The Spirit of Tetzel and Evangelical Basilicas

Are we withholding ourselves from serving Christ in needy areas and then assuaging our guilt with a cheque and a prayer?

I remember talking to a friend a while ago. They reckoned that it was far easier to get people’s money than it was to get their time. We have certainly found it much easier to get people to give financially than it is to get people to move to deprived communities. But that is when we can get folk to give. In truth, many Evangelicals content themselves neither to come nor to give but to insist that they will pray. Whilst many do so sincerely and would give if they had anything to offer, it often feels as though this is the Evangelical equivalent of an indulgence, only in line with our theology, we make sure it doesn’t cost us anything.


The Beatles famously sang, ‘I don’t care too much for money, for money can’t buy me love.’ And, indeed, it can’t. But money can buy a lot of convenience. It can also buy a lot of choice. And perhaps most alluringly of all, it can buy comfort. Not just physical comfort but the comfort of a conscience eased.

In a world where there is no absolute morality, we must subjectively set ourselves apart to feel good. For this reason, we find raging campaigns waged against wrongthink because we can assert our supreme virtues, and thus feel good about ourselves, merely by opposing those we deem inferior. But, of course, only those with the money and influence to wage such campaigns can ever get enough traction to make such things stick.

But it seems that among the highest goods in modern western societies is charitable giving. It almost doesn’t matter what the charity is to which you give, giving is deemed of itself good. That, too, is the fruit of a society that has done its utmost to advance the belief that there is no such thing as absolute morality. If there is no absolute right and wrong, I must make myself feel subjectively good compared to my neighbour.

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