Asia Lemmon recently had her Utah driver’s license photo taken while wearing a colander on her head. Why is this news? Because she successfully claimed a religious exemption to Utah’s requirement that all such photos be taken without headgear.
Lemmon is a member of the Flying Spaghetti Monster movement also known as Pastafarianism. The group was started in 2005 as a protest against teaching intelligent design in Kansas schools. Lemmon is an unusual spokesperson for them: her legal name is Jessica Steinhauser, but she performed as a porn star under the name Asia Carrera. When she appeared for her driver’s license photo, her protest was already old hat, so to speak. About a dozen Pastafarians have done the same thing in recent years.
G. K. Chesterton noted in 1924, “The nineteenth century decided to have no religious authority. The twentieth century seems disposed to have any religious authority.” While “angry atheists” such as Richard Dawkins continue generating headlines, the “spiritual but not religious” movement keeps growing—according to Gallup, it now comprises a third of Americans.
If I were an enemy of Christianity in Western culture, I would advocate bland spirituality over frontal assault. Those who attack the faith run the risk of mobilizing its adherents—Tertullian (who died in AD 225) noted that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” But those who espouse generic spirituality can appear a friend of the faith while poisoning the roots from which it grows.
When I was a missionary in East Malaysia 35 years ago, I was inoculated against malaria by being given a very mild form of the disease. It still shows up on blood tests today, a fact my doctor noted at my last physical. Generic spirituality works the same way—we are exposed to enough of religion to keep from contracting the “real thing.”
Make no mistake—”spirituality” is a word, not a reality. It’s like “leaves,” a category but not a real object. Oak and pecan and maple leafs can be real—”leaves” cannot. To believe in generic spirituality is like believing in a Flying Spaghetti Monster: faith makes neither real.
Christians believe in Jesus, not because our faith makes him real but because his reality evokes our faith and explains our world. Former atheist C. S. Lewis testified, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
So here’s the practical question: When last did you encounter Jesus as a real Person? In other words, when last did you hear his voice, sense his presence, follow his word, experience his power? I doubt that Pastafarians look much different from the rest of us (except when they pose for driver’s license pictures). Would those who know us say the same of us?