Do you know why people smoke crack? It’s the same reason why people smoke cigarettes, or weed, or shoot heroin, or do meth, or drink excessive amounts of alcohol, or binge sugary things.

It makes them feel good.

It does not make them BE good, only FEEL good. It’s that feeling that is part of what leads to addiction. It becomes a need because, when they don’t do the thing that makes them feel good, they feel exceptionally bad.

Of course, not everything people become addicted to is inherently bad. People can be addicted to eating, even if the food is healthy. Exercise can be addicting. Sex.

When we are addicted, even good things are taken to bad places.

One thing that makes it difficult when dealing with someone addicted is that they often convince themselves that what they are doing is both healthy and correct. To see it any other way suggests they have a problem and need to change.

But change can be uncomfortable. It doesn’t feel good in the moment. Especially when we usually only change when we accept we are incorrect about something. And incorrect is wrong. And wrong is bad. And bad is evil. And evil is sin. And sin is damnation.

Next thing we know we are going to hell and burning forever.

Or only burning for a moment.

Or whatever it is that person believes that might not actually be true.

Perhaps that’s why belief and religion can be an addiction. Some people believe what they believe in part out of fear of consequences. But others believe what they believe because it makes them feel good.

That isn’t automatically bad. But what if that belief/practice/religion that makes them feel good, isn’t actually accurate? What if it doesn’t matter that it’s easily disproven? What if, if they can’t believe that thing that is incorrect and easily disproven, they can’t handle life without it? What if they would rather become horrible, unhealthy people living a lie than feel that feeling of being wrong?

And what if they would rather make someone else feel horrible about themselves than accept the truth of their own errancy? 

This is where things stop being about religion and belief, which is about seeking truth, speaking truth, and living truth to the best of our ability … which requires constant adaptation and change, and they start being about culture, which doesn’t require any sort of accuracy or honesty at all.

Culture also isn’t inherently bad. It just isn’t inherently good. But it can breed some very bad things. And it can normalize those things as a positive way of life. And positive is good. And good is righteous. And righteous is sinless.

And sinless is salvific.

And suddenly we are saying or doing or being or teaching terrible things and declaring them the way to heaven. Or whatever one believes about such things.

And the truth never once comes into play. Because for whatever reason, that way of life has been skewed to benefit us in some way that makes us feel good about ourselves or the way we do things. It makes us feel good and people like to feel good at almost any cost.

In recent years, we have all born witness to someone screaming something horrible and inaccurate with some sort of righteous fervor, either politically, religiously, or both. Something that is obvious and easily disproven. But when the research/facts are presented, they deny it all with a blind certainty that is terrifying in its insanity.

They do this because they NEED that lie to be true. They have built a self-view upon that thing, whatever it is. It makes them feel good about who they are and what they believe.

There is more to it, of course, and I may be over generalizing some. But before dismissing it all, consider how, over the last 6 years, white nationalism and Christianity have become besties. Not universally. But to an uncomfortable degree. And by “uncomfortable degree” I mean that any degree at all is evil.

And then, loud and large chunks of both groups have created the narrative that, to be a good American is to follow their lead. 

Now, I don’t actually care what political group any of you are a part of. None of the groups have the market cornered on truth and goodness. But the moment that anyone pushing racism and an “I’m right and you’re evil” mentality as being a “good American,” we’ve collectively jumped the shark and now it’s no longer about right and wrong and truth and accuracy. It’s about what makes me feel good in relation to those around me and makes sure I’m accepted by the people I think I need to be accepted by.

And, just in case one wishes to believe Adventism is some sort of exception, I give you the long list of independent ministries lead by conspiracy theorists who make their living selling to Adventists who need what they say to be true. And a denomination who won’t put a stop to it because half the leadership is buying what’s being sold.

When I was pastoring churches, I once had one of our prominent independent ministry health chefs leave a voicemail on the church answering machine that was the most arrogant and hateful thing I’ve ever had anyone say about me. Apparently, he had called before and not received a return phone call. This turned out to be because the very kind, and very old, ladies who ran the clothing giveaway ministry we had, where we gave away clothes to people who needed them, would try to check messages and accidentally delete them … about 99% of the time.

I never had, and still never have, met this man who told me in no uncertain terms that anyone who wouldn’t return his phone call and invite him in was of low moral character and a servant of Satan leading his church to hell. He went on to say that any congregation that would allow me to be their pastor couldn’t possibly love God and care about people, because if we did, we would invite him because his ministry saves lives. He continued by telling me how important he was, how many awards he’d received, and how popular he was on 3ABN and some of our other TV networks.

I only know this because I happened to check the machine after he made that call, but before the kindly elderly ladies tried to “help” me by accidentally deleting messages. The entire message was over 6 minutes long. Go ahead and rant for 6 minutes and tell me how long that is? I’ll wait.

But, you know, I’m sure he felt good about himself after sending that message. And why wouldn’t he? The culture he lives in tells him he was correct to do so. 

When our affiliation to group and culture starts dictating belief and practice, and not God and accuracy, our belief and practice become nothing but a useless addiction that does nothing but make us feel good. And there is more to life than feeling good.

Like, maybe, trying to be good.

It’s just a thought.

Tony Hunter is a Seventh-day Adventist pastor and a hospice chaplain working for Gateway Hospice in Northern Colorado. Tony, his wife Nirma, and daughter Amryn live in Firestone, Colorado. Email him at: [email protected]