The challenge of POPULAR RELIGION is not just a 21st Century phenomenon. Popular religion has been with us from time immemorial. In the Old Testament times people were obsessed with High Places instead of Temple worship. Similarly Aaron succumbed to the demands of popular religion when he made a golden calf to be a god for the Israelites i.e. Idol worship. Needless to mention that baal worship was the greatest eyesore to Yahweh worship due to its fertility attraction to people in an agro-based economy. Judges like Gideon and Prophets like Elijah challenged this popular religion among the Israelites. By popular religion in Christian circles, I am talking about the type of gospel which is geared for those with itching ears whose ears enjoy hearing a particular genre of the gospel. This is the gospel with mass attraction but is void of the Saviour. Popular religion thrives because of its propagandists who are obviously benefitting big time from it.
Just like in yesteryear, today’s propagandists capitalise on playing with the human mind and human needs. Many well-meaning innocent people are being manipulated by these false teachers, false prophets and false messiahs because of ignorance. Today’s Christian community needs to be more vigilant like the Bereans who examined Scriptures to establish if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11). Check out some of the games, gimmicks and gambles being used by modern religious propagandists:
# PROPAGANDA: is information which is biased or misleading which is deliberately used to deceive. To deceive means to give a mistaken impression, to fool, to cheat, to trick. Just like politicians, religious propagandists have an inner circle which knows all the strategic tools which are used to mislead. The most hated people are those who manage to come out of the inner circle. Both in politics and religion, such people are viewed as traitors because of their exposure to official secrets and their potential to demystify the propagandist agenda.
# DISTORTION: to distort means to pull or twist out of shape, to misrepresent, to change the form of something. From Latin DISTORQUERE meaning to twist apart. False teachers play around with Church doctrine, pulling it and twisting it to suit what they want. Even Bible verses are pulled apart to bring out a meaning which is unscriptural. Several historical figures known to this writer have claimed to be the last Elijah before the second coming of Christ but unfortunately they died before the parousia materialised.
# DEVIATION: To deviate means to diverge from an established course or from normal standards, to go astray. From Latin DEVIARE meaning to turn out of the way or divergence from the intended route. The Bible says, ‘Do not move the ancient boundary stone set up by your fathers’ (Proverbs 22:28). What used to be viewed as abnormal has now become the NEW NORMAL in the Christian community. If there is divergence from the intended route, what assurance do we have that we will arrive at the right destination? Today’s proponents of popular religion are not only MOVING ancient boundaries, but they are actually REMOVING them.
# EXAGGERATION: to exaggerate means to alter beyond normal proportions, to overstate, to overemphasise, to amplify. Altering Christian truth beyond normal proportions is LYING. Truth overstated becomes questionable. For example, whilst prosperity is the heritage of God’s people, the PROSPERITY GOSPEL or the claim it and have it gospel is truth overstated hence it borders with heresy which emanates from EW Kenyon who is well-known as the grandfather of the Prosperity Gospel.
# BRAINWASHING: to brainwash means to subject someone to a prolonged process to transform their attitudes and beliefs totally, to indoctrinate i.e. to cause to accept a set of beliefs uncritically through repeated instruction. Several modern political regimes are using brainwashing as a political tool to manipulate and control people. The same is true of some religious movements today. Needless to mention that Jim Jones made his brainwashed congregants to take cyanide poison leading to the death of over 900 souls. Brainwashing is the worst form of spiritual abuse and it is the starting point of all other abuses in the Christian community. God expects us to be critical thinkers even on religious and spiritual issues. He says, ‘Come let us reason together ……’ (Isaiah 1:8).
# OBSESSION: to be obsessed means to be preoccupied by something to the point of being carried away. Some religious propagandists are obsessed with DEMONOLOGY. Demons are real but they should not be given centre stage. Too much talk about demons removes people from God. Too much concentration on casting out demons means whatever gets your attention GETS YOU. Some believers have an obsession with miracles leading to dependance on miracle workers in the same way non-believers depend on Sangomas/N’angas. Other believers are obsessed with prophecy to the point that many of them end up being manipulated in the name of prophecy.
BEWARE OF THE GAMES, GIMMICKS AND GAMBLES USED BY RELIGIOUS PROPAGANDISTS.