Sunday, February 28, 2010

#133 Kirk Cameron

Christian culture advocate Kirk Cameron (aka Mike Seaver) released a statement after his lovable compadre Andrew Koenig (aka Boner) passed away. "At a time like this, we are all reminded of the briefness of life and the importance of being ready for our eternal destination."

Kirk's giving it to you straight. Dare you click "skip intro"?

This statement is pretty loyal to Christian culture's preoccupation with timelines and the attaining of goals. Christian culture doesn't spend much time wondering if there is any value in process and journey. Maybe if we're lucky they will both prove to be valuable, and if we're really lucky we might realize heaven and hell exist beyond biblica metaphor. And if we're really, really lucky, Kirk will release a statement apologizing for the raciness of costarring with somebody named Boner.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

#132 Facebook fan pages for pastors

What more relevant way to encourage and shepherd your flock than via fan page? Lots of these exist on Facebook. They are created either by members of their church or by the pastor himself masquerading as a member of the church.

Since there isn't a Facebook fan page category for pastors, the fanatic-inspiring pastor is sometimes categorized as a "musician." No one raises an eyebrow. Fan page? Sure. Musician? Why not? He's a man of God!

Some of these pages have tens of thousands of fans. Said fans use the page to leave copious messages and pressing questions that the pastor could never respond to due to his mortaldom. But maybe they don't see him as a mere mortal. Maybe once he's fan-page-worthy he's approaching the realm of exalted figurehead. This sort of mindset turns the pastor into an untouchable celebrity rather than a friend and companion in seeking God. Hi, conflict of interests.

Monday, February 22, 2010

#130 The short engagement

When couples in Christian culture get engaged they are encouraged to keep their engagement short. The engagement period is considered a ticking time bomb because of the difficulty of "staying pure."

If they're not already covertly Doing It, some couples try to deal with the purity situation by not kissing until the altar. Others, after spending time in prayer about it, will allow themselves some passionate hand-holding. Others may decide (prayerfully) that they will kiss "but that's it," and the rest furtively dry hump their engagement away.

In any event, limping to the finish with the last dregs of virginity intact is considered by Christian culture to be a technical success, but any missteps up to that point can be a source of shame the couple may cling to for years. Some couples tell their woeful tale to their church's singles or youth ministries as a sort of community service so that the young upstarts won't make their same mistakes. The singles and youth eventually become nauseatingly familiar with the details of the regrettable gaffe(s) and while the couple is careful never to present these stories in an appealing light, they manage to be strangely compelling anyway.

#131 The hip-hop hug

As the Christian side hug gains notoriety, another type of hug seems to be evolving.

Since fewer people want to perform the prudish side hug it is morphing into the hip-hop hug, i.e., the half-hug where only half of each person's chestal region come into contact.

As with the side hug, everyone's naughty bits manage to steer clear of each other except that one boob gets mashed against the guy, so it's sort of a win and sort of a fail, depending on who you ask.

Friday, February 19, 2010

#129 Looking down on denominations that don't observe Lent

It goes both ways. Christians feeling superior to each other is a smug little tendency that's old as dirt. Different traditions across denominations that aren't biblically mandated still manage to make people feel their church has got it right and the others don't. It just feels so good to fancy yourself the more evolved believer. Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, beauty and the beeeeeeast.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

#128 Not observing Lent

Evangelicals don't do Lent. If you ask one of them what Lent is even about, there is an excellent chance that they won't be able to tell you. To them it's a Catholic thing.

Lent has been a Christian tradition since the second century that for some reason has fallen out of favor with the evangelicals. It is observed in the Protestant realm primarily by Anglicans, and the Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians also pay attention to it. But Baptist, Bible and non-denominational churches pay it no mind. (Curiously, the denominations that do not observe Lent are the same ones that are more likely to joke about the wedding night during a wedding ceremony, and vice versa. This is an extremely random yet accurate correlation.)

Lent is a somber season to be sure, heavy on seeking and self-reflection and getting rid of distractions, that eventually culminates in the celebration of Easter. Now, Easter is something the evangelicals will get behind. They celebrate the living hell out of it.

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

Friday, February 12, 2010

#127 Knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt

That pesky shadow of doubt thwarts people at every turn. If only it didn't exist. Christian culture in particular would like to evolve past it and, as such, they bring it up a lot.

Evangelicals like to invoke the shadow of doubt whilst discussing God's existence and his will. Being certain feels awesome. But Christian culture's very favorite thing to know beyond a shadow of a doubt is where one will spend eternity. Where will you spend eternity? That person happens to know beyond a shadow of a doubt. Sound good? You can know too!

Can you? And should you? If God revealed himself completely and removed all space for faith, would it destroy a sacred part of us and turn us into chess pieces?

Is it faith to understand nothing, and merely submit your convictions implicitly to the Church? —John Calvin

I have heard it said that belief in Christian dogma is a hindrance to the writer but I myself have found nothing further from the truth. Actually, it fuses the storyteller to observe. It is not a set of rules which fixes what he sees in the world. It affects his writing primarily by guaranteeing his respect for mystery. —Flannery O'Connor

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

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

#126 Tim Tebow's mom

Evangelicals love Tim Tebow so they love his mom by proxy. She's like the evangelical Virgin Mary. Focus on the Family took out a Super Bowl ad in which Tim's mom explains she almost lost him. The story goes that doctors advised her to get an abortion but she didn't, and now look at him! The non-aborted Tim grew up to win the Heisman trophy. The ad closes with the tag line "Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life" and you are left kind of wanting into that family.

But since not every evangelical family can produce a star athlete like the ad shows, it would be an interesting twist for Focus on the Family to create some more "Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life" ads that show more typical evangelical families who chose not to abort their kids. Here are some ideas to pitch to FOTF's agency. Picture the storyboards! A conservative Eddie Bauer-clad couple in their fifties speak solemnly about how glad they are they chose not to abort their now-grown son who dropped out of junior college but still lives at home and has a gaming addiction. It could show a little candid moment where he promises he'll go to church with them if they promise not to shut off the internet. How many evangelical families like that are out there? Way more than the Tebow family. Or! A similar couple could talk about how glad they are that they chose not to abort their daughter who grew up to get pregnant at age 18. It could show that she married the baby's 19 yr old father under pressure from the evangelical parents and then it could depict how quickly the marriage fell apart and how the parents are helping raise the grandbaby who lives with them. How many thousands of evangelical families have this story? Millions? Or! A conservative older couple could tell how they didn't abort their son from whom they're now estranged because he is gay, and that they love him so much they are standing up to this sinful lifestyle that Satan has tricked him into. This might be the most common evangelical family of them all.

Celebrate family, celebrate life!

Friday, February 5, 2010

#125 The iPad

Christians who identify as emergent and/or relevant really, really, really want an iPad of their very own. They seem to feel it will help them network with their Christian bros at a greater capacity and witness to the lost more effectively.

As they vie to be emergent, they very much want any and all emerging technology. Christians in other parts of the world and Christians outside of American Christian culture aren't nearly as rabid about owning new toys, and some see them as just that, fun but superfluous, but American Christian culture is rather preoccupied with the ways technology can help them along their Christian walk. Like how Jesus said.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

#124 Signing off as Satan

In an attempt at reverse psychology and to perhaps lure you with their hilarity, Christian culture signs things with Satan's name to show you that, obviously, you should do the opposite of what Satan says. Satan bought a billboard ad? As if! That church is hilarious! And, Satan hates it. I'd better go there.

You'll notice this move is artfully engineered to plant a seed of doubt in your mind. What if Satan really doesn't want me to go to that church or do that thing that the billboard says? I'd better NOT LISTEN TO SATAN THEN, just in case.

Your affectionate uncle,