Monday, August 30, 2010

#185 The stay-at-home pastor's wife

There is an unwritten rule in Christian culture that pastor's wives do not work outside the home. Once married, most pastor's wives relinquish their vocation and set about the full-time business of wifedom. They are very earnest in their mission to be their husband's support, encourager, and Proverbs 31 vixen.

Most pastor's wives are indeed college educated (though often partially), having secured their husband by way of their university's Campus Crusade ministry. The rest of them met at Christian college where most everyone is looking to mate for life. If said wife does work outside the home after they are married, she will without question quit her job when they start having children. (And they will have more than one. You won't find a pastoral couple who has only one child. It does not exist in nature.)

The pastor's wife keeps extremely busy with her homeschool curriculum, coordinating the children's ministry at church and leading Beth Moore bible studies. But once the kids are grown and out of the house it is common for the pastor's wife to get her real estate license. This is an excellent business move, for from here she automatically becomes the real estate agent for every single person in the congregation.

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

Thursday, August 26, 2010

#184 Saying "Now, I know what you're thinking."

This is a fun little catchphrase that every pastor keeps chambered. They use it after saying something they imagine was startling.

Common uses of this phrase in sermons include:

"I know what you're thinking. Isn't God supposed to be a loving God?"

"I know what you're thinking. Pastor Ed, are you going to lecture me on the evils of alcohol?"

"Now I know what you're thinking. Crazy preacher man spouting off at the mouth about the whore of Babylon and some such."

"Now I know what you're thinking. Pastor Mark, what do you mean I should tithe more than 10%?"

And the most common version:

"I know what you're thinking: easier said that done."

This psychic revelation is often followed by "I'm not here to lecture you" or "You'd better believe it."

Monday, August 23, 2010

#183 Not the mosque at Ground Zero

Much of American Christian culture opposes the Ground Zero mosque. They say their main problem with it is the disrespectful locale, but they often go on to say that Islam is probably going to annihilate America (a.k.a. "God's nation" in Christian culture) before long and they'd feel a lot better if those sneaky Muslims weren't setting up shop underfoot. As is their wont, they tie their Christianity to this argument, however tenuously.

The Christ whom these people purport to follow taught embracing and honoring of all people (including Muslims), but Christian culture seems to have swept that nugget under the rug.

This segment of Christian culture is ready to hold all Muslims reponsible for the actions of extremists, but if extremists' actions don't align with what Islam teaches then it seems their religion wouldn't actually be Islam. By the same token, people who call themselves Christians but don't practice what Christ taught often aren't Christians at all, and even though they claim to do things in his name, their actions speak much more loudly. Funny thing, that.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

#182 Swank church buildings

American evangelicals enjoy posting pictures of their swanky church buildings online. These evangelical churches typically expend great effort and spare little expense to make their worship and gathering facilities intriguing and relevant.

As megachurches build out, they're under greater culturally-imposed pressure to make each of their satellites a little hipper and that much more relevant than the last. They've gotta reach people, you know? Who wants to visit a boring-looking church with lame fonts and hymnals? The ancient church's mission is relegated to the backburner. They are now primarily seeker-friendly.

These churches are very proud of themselves when they've completed a remodel. For hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions of dollars, wouldn't you be? They're excited to get the pictures on Facebook and in the paper to show off the building, which is always charming and dreamy. It looks happily air-conditioned and they've got snacks! And it probably still smells like drywall. I want to visit it. I bet I'd feel like no terrorist could get me there.

In order for a Christian church to spend that kind of money on this type of thing some substantial cognitive dissonance must be in effect. Ghettos and homelessness are in the same communities as each revamped state-of-the-art church building. In the south, the poor and homeless tend to stay safely away from the middle and upper classes which makes them easier not to think about. On the coasts, poverty and homelessness are usually on the same block as awesome new church buildings that have security systems and espresso in the lobby. In either case, it's super easy to stay away from the poor and needy or just step over them on your way to church. Same goes double for the rest of the week. Just like Jesus said to do. Glory to God!

This post originally appeared on Beliefnet. The original post and comment thread are here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

#181 Jim Elliot

Jim Elliot was an evangelical missionary to Ecuador who was killed by the tribe he tried to convert. He is now blisteringly famous within Christian culture for being a martyr of the faith.

Everyone in Christian culture knows that it was Jim Elliot who said "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose," and most have written it on the inside cover of their Bible at some point in their evangelical career. However, most of Christian culture can't name the other four missionaries who were killed along with Jim. They're Pete Best in this scenario, and Jim Elliot is Ringo.

Friday, August 13, 2010

#180 Quiet times

The quiet time is a hallowed institution in Christian culture. It is also known as spending time in the Word. The phrases "quiet time" and "in the Word" are interchangeable and are exclusive to Christian culture.

Christian culture has lots of handy hints on exactly how to have a quiet time. There are books and websites that tell you how long a quiet time should be (industry standard: 15 minutes on average), when it should be (first thing in the morning is ideal) and what kind of attitude you should have (a good one).

The Psalmists didn't always follow this prescription and in half the Psalms they're angry and railing on about wanting death and destruction for their enemies. To Christian culture, this isn't a very good attitude. But God must have liked these honest prayers enough to make the Psalms the prayer book of Israel.

Christian culture also has a handy acronym to assist you in your quiet time: ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). To them it's an ideal order in which to pray. Interestingly enough, the prayer Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount put supplication (give us this day...) before confession (forgive us our debts), and omitted thanksgiving entirely. Work that one out.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

#179 Abusing "awesome"

"Awesome" is Christian culture's favorite adjective for God. It is their default descriptor for him.

It is also their favorite adjective for their particular church, a challenge that their pastor gave, any assorted ministry, last night's time of fellowship, the upcoming leadership conference, the annual men's retreat, their new Hebrew tattoo (they're working on a sleeve), the iPhone 4, and their spouse.

In contrast, this word is not thrown around by Catholics, Anglicans, or Protestants of the liturgical stripe. It's one of the cultural divides. If it's a "blessing" or somehow poignant, then Christian culture deems it awesome.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

#178 Proposition 8

With the overturning of Prop 8, Christian culture is certain the end times* are upon us.

*The "end times" are the eschatological writings which depict a time of tribulation that precedes the return of the Messiah, i.e., what the Left Behind series was about.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

#177 Family bumper stickers

Christian culture likes to display their families in stick-figure effigy on their vans and SUVs. They would like for you to know how many children they have, their approximate ages, sports interests and gender. When you see these stickers you can be reasonably assured this family identifies themselves as evangelical. You can be assured they do if the sticker has a scripture reference on it.

Some of these stickers even have each child's name on them. Good thinking! And don't forget the pets. They'd be gutted if you left them out. In an impressive lack of guile, the proponents of these stickers don't think they're any kind of invitation for home invasion. What better way to alert paroled pedophiles to your exact number of children? What's better, they can just follow you home.

A fun variation on these stickers is the Disney version. From these you may reasonably infer that this family is affluent enough to go to Disney (Land or World) regularly. Those stickers may as well say "Follow this car and case our house, we have more money than we have sense."

Monday, August 2, 2010

#176 Not Anne Rice

Hoo boy, they're pissed! Last week Anne Rice said she's done with being a Christian and Christian culture is indignant. But in her statement it seems to be an issue of semantics. She's actually claiming Christ and rejecting Christian culture, but Christian culture has chosen to get their dander up. They don't seem interested in her personal experience behind the statement and have decided to take issue. The natural progression here is that they feel they must internet-rebuke her (the technological rebuke: the rebuke of the future!) and love-her-but-not-her-sin and all those things Christian culture gets off on. So here it is again, the marrow of Christian culture: Doing things and avoiding relationship. Hmm, I wonder why she would want to renounce all this. Anne, can I come with you? I'll bring salted caramels.