Machines are used to do repetitive or difficult work more quickly and efficiently, giving people more leisure and free time to pursue something besides work. Once upon a time a group of people saw that a machine was needed to complete a commission they were given. They put their heads together and came up with a handy little machine called “Religion.”
The Religion Machine would make life easier for those in ministry. With the Machine, people wouldn’t have to waste precious time relating to a real God Who loves them. The Machine would take these complex processes and break them down into three simple steps that anyone could follow, reducing God to a faceless, non-personable ideology of good works. The result would be a mass-production of religious people who all spoke, thought, acted, and believed the same way.
For a while the Religion Machine worked just as it was supposed to. Churches were built, movements were started, crusades were held, and programs were implemented. The inventors congratulated themselves on making Religion so efficient.
But machines require maintenance. Parts have to be replaced. Year after year people wanted the Religion Machine to be bigger, better, and faster. Research and development expense was incurred, along with testing expenses, raw materials and warehousing. The Religion Machine needed qualified people to work on it, qualified people to run it, qualified people to supervise the people who run it, and so on.
With all the improvements and modifications to the original design, the Religion Machine got so big that they had to house it someplace. Now they had factory overhead: property, specialized plant equipment, electrical and water requirements, more work crews, a support staff, management, still more parts, upgrades, routine maintenance, all the hidden costs associated with keeping the Machine running.
No one knew just how big the Religion Machine would get. The inventors would have never dreamed that their little invention would one day turn into a big business, but it did. People picked up their families and moved to live and work close to the Machine. There was money there, a chance to get ahead, a chance to settle down, a nice place to raise their children. The Machine was a boost to the local economy because it produced jobs and goods. It was in everyone’s interest to keep the Machine running along.
The people took great pride in their work. Take a drive with them to any part of the country and they would point to the impressive array of expensive church buildings, sprawling seminaries, and mega-church centers. Some people began calling them “God Marts.” Some exclaimed, “Thank God for the Religion Machine! How did we get along without it before?”
But there was another side to the story. The work had become simple enough: “Do what you’re told. Push this button, pull that lever, and flip that switch. Keep producing; keep the Machine running no matter what!” But there was a human toll being exacted on the people who were running the Machine. They began to stop thinking for themselves, depending only on the supervisors to tell them what to do. They went home drained and exhausted each day (their busiest days were Saturday and Sunday). They always worked overtime and their family life was non-existent. Even when they were home they would think about work. Production was the name of the game; keep the Machine humming along no matter what; produce more with less.
People were always getting hurt on the job. It was hot, dirty work—and noisy. The Machine made so much noise that many of the workers developed acute hearing losses. The light in the work area was so dim that the employees had become very narrow-eyed and squinty, not able to withstand bright light. But somehow the security that came from getting paid each week was more important than the side effects. So the work went on.
Besides, where else could they go? What else could they do? Financial commitments based on that paycheck had been made: houses mortgaged, cars financed, durable goods charged. If the Machine stopped running, the paychecks stopped coming, and it meant bankruptcy for the workers and the community. So on and on it went.
Every once in a while a pay raise came. Some lived long enough to retire, but most of the workers died young from stress, or had nervous breakdowns. But no matter what, the Machine kept running.
Then the unexpected happened.
The Religion Machine used synthetic, man-made oil for fuel to keep it running.
The oil ran out and the Machine ground to a halt.
The workers were in a panic. No more fuel? How would the Machine run? What about their jobs? What about their paychecks? Who would take care of their families?
“What about natural oil?” someone asked. No, that wouldn’t work. They tried that years ago. Genuine oil would not run the Religion Machine.
The supervisors cursed and swore. How could they get the Machine running again?
There was only one thing left to do.
The doors were locked. Armed security gathered the workers and had them form a line leading up to the top of the combustion chamber, the fiery inferno, which fueled the Religion Machine. One by one they were cast into the fuel tank. The Machine sparked and began to hum again. [The metaphor is how those in control do everything according to what man-made religion dictates, no matter what the cost to the lay-workers.]
“More people! We need more people over here!” Like sacrificial lambs, the deaf, dumb, and blind workers were pushed over the precipice to be used as fuel for the Religion Machine. Next it was their wives, husbands, children, parents, brothers, sisters, all thrown alive and screaming into the Machine. The houses and cars, the clothing and jewelry, the furniture and possessions and bank accounts were all confiscated and dumped into to the Religion Machine to add more fuel for it to run.
At last everything that could be used for fuel had been used. It would not be enough, and it had all been in vain. Once again the Religion Machine ground to a halt, and no one was around to start it up again. The supervisors went out into the community to try and recruit new workers, but after hearing what had happened to the last shift no one would take the job.
Finally the supervisors all passed on. The Religion Machine was dismantled by the townspeople, the parts scattered, never to be assembled again.
The problem with the Religion Machine was that it started out as a neat invention designed to help people, but it wound up hurting them. The Machine was made for man, but soon man lived for the Machine and became dependent upon it.
And then, once upon a time another group of people saw that a machine was needed to make something hard and difficult more easily done and give them more leisure time. They were even more talented, technologically advanced, and affluent than the first group of inventors. So they put their heads together and came up with a handy little machine called “Western Christianity.” However