Wednesday, December 17, 2008
#58 Ugly Christmas Sweater parties
Very popular with singles groups and college ministries. People who aren't Christians love Cheesy Christmas Sweater Parties too. Maybe it's one of the areas where the two cultures intersect. Although at a Christian culture party there won't be any alcohol, that's for dang sure.
Monday, December 15, 2008
#57 Singing "I Will Be Here" at weddings
If you have been involved in Christian culture for any amount of time, there is a very good chance you have been to a wedding where Steven Curtis Chapman's "I Will Be Here" was sung.
Usually it is sung by the church's music director or the music director's daughter while the bride and groom stand and stare at each other. On rare occasion, the groom will sing it to the bride. In these instances it will usually say in the bulletin that this song is the groom's wedding gift to her. (Economical!)
At any rate, the song is a tearjerker and if you are a girl who isn't married you will look on while quivering in your pew, your eyes welling with tears and your little heart damn near bursting with longing.
Friday, December 12, 2008
#56 Grunge Fonts
by guest contributor Becca Jubie
Christian items marketed to teens usually use an "extreme," "edgy" or "grunge" font. Like teenagers will not respond to your basic Helvetica.
Teens are extreme, what can I say?
Saturday, November 29, 2008
#55 The Prayer of Jabez
In I Chronicles chapter 4 there is a story about a man named Jabez who asked God for things and he got them. In recent years this prayer inspired a book called The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life. The book became a ginormous bestseller and spawned a marketing frenzy during which the book was modified slightly to target women, teens* and children.
In the book the author states,
"I want to teach you a prayer that God ALWAYS answers."He also says
"I believe [the prayer of Jabez] contains the key to a life of extraordinary favor with God."A key? A prayer that God ALWAYS answers? My spidey sense is tingling!
In the last chapter of the book the author challenges** the reader to make the Jabez prayer a daily routine and he gives six steps, the first two of which are:
Spidey sense on red alert!!
1. Pray the Jabez prayer every morning, and keep a record of your daily prayer by marking off a calendar or a chart you make especially for the purpose.
2. Write out the prayer and tape it in your Bible, in your day-timer***, on your bathroom mirror, or some other place where you'll be reminded of your new vision.
There is a prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray. He talked about it during the sermon on the mount. It doesn't emphasize material gain but it's still pretty neat, mainly because Jesus actually told his followers to pray in this way. I'm just sayin'.
*Christian culture uses the word "teens" and tries to find ways to appeal to said "teens."
**Christian culture also enjoys "challenging" each other to things, invariably pertaining to spiritual discipline.
***See previous post on the pervasiveness of Day-Timers in Christian culture.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
#54 Not Hillary Clinton
Sunday, November 16, 2008
#53 Making An Impact
Jesus said in Matthew 23:
"Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you'll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you're content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.
Frauds! I've had it with you! You're hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God's kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won't let anyone else in either. You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double-damned. You're hopeless! What arrogant stupidity!
You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God's Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that's wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?"
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
#52 Not Legalizing Gay Marriage
Boy howdy, Christian culture does not like the idea of gay marriage. They really, really, really do not. Christian culture feels strongly that legalizing gay marriage would hurt the institution of marriage and that it would be a shock to our fundamental understanding of human social relations and institutions. They also feel that legalizing gay marriage would cause God to bring his judgment against America.
Dr. James Dobson, who has been referred to as "the nation's most influential evangelical leader" by Time magazine,  also made this statement on the subject:
“Indeed, those charges are already being leveled against Christians who espouse biblical values. How about group marriage? Or marriage between daddies and little girls? Or marriage between a man and his donkey? Anything allegedly linked to civil rights will be doable, and the legal underpinnings for marriage will have been destroyed." The possibility of donkey marriage becoming legal is terrifying to people who hold moral conventions close to their hearts. But Jesus did not endorse morals or politics. Jesus endorsed love and relationship. In particular, he endorsed showing unmerited favor (i.e., grace) to members of society whom the Pharisees deemed unsavory (i.e., tax collectors and prostitutes. Do homosexuals fall in this category?). Making same-sex marriage legal would mean Christians would have to relinquish some political and moral control and trust the issue to God. It is quite a conundrum for the Christian culture, indeed.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
#51 Fall Festivals
Christians aren't so sure about celebrating a holiday that revolves around demons and evil. Many of them do research about Halloween's origins and decide they don't want to celebrate what orginated as a pagan holiday. Christmas originated as a pagan holiday too, but churches really get into the full swing of Christmas. For Halloween, Christian culture likes to offer an alternative, and that is called a Fall Festival. The community/grace/baptist/non-denominational warehouse church's website will say "who says Christians can't have fun on Halloween?" and then proceed to describe its fall festival.
What are you in store for at a fall festival? Hay bales, cornucopias, and white people wearing overalls and straw hats are guaranteed. More than likely there will be a beanbag toss, bowls of Werther's Original candy, and a plywood board with scarecrows painted on it that you can stick your face through and take pictures. The church elders will wear rope belts and bob for apples, trying to be good sports when they really want to be home watching the world series.
The elders' wives will be busy holding the kids' Bible costume contest. A few rogue kids will be dressed as Disney characters instead of Bible characters but they will never be dressed as something "worldly" like a witch, a devil, or Harry Potter.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
#50 Polo Shirts
You'd think they own stock in them.
(Extra points if it has a golf logo. Bonus extra points if it has a Promise Keepers logo.)
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Christian culture endorses spanking as a means of disciplining children. They say they do this in adherence to Proverbs 13:24 which says "He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly." (NKJV) But the original Hebrew word for rod, shabat, means a shepherd's staff which guides the sheep. A shabat wasn't used to hit the sheep but it was tall enough for the sheep to always see where the shepherd was and the shepherd used it to pull sheep back from edges of cliffs. It lovingly guided the sheep in the same way discipline, by definition, lovingly guides a child.
However, members of Christian culture won't hear of this. They don't feel that spanking is the same thing as hitting. They will defend it to their dying breath. Christian culture is very concerned that the government may take away their right to spank. Admittedly, patient guidance and giving a kid needed attention and emotional nurturing is extremely time-consuming, especially when you're a busy mom who's had an awful day and you feel like fried hell. But if parents were to give their kids enough individual time, patient guidance and a non-spanking type of consequence, could this possibly be the actual Biblical definition of discipline?
Lots of times children will act up to get negative attention if they aren't getting positive attention. Grown-ups do it too. It's better than nothing. Because most Christian culture families have several children, it's more difficult to give each the necessary attention as the family grows. Possibly because of this, you will not find a Christian culture family of 3+ that does not practice spanking. At the same time, you will not find a Christian culture family who does not have a grown child who has "wandered away," doesn't attend church in their adult life, has a good deal of self-contempt, or suffers from depression. Is it possible that the means of discipline used and the amount of emotional attention given (as they are closely entwined, per the definition of discipline) could be somehow correlated to this?
Monday, October 6, 2008
#48 Inspirational Forwards
A typical forward of this nature reads very similar to the following example:
From: A Christian in your life, usually an older relative
Sent: Friday, September 12, 2008 6:43 PM
Cc: About 93 people
Subject: Fw: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: 8 yr old's description of God
Don’t miss the great artwork. Man, this one is classic! I hope it brings a smile to your face like it did mine. I challenge you to pass it along to someone who needs a little “blessing”… :)
In Him, Uncle Flanders
A Little Boy's Explanation of God -- Fabulous!!! - Out of the mouths of the
I certainly don't think an adult could explain this more
THIS IS FABULOUS!!!
It was written by an 8-year-old named Danny Dutton, who lives in Chula Vista , CA . He wrote it for his third grade homework assignment, to 'explain God.' I wonder if any of us could have done as well?
[.... and he had such an assignment, in California , and someone published it, I guess miracles do happen ! ... ]
EXPLANATION OF GOD:
'One of God's main jobs is making people. He makes them to replace the ones that die, so there will be enough people to take care of things on earth. He doesn't make grownups, just babies. I think because they are smaller and easier to make. That way he doesn't have to take up his valuable time teaching them to talk and walk. He can just leave that to mothers and fathers.'
'God's second most important job is listening to prayers. An awful lot of this goes on, since some people, like preachers and things, pray at times beside bedtime. God doesn't have time to listen to the radio or TV because of this. Because he hears everything, there must be a terrible lot of noise in his ears, unless he has thought of a way to turn it off.'
'God sees everything and hears everything and is everywhere which keeps Him pretty busy. So you shouldn't go wasting his time by going over your mom and dad's head asking for something they said you couldn't have.'
'Atheists are people who don't believe in God. I don't think there are any in Chula Vista . At least there aren't any who come to our
'Jesus is God's Son. He used to do all the hard work, like walking on water and performing miracles and trying to teach the people who didn't want to learn about God. They finally got tired of him preaching to them and they crucified him But he was good and kind, like his father, and he told his father that they didn't know what they were doing and to forgive them and God said O.K.'
'His dad (God) appreciated everything that he had done and all his hard work on earth so he told him he didn't have to go out on the road anymore. He could stay in
heaven. So he did. And now he helps his dad out by listening to prayers and seeing things which are important for God to take care of and which ones he can take care of himself without having to bother God. Like a secretary, only more important.'
'You can pray anytime you want and they are sure to help you because they got it worked out so one of them is on duty all the time.'
'You should always go to church on Sunday because it makes God happy, and if there's anybody you want to make happy, it's
Don't skip church to do something you think will be more fun like going to the beach. This is wrong. And besides the sun doesn't come out at the beach until noon anyway.'
'If you don't believe in God, besides being an atheist, you will be very lonely, because your parents can't go everywhere with you, like to camp, but God can. It is good to know He's around you when you're scared, in the dark or when you can't swim and you get thrown into real deep water by big kids.'
'But...you shouldn't just always think of what God can do for you. I figure God put me here and he can take me back anytime he pleases.
And...that's why I believe in God.'
(If you believe in God, please pass this on, and may God bless you too.)
Have an awesome day, and know that someone has thought about you!
Sunday, September 28, 2008
#47 Sarah Palin
Christian culture loves, LOVES Sarah Palin. She embodies the assertiveness of the Proverbs 31 woman (not so much the meek qualities, but hey) and she has a gaggle of kids, a goateed husband, a Bardot bump in her hair (the higher the hair, the closer to God), a Downs baby that she didn't abort, and a wayward teenager which every Christian family also seems to have. Christians identify with this.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
This acronym is the wholesome version of the secular LMAO.
The alteration to LMAO was likely made in observation of Ephesians 4:29 which says "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."
The logical conclusion here is that butt is more beneficial than ass. LMBO is very popular with the homeschooling sector.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
#45 Purity Rings
A purity ring is a ring given to an adolescent girl to show that she has made a vow to not have sex before she's married. It's sort of a public statement of virginity and also reminds her of the commitment she made to "remain pure" until marriage. These rings are also worn by guys, but they're way more common among girls. The ring is ideally given to a girl by her dad, but if he isn't on the scene or is otherwise apathetic then she might get one herself or ask her mom for one, either because she really does want to make this commitment or possibly because the Jonas Brothers wear them. (Bristol Palin had one too.)
Sometimes the purity ring is accompanied by a Vow of Purity. This certificate is signed by the girl (and ideally her dad) then is framed. If they never get around to framing it though then it is eveutally folded up and kept in her embossed white naugahyde bible with the gold-edged pages. A Purity Ball may be attended, for which the girl and her dad will get dressed up and pay $85 each to participate in a formal event where pubescent girls in white dresses stand on a stage with their fathers and promise not to bang anyone without getting a marriage certificate first.
The father's involvement is an interesting factor in the purity quest. Even the psychological (i.e. objective and scientific) community acknowledges that a father's presence has a profound effect on the sexuality of both their sons and their daughters. Both boys and girls innately look to their father for the basic formation of their sense of self worth and if he isn't emotionally attentive then girls will get male attention somewhere else. This isn't really by any fault of their own.
Purity vows and purity balls that require fatherly involvement are indirectly addressing this psychological fact. The implication is that the father will "guard" his daughter's heart and emotions (and her virginity, by proxy) until she is married. The scientific, nonreligious community might be hard pressed to find anything wrong with this. (But who knows.) Still, things start to feel a bit creepy with the tangible display of this highly personal sentiment. The point starts to become skewed. Maybe all this virginity talk is actually sexualizing girls when they are still too young. Girls may want to wear a purity ring as more of a means of joining a club or being part of a movement bigger than themselves, so in other words, it's trendy. The dad feels peer pressure too. "Dads, men of faith, fathers in Christ: we're taking our preteen daughters to the purity ball." What churchy dad is going to refuse to ensure their daughter's purity? Nobody really talks about how much time he is actually emotionally present for her, which is the crux of the entire thing. His involvement with her and protection for her are an allegory for how God loves and watches over her but this is barely implied, much less outright discussed and emphasized. There is the wearing a cute dress and signing the vow with her dad present and the taking of a white rose and kneeling at a wooden cross to seal her vow alongside dozens of her friends. The dads all shake hands and congratulate themselves that their daughters won't grow up to be whores. The ceremony perhaps takes on a bigger meaning than the sentiment. It's easy to get caught up in. It is the hallmark of Christian culture: Doing Things and Avoiding True Relationship. (And nobody talks about this aspect, but it's sort of gross that a dad would attend a public event on behalf of his daughter's cooch. This smarminess is partially obscured by his good intentions in "protecting" her which makes the whole thing difficult to criticize.)
For all this talk about purity, the grey areas are not discussed. We all feel much more comfortable with the black and white so we try to stay there. Black and white means only two things here: Doing It and Not Doing It. The grey area is everything in between. Oh crap, the bible doesn't say if we can make out. So where should we draw the line? It's just kissing, right? Okay we can. Then...hey where did my shirt go? Well, it's okay because I'm still totally a virgin cause I have my jeans on. But...now he doesn't. Stopping sucks. Well, as long as we're not doing IT then it's okay, right?
The Bible doesn't talk about the exact details so we have to struggle with them. WWJD? Not sure exactly, it's a grey area. Great, now we actually have to deal with this because we don't have our black and white guidelines.
When a girl who has worn a purity ring gets married, this detail is almost always announced at the altar on the day of her wedding so that no soul present is unwitting to the fact that her hymen is intact. While the pastor talks at length about this priceless gift she will give her husband, the wedding guests fight to get the vagina visual out of their minds. Hymen Bride's parents beam with pride at their daughter's alleged morality. And even if she IS very pure, is God pleased? Has she entered a struggle to get there and has she wrestled with God thereby entered into true relationship, or has she played it safe and stuck to the churchy rules so she can feel happy with herself because of this good work she's accomplished? And if she has wrestled with God and anguished and cried and pitched a fit about it, could God be more happy about their interaction than he is about the technically pure bride who white-knuckled it there totally on her own? What IS purity? What IS true love waiting? Not being sure is difficult. It's easier to make a ceremony out of it and focus on the symbols.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
#44 Women's Ministries
American Protestant churches often have a program called a Women's Ministry. As with most specialized church programs, the bigger and more warehouse-y the church, the more likely it is that it will have a Women's Ministry.
A women's ministry has female members who are married, widowed or single but are too old to be in the singles ministry. (A singles ministry is basically a glorified church-endorsed dating service with an unwritten rule that only 20-somethings can be involved. They will not turn away anyone who is single but by the time you're 29 and still haven't gotten married, you are pretty much ready to bail out.)
The photographs and graphics used to promote the women's ministry almost always feature
Promotional materials for a women's ministry never represent the side of Christian life where things aren't happy and calm, or when you just plain feel like death warmed over and want to kick everyone in the balls. It could be assumed that this is for advertising purposes. The message you are likely to infer is "If you fellowship with our Women's Ministry then you will be like the happy pretty lady side-hugging her friends or running through a field."
1. flowers (especially sunflowers)
2. coffee mugs
3. a jubilant woman or a group of women experiencing fellowship.
But Jesus don't need no advertising.
Below are a series of pictures. One is from a women's ministry promo kit and one is from a feminine hygiene advertisement. Can you guess which is which?
Did you guess correctly? Okay, that was easy since there were words on the Christian one. How about this one. Which is the women's ministry photo, is it A or B?
Yeah, again with the words. But they're too hard to photoshop out. Onto question 3.
Christian women's ministries promote a lifestyle that is not promised in the Bible. Women may feel like they won't fit in if they don't look like the people in the pictures, or they may feel inadequate or weak in their faith if they aren't shiny, happy and bouncy all the time. But nowhere does the Bible say that if you trust Jesus then you will always feel and look like this:
The truth is that sometimes you will feel like this.
You will not always feel like this.
The truth is sometimes you will feel like this.
Once again. You will not always feel like this.
Sometimes you will feel like this
Recap: Jesus don't need no advertising.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
#43 Having Only Christian Friends
A person immersed in Christian culture feels some tension during every interaction with a non-Christian. This is because they feel they must represent Jesus and win that person for Christ. They feel they should overtly and literally present the gospel during almost every interaction and they feel a certain amount of personal responsibility for that person's salvation. It's an enormous amount of pressure.
This is not to say that Christians will not seek out conversation with a non-Christian. They will. But it is usually for the ultimate purpose of "witnessing" and avid pursuit of presenting the gospel to them in no uncertain terms. They feel that merely being that person's friend isn't quite enough. As a result the Christian culture person feels much more comfortable with fellow Bible-believing Christians. (Catholics don't count. Are you kidding?)
Christian culture in large part glosses over the fact that Jesus hung out with the grossest, most immoral people in his society and that the people considered to be the most holy people of his time, the Pharisees, looked down on this. Even still, Christian culture feels unsure about having friends who are agnostic, atheist, undecided, gay, strippers, drinkers, smokers, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Muslims, or maybe just kind of skanky. These people could also be saved for all we know but in the eyes of Christian culture their lifestyle trumps this possiblity. (Where is the fruit in their life? asks the Christian, unwitting to his own sin in judging that person.) Christian culture indeed knows that the Pharisees missed the point of the gospel of Christ, but Christian culture members generally are not able to entertain the possibility that they themselves could be modern-day Pharisees.*
*Disclaimer: anyone can have Phariseeical attitudes and thus be sinning, even/especially people with silly blogs.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
#42 Drama Teams
A drama team is a group at church that acts out sketches during the service as a form of worship. Churches that boast drama teams are usually of the large, warehouse, non-denominational variety. The drama team performs its sketches during youth group to inspire chastity, witnessing, or the upcoming youth retreat. They also perform at church services during Christmas and Easter and the weeks preceding them. The performances take place during the service after the bulletin announcements but before the third hymn.
The Christmas or Easter sketch is a straightforward enactment of the modern western interpretation of Jesus getting born or killed. These are often called "pageants" and can include non-members of the drama team. (The type of person who will volunteer for pageants is often an, ahem, headstrong mother of several, or a retiree with a lot of time on his hands). These types of performances are very similar from one to the next. If they take place in a church that has the word Grace or Community in its name, the "actor" playing Jesus is invariably Caucasian.
The drama team operates under the assumption that its sketches engage people and that people can relate to the situations that are portrayed. A typical church drama sketch contains a few props (more than two but no greater than six) and someone knocking on an invisible door which is then answered by someone turning its invisible knob. The sketch will also have a hapless character who does not know about Christ's love (yet!) and copes by being either overtly rebellious or by floundering listlessly through life. Conversely, the sketch will also contains a triumphant character who is self-assured and secure because of Jesus and knows "beyond a shadow of a doubt" where he'll go when he dies. Doesn't the hapless person want this too? Hapless does and 98% of the time prays to receive Christ at the end of the sketch while the sanctuary lights dim and "Amen!" is randomly shouted by a few brave people in the audience.