God wants you well. God wants you prosperous. God wants you a whole person.” These are the words of the late preacher/con-man Oral Roberts, the founder of a university by his namesake and a pioneer of the Televangelist movement (basically long infomercials made to look like churches which try to trade you nonsense for money). Oral is famous for telling his followers that he needed $8 million by March 1987 or else he would die. Unbelievably he got his money (a miracle of credulity perhaps). This type of “health and wealth” message is typical of the new wave of American religion where, in order to attract new people, religious salesmen seek to undercut the competition by making their dogma look more comfortable. There are other means of course. The Hell House movement, for example, seeks to scare the public with a terrifying version of hell and then make believers out of them – believers who pay. And let’s not forget the Eastern Mystics who preach about happiness and eternal joy. That’s nice, but not cheap. Then there are the religious purists who claim to adhere to the original message of Jesus or whoever. They would be more convincing if there were not so many of them… how many original messages can there be? I mean, which is the true version? The Pentecostal Church of God or the Pentecostal Fire-Baptized Holiness Church (personally, the fire-baptized one sounds painful). America’s protection of religious freedom is one of the many things that make me truly proud to be a citizen here. But the ease with which religions can just spring up out of the ground is telling: there obviously is more at work here than pure spirituality. I think, in fact I know, that there are many well-meaning religious people out there who really believe what they say they believe (that is not compliment). The fact, however, that men like Oral Roberts have equal if not greater stage time shows that, at the end of the day, organized religion is nothing more than a free market free-for-all. Organized religion is the play thing of con-men and spiritual entrepreneurs. In the words of L. Ron Hubbard, who orchestrated one of history’s greatest spiritual heists, “If you want to make a little money, write a book? If you want to make a lot of money, create a religion.”

This commentary of Penn’s represents numerous like opinions easily found on the Web. It is unfortunate that some of the claims made about Christianity are all too true. What marketing has done to religion and Christianity in particular is part of the ineptness in the impact Christianity has in the world today. Is it something to be saved or redefined or is a close adherence and walk with the Creator and his Redemptive Son much more than either Religion or Christianity? A further question to be considered, is government attempting to become our religion and our religion to be practiced as government? The United Nations is striving to become the Central government of the world and if you look far enough and deep enough you will discover religion is to be placed under World government jurisdiction as well. You will also learn that the Christian will ultimately be designated as a target to be destroyed because it has been determined that if a people believe in and follow Jesus Christ they may not be prone to comply to the stipulations and statutes of a world government. World government advocates   recognize the need for some kind of religion but only of the variety as prescribed by them which makes no mention of Jesus Christ and certainly not as Savior. It has become apparent to me that world government and world religion have formed a pact with the strategy to become co-mingled, if it hasn’t been already

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