Tuesday, March 30, 2010

#141 Teaching small children about the crucifixion

An interesting paradox in Christian culture takes place this time of year. Christian culture normally doesn't endorse graphic depictions of violence, but come Eastertide they rent The Passion of the Christ (rated R for its violence) and encourage their children to draw pictures of the crucifixion. This is not only completely normal to them, it is seen as educational and even wholesome.

Usually Christian culture is pretty outspoken against violence in movies and video games, and they've even devoted periodicals to the parsing of positive and negative content in movies and TV. Then you have Easter. In Sunday school small children draw a smiling Jesus on the cross with red crayon scrawled all over him, holes in his hands and feet, and a big gash in his side. Their parents hang these pictures on the refrigerator.

When it comes to Jesus, three-year-olds may absolutely create art projects with a grisly ancient execution theme. It's not only permissible, it's encouraged.

This post originally appeared on Beliefnet. The original post and comment thread can be seen here.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

#140 Saying "hanging" instead of "hanging out"

Christian culture tends to omit the word "out" from the term "hanging out." They just "hang." They want to hang with you, with their hot wife, with the new church planter, and most of all with the fam.

You hardly ever hear people say they are "hanging with the fam" or "let's hang!" outside of Christian culture. When you do hear this it's a safe bet that person is either Acts 29, a youth pastor, Dane Cook, or Canadian.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

#139 Pew PDA

PDA (public display of affection) takes a specific form in the church pew. When a married couple sits together in church it's understood that the husband will put his arm around the wife and he'll keep it there until it's time to get a hymnal. After the hymnal is retrieved the arm resumes its rightful position like a reflex. The people in the pews behind them are to understand that they have a Good Marriage.

If a couple is engaged or dating, the Pew D. A. can get cheeky. Backrubs are performed with one hand and heads are leaned on shoulders. This is absolutely acceptable in the evangelical worship setting. Dating couples can really get into the back rubbing and you might wonder if they're about to throw down under the hymnal racks. Occasionally they'll each manage to get an arm around the other and rest them along the back of the pew. This is called the Double Reacharound and is performed almost exclusively by new couples.

Whenever the pastor says something pithy or spiritually poignant the man friend will squeeze his ladyfriend's shoulder and they'll exchange a tender glance. If you are single when you observe this (or even if you're not) you may suffer nausea, dizziness, or lack of faith. This is normal. If you continue to experience these symptoms after you leave the church building, maybe you shouldn't go back for awhile.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

#138 The history of St. Patrick's Day

Oh, to be an emergent Christian on St. Patrick's Day. You get to tweet and blog about the missional relevance of St. Patrick, and missional relevance is your favorite subject.

It goes with the territory of the Christian hipster epidemic and its affinity for "acting and thinking Catholic," as discussed here. Pontificating on St. Patrick is extra fun for those in seminary or seminary's inferior cousin, Bible college. They reckon that with their higher education they can inspire others to soldier forth as St. Patrick did, all while making sure you know about their affinity for beer. They are certain to slip it in there. It's important to them that you know they're not legalistic or anything about alcohol.

Visit a relevant Christian's blog today or check his Facebook status and tweets. He's sure to have written something about St. Patrick, probably something about him being a "rebellious teenager" before being sold into slavery and from there had a spiritual epiphany and ministered to the heathen Celtics before his untimely death. They'll be sure to include his breastplate prayer about God being before him, behind him, above him, in him and through him, all of which beg the question my five-year-old asked, "If God is everywhere, is he in my underwear?" That's the next question I'd like missional theology to broach.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

#137 Sneaking onstage during prayer

When the pastor finishes the sermon and says "Let's close in prayer," this is usually the band's cue to sneak silently back onstage. With every head bowed and every eye presumably closed they skulk back to their seats, quiet as death. The stealth is palpable. You could cut it with a knife. It's hard to concentrate on the prayer because you're nervous on their behalf as they try not to brush the cymbals or knock over music stands. Also perceptible is their urgency to be seated before the prayer is over, as to have materialized while we weren't looking. It's a relief when the pastor says "Amen" and you don't have to be nervous for them anymore.

Friday, March 12, 2010

#136 Pogo dancing

Pogo dancing is assumed to have started with the Sex Pistols in the late 1970s. Now it enjoys ubiquity at Hillsong United concerts, Chris Tomlin concerts, and the like.

The original pogo was higher and more erratic. Violent pogo becomes mosh pit. People become tired of getting bruised in mosh pit, thus reversion to a newer gentler pogo suitable for CCM. (Here is "Pogo Dancing" by The Vibrators with good quotable lyrics, and also some pogo action at a worship service.)

Sid Vicious was a true pioneer in expression of Christian euphoria.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

#135 Concealing the pastor's salary

Most Christian churches don't have a problem disclosing their financial records to whomever asks. Many of them make a point of providing a public record of every cent they give away and how much is spent on materials and staff salaries. Other churches aren't that forthcoming. Like the Mormons, they have pretty tight control over their financial disclosure policies.

Maybe these churches conceal the pastor's salary because it is embarrassingly low. This is definitely the case for many pastors...actually, most pastors. And maybe the churches that don't disclose their pastor's salary do this because it is high. But how high? We'll probably never know, but we do know from his new rims and Dsquared jeans that it's above the poverty line.

There are certain traits that predispose a church to maintaining salary secrecy. If a church:
- is remarkably large
- is multi-site
- is touted as one of the "fastest-growing" in America
- has a "lead," "teaching," or "founding" pastor
- is Acts 29
then there is an increased chance you'll have a hard time getting their unabridged financial information. Having these traits doesn't automatically mean they conceal staff salaries, of course. They just help.

Here is a fun experiment you can try with any church of your choosing. Ask to see their yearly financial report. They will either ignore you or provide you with a Word document. If you receive a document it might have one big number covering all salaries and you have no way of knowing what each staff member is paid, let alone their patriarch. Now here is where it gets interesting. If you inquire further, there's an excellent chance they will bristle and then shame you for asking. Stand strong. Maybe they want to avoid the fate of Anaias and Sapphira, and who could really blame them.

If a church has a tight reign on their spending disclosure, they often claim that their church financial records are accountable to a board of trustees. If you press further, you will likely find that said trustees live out of state and also pastor their own megachurches. What was that? My spidey sense is tingling! Or maybe it was just my imagination. No wait...now the lead pastor is getting into his Escalade and heading home to his gated community. Yeah. That was my spidey sense, all right.

This post originally appeared at Beliefnet, the original post and its comment thread are here.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

#134 Worship leaders saying the lines before they are sung

The worship leader is into it and he hopes you are too. The words to the song are up there on the jumbotron but he will close his eyes and say them for you a few bars ahead of time, Barry White-style. He is feelin' it.