Spiritual Escapism

“And why call ye me Lord, Lord and do not the things which I say?” (The Lord Jesus Christ).

Already in Christ's time here on earth, and long before, and ever since there have been people who found some soul satisfaction and escapism from responsibility in a form of religion even if what they experienced or practiced or proclaimed was not in accordance with the Divinely prescribed and only really satisfying remedy for man's spiritual needs.

There are still thousands of people following the way of Cain in a bloodless religion who find some degree of soul satisfaction which serves as an escape from the humiliation of salvation through a blood sacrifice, and from the obligation of presenting themselves a living sacrifice on the altar where the fire of God burns out the dross and the life is consumed in His service.

Several months ago an article appeared in one of the nation's more popular religious periodicals entitled, “The Second Coming is ‘in’ Again.” The author noted the enthusiasm of the Jesus People in the Second Coming and states that they are doubtless the first generation of professed Christians to put Second Coming stickers on automobile bumpers. He then asks the question, “Is it possible that the new fascination with the return of Jesus may be spiritual escapism? Is it based on fidelity to the Scriptures or is it a way of sidestepping responsibility . . .?” Coming to the close of his article he asserts that “Belief in the Second Coming must not become a religiously and socially respectable evasion.” And we say “Amen”!

This “respectable evasion” from responsibility, while making loud claims of loving and looking for Jesus, seems to be the pattern of the day. No doubt this was our Lord's concern in the text quoted at the beginning of this article. For too many the “Lord, Lord” “Jesus, Jesus” emphasis is being used, consciously or unconsciously, to set the mind at ease in escaping Jesus.

Many people in following the world, the flesh and the devil will make loud claims for discipleship which serves to set their conscience at ease in an escapism from true discipleship.

In the last decade or two there has been an increasing emphasis within the Mennonite Church on how we are preserving our Anabaptist heritage. This comes into focus again and again in the monthly EMC Bulletin. In the August, 1973 issue the president of college makes this claim — “We seek... to interpret our particular Anabaptist/Mennonite heritage with integrity...” Close by this assertion is pictured a group of Collegians — some females in the “mini-est” of skirts, others in slacks, some hair seems to be shorn and some not, none of them are veiled. By careful observation one can detect a few males in the group— at least. I think so!

With the departure from the simplicity of the gospel and the Biblical symbols (the veiling etc.) embraced by our fathers, usually there is a turning to worldly ways and worldly symbols to fill in the void caused by such a departure. In the Bulletin referred to above, the president of the college and the dean of the seminary shown garbed in the world's educational symbolic status robes with the dean also placing symbolic cloth meticulously over the shoulders of the first young woman to graduate from the seminary.

Is this Anabaptism with integrity? Surely the persuasion to appear so worldly and disobedient to New Testament principles cometh not from Him that calleth us nor from our Anabaptist heritage. These loud claims of preserving Anabaptism seem to be serving well the process of “Spiritual escapism” from Anabaptism and setting the mind at ease while doing so.

One is reminded of the minister who always wrote and read his messages. Occasionally he would have a notation something like this on his paper— “Point weak, emphasize by yelling”.

And why call ye Him “Lord, Lord” and deny the very deliverance He came to preach and to die for?

And Oh ye, who praise the dead and garnish the sepulchers of your fathers, why shout ye “Anabaptism! Anabaptism!” and at the time frustrate the purpose and bury the faith that the Anabaptist fathers lived and died for.

– Aaron M. Shank

October 1973