Tuesday, September 28, 2010

#193 Hooking up with the youth pastor

This is a time-honored evangelical tradition which Christian culture is loath to speak of, yet everyone who grew up in Christian culture knows youth pastors (plural) who were deposed due to the dubiously defined Moral Failure. And those are just the ones who were caught.

The youth pastor's fall from grace is never less than gory. Once found out he will either make a tearful public confession, feebly defend his shredded reputation, or both. He is then ceremoniously fired and flees town under a spectacular shower of emotional fallout while the abandoned youth group reels from this strange new trauma which Christian culture has no idea how to handle. In their heads they replay the years of Purity Talks he gave whilst conducting clandestine activities on the side.

Post-scandal, these pastors sometimes go on to be youth pastors in other churches. This usually happens even with the hiring church's full knowledge of his past. Youth pastor gets older, high school girls stay the same age.

This post originally appeared at Beliefnet, comment thread is here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

#192 PDA via Facebook status

Not all people who do this are Christians, but 93% of them are. The remaining 7% are rogue non-Christians who are unabashed corndogs.

If you are fortunate enough to have Facebook friends who do this, you know it often begins with the wife praising her husband in her status. Once she's posted it's only a matter of time before the freshly lauded husband reciprocates using his status. Other times the husband commits Facebook PDA completely unprovoked by a glowing review. When you see this you can't help but wonder if he did something dastardly and is trying to get out of the doghouse.

Couples who do this don't think that their Facebook PDA could possibly violate the intimacy of their marriage or nauseate innocent bystanders. They believe they are blessing everyone by sharing their joy. If you are part of a PDA couple who is unfortunate enough to have nauseous Facebook friends, those friends may think your need for people to be jealous of you is stronger than your marriage.

Married people who are not Christians generally don't engage in cyber foreplay. Christian culture might counter that this is because Christians have better marriages, but the divorce rate in the church would not support that hypothesis.

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

Saturday, September 18, 2010

#191 See You At The Pole

See You At The Pole Day is upon us. Not to be confused with See You Next Tuesday, it is an annual event in which students pray at the flagpole of their school before classes start. It's touted as a great way to reach out to your school and minister to your friends and it happens to combine two of Christian culture's favorite things: public spectacle in the name of evangelism, and the American flag.

I don't mean to brag, but I participated in the first annual See You At The Pole in 1990. We held hands in a circle and prayed for the lost people at our public school with its liberal agenda and pro-evolution curriculum. People (pagans) hollered at us while we prayed, saying something to the effect that we thought we were better than they, which was true. When the bell rang we went to class feeling rather smug and keenly aware we had just Taken A Stand for our beliefs, eager for the persecution it would bring.

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

#190 Calling anger bitterness

Christian culture doesn't have a lot of room for people's hurt, especially when the hurt was caused by the Church. As such, when someone expresses frustration with God or church dealings, Christian culture's impulse is to label it bitterness and cite a verse.

Christian culture doesn't really know what to do with unsavory emotions like anger. They think Jesus' anger and turning over tables was great and holy, but they consider anger in themselves and others sinful and shameful. For this they often suggest an attitude adjustment.

When you try to share your frustration with an evangelical, you may reasonably expect one of these responses:

"Careful, your bitterness is showing."
"You need to repent of the root of bitterness has taken hold in your heart."
"One of Satan's most effective and popular schemes is bitterness."
"A bitter, sour Christian is one of Satan's greatest trophies."
"Quit whining. Get to worshiping."
"You need to change your attitude."

Christian culture is big on Changing Your Attitude. It's a lot more convenient than digging up ugly realities and the source of hurt, which caused the anger, which if not dealt with can lead to bitterness. Easier to label it bitterness straightaway and shame them for it in hopes they'll quiet down. But Christian culture's M.O. is Doing Things and Avoiding Relationship. It's a lot easier this way, but the price you pay is that you can't be a whole person.

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

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

#189 Not The New Pornographers

A Christian college in Michigan recently acquiesced to pressure from its supporters after scheduling The New Pornographers to play on their campus. Rumor says the band name is an ironic reference to Jimmy Swaggart's (the Abraham Lincoln of Christian culture, or at least the President Taft) infamous statement that rock is the new pornography, but Christian culture isn't exactly known for its grasp of irony.

The school states they had invited the band in keeping with their "rubric of engaging culture through a Christian lens" and say they "remain committed to the difficult, yet important work at faithfully engaging popular culture." But this was a little too much culture to take. They couldn't explain the satirical name to enough people and for fear that their Reformed institution be thought pornography enthusiasts (and perhaps lose some alumni funding?) they issued a statement that they just couldn't explain the band name to everyone. But if a Christian college is that concerned about being thought to endorse pornography, they might let the nefarious internet activity on Christian college campuses speak for itself and remove all doubt.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

#188 Hipster Christianity

Christian culture is sure there's a way to be cool and be a Christian at the same time, they just don't know what that way is exactly.

Christians feel tension between being in the world and not of it, and they feel it hard. Christian culture exists to bridge the gap, but they're always aware they're not quite getting it right.

Unfortunately, if you need to announce that you're cool then you cease being cool. Like being classy or humble, proclaiming yourself as such means automatic disqualification. But Christian culture forges past this social code and labels its music, publications and thinking as hip, relevant, progressive, countercultural, innovative and cutting edge, but it can't avoid its signature move, which is being five to seven years behind what is actually cool in the mainstream. Bless their little hearts, they try so hard.

This post originally appeared at Beliefnet. The original converesation and comment thread is here.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

#187 Contemporary and traditional worship services

Evangelical churches are big on customer service. The last thing they want to do is alienate certain demographics, so many evangelical churches offer at least two services to accommodate generational differences. With separate traditional (old people) and contemporary (young people) worship services, the two generations need not co-mingle while singing worship songs that half of them don't like.

The traditional service always goes first, usually at 9 o'clock or thereabouts. The reasoning appears to be that older people go to bed early on Saturday nights right after Huckabee is over, so they'll be up and ready to make it. The traditional service has "classic" "hymns" and worship songs that the more mature congregant is presumed to enjoy. The contemporary service starts around 11 am. It's assumed that all the young upstarts were out doing What Young People Do On Saturday Nights, so they start things later and sing extended anthems to Jesus in which the word "I" is used a lot.

The separate services make co-mingling of the generations less likely, but the church leaders might figure that wouldn't happen anyway. They don't seem to think young people would want anything to do with the older people and maybe vice versa. Fostering these relationships isn't a priority and besides, it might be too much to expect the young people to stick around during lame hymns. That wouldn't "appeal" to them. To create a bigger draw, they delegate someone with flat-ironed hair and guyliner to lead worship. The outsiders feel like they're being advertised to, and the congregants get the same message, if only on a subconscious level.

Some churches tout a night worship service if you just can't get your ass out of bed Sunday morning. The underlying missive: you get up early for work and school, but doing it for the sake of kingdom community on the weekend is asking too much. Point taken.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

#186 Witnessing on airplanes

People in Christian culture feel pre-witnessing apprehension whenever they step on a plane. Whomever they sit next to will have been placed there by the Almighty for the specific purpose of being witnessed to, right there, by them.

Christian culture regards airplanes as excellent settings for evangelism. Air travel invokes a heightened sense of mortality which can only help the earnest Christian's pitch. A popular tactic is to read a Christian-flavored book in hopes it will spark conversation. Another benefit of the airplane setting is your captive audience. The person on the receiving end of the witnessing is strapped in and held hostage. Should they say "I'm not interested in talking about this" however politely, the Christian will usually relent but often with a disdainful comment indicating they've just made the biggest mistake of their eternity.

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