Saturday, July 31, 2010

#175 The term "faith-walk"

Christian culture is the only demographic to employ the term faith-walk. Christians of the non-evangelical stripe can infer what faith-walk means when they hear it, but the word is not in their vernacular. Only evangelicals use this one.

When Christian culture says faith-walk they are referring to a period of time that began when someone placed their faith in Jesus. All time henceforth is their walk...their faith-walk, rather, if you will, even.

When someone's faith-walk is "tested" or their faith falters, Christian culture takes a dim view. Christian culture doesn't feel that times of trial and disbelief can be a good or necessary part of someone's overall faith-walk. They feel instead that in such struggles God is made sad. And if someone claims to abandon their faith altogether, Christian culture considers this to be a great tragedy. They don't tend to look at the whole picture or remember that the story isn't yet over. Rocky spots in a faith-walk are considered to be an unfortunate hiatus, like a mysterious gap in a résumé or the missing 18 ½ minutes in the Watergate tapes. Even though the Scriptures say that God would have us be hot or cold instead of lukewarm, Christian culture insists that lukewarm is better than cold.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

#174 Public polls

The evangelical pastor frequently conducts unscientific polls from the pulpit, and the evangelical congregation consistently responds in the affirmative. Common pulpit questions include:

"Who's glad to be here today?"
"Are you excited about Jesus? I tell ya, I'm excited about Jesus."
"Anyone here have a heart for [insert guest speaker's specific ministry]?"
"Who's ready to lift their hearts in worship for the Lord?"
"Don't we serve an awesome God?"
"Wasn't that an incredible call to action?" (said by whichever pastor takes over after the teaching pastor speaks)
"How many people here love God? Let me hear your hands." (Let me hear your hands is your signal to applaud.)
The worship pastor tends to poll more often than other varieties of pastor. Of all the pastors, he seems to appreciate your response the most. Polling is a way for him to engage the congregation and perhaps banish some stage fright. But it's possible and even likely that the questions don't engage the congregation as much as they apply social pressure for them to respond verbally, thereby giving the appearance of engagement. Maybe it's just as well. Christian culture values appearances. A lot.

It is somehow understood that each question from the pulpit (or from the headset mic, if your church is relevant) only has one acceptable answer. No one ever responds with a "no," or at least not out loud.

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

Thursday, July 22, 2010

#173 "Essential" Bible guides

Wow, that book is essential? Do you have any documentation on that? Besides Zondervan's, I mean. Was it found with the Dead Sea Scrolls? Was it translated from Greek or Amaraic or Hebrew or from the Vulgate? Was it written on parchment or papyrus? Or maybe on some golden plates found in New York state. Did you have to use special glasses to read it, like Joseph Smith? At what point does Christian culture consider something essential and at which point does it veer into the territory of the Latter-Day Saints' sacred texts? That would be an automatic disqualifer, wouldn't it, as Christian culture has a definite opinion on Mormonism, and it isn't good.

But maybe you didn't mean your book is actually essential to understanding the Bible and the word essential is just for marketing or to emphasize how good you think the book is. If that's all it is then I'm sorry, I misunderstood. But you did say essential.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

#172 Calvin praying at the cross

Bumpers and rear windows across America are rife with stickers of Calvin either peeing or praying. The original Calvin never paused to pray at a cross in any of the Calvin & Hobbes cartoons, but Christian culture has taken it upon itself to concoct such an image and mass-produce it as a bumper sticker.

The other stickers show Calvin peeing on such assorted effects as American vehicle manufacturers, Osama bin Laden and NASCAR numbers. Bill Watterson never gave his permission for Calvin & Hobbes stickers to be sold but this hasn't deterred their production. Calvin didn't do any territorial/desecratory peeing in the original cartoon either but these bumper stickers are still seen en masse across the red states and in a few blue ones as well.

Maybe Christian culture feels that if Calvin is shown praying instead of peeing then it's okay to nick his image, since it's for a good cause. Maybe Calvin is praying forgiveness for pissing on everything. But why Calvin, of all cartoons? Is it a veiled reference to John Calvin? Or a far-fetched reference to C.S. Lewis? Calvin's mean teacher is named Mrs. Wormwood and Wormwood was a character in The Screwtape Letters and Christian culture reveres C.S. Lewis, but that's about four degrees of separation and this is getting complicated. Would the person who had the idea to make Calvin-cross-stickers please speak up? We'll grant you immunity if you'll just explain yourself.

Friday, July 16, 2010

#171 Church iPhone apps

Churches that fancy themselves relevant, missional and/or emergent either already have an iPhone app or are working on one as we speak.

These churches are very excited about their apps. Some church websites explain that they are embracing technology the way the Apostle Paul embraced technology to spread the gospel (breaking technology being the Roman road system), and the printing press was a technological advancement that was used to print the Bible, then came amplification systems and stadiums and Billy Graham crusades, so the iPhone is a natural progression of state-of-the-art gospel mongering. Some sites also add that their Church App is "a powerful, flexible solution for reaching people in a fresh way." Christian culture is all about the fresh approach.

The church app has everything that the church website does so a smartphone can just as easily go to the church website on their phone even without an app. Then why make a church app at all? Maybe then the relevant church wouldn't have a new media ministry project to herald and assign task leaders to and throw money at. But who really knows.

Monday, July 12, 2010

#170 Dramatic key changes

After singing the chorus nine times in a row the worship team likes to kick it up a notch. Literally a notch, one step up from the key they were just in. The key change always occurs towards the end of a praise and worship song and signifies that the end is nigh.

Church-flavored drama sweeps the sanctuary. You might get goosebumps or nausea, depending on your personal resonance or baggage surrounding the whole church thing. The worship team is really getting into it now. Every eye closed, every expression pained! You may feel the key change was intended to work your emotions, and you may be right.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

#169 Relevant pastor-speak

A current phenomenon in Christian culture is for church leaders to speak with a certain cadence and inflection. In the same way newscasters have their own industry-wide manner of speaking, so does Christian culture.

The church leader endeavors to speak with earnest approachability that is simultaneously sincere and authoritative. He doesn't want your mind to wander. He is going to engage you. The gospel of Christ has captured people's attention for like 2,000 years but he isn't taking any chances. You're going to pay attention to what he is saying, or at least to the fact that he's saying it with the same cadence, tone and inflections as every other church leader and conference speaker.

You will observe this brand of pastor-speak in all occasions when the church leader or the aspiring church leader speaks in front of a group or into his webcam. He does not use it in normal chit-chat unless you get to talking about premarital sex or some other subject upon which he wishes to educate you. Please enjoy these two examples of ubiquitous Christian culture speak. It's a relevant sensation that's sweeping the nation.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

#168 Africa

Christian culture sure does like Africa. It is their continent of choice for missions work. If you grow up in American Christian culture you hear so much about Africa that you have a strong suspicion that God will make you a missionary there when you grow up. You learn in Sunday school that Amy Carmichael prayed for blue eyes every day and then she grew up to be a missionary in India and thus her brown eyes help her blend in better and that's why God didn't give her blue eyes. You are pretty sure God will do something like that to you even though your eyes are blue, but he'll probably send you to Africa and not India like Amy.

As a product of Christian culture, your understanding of Africa is comprised entirely of lions, elephants, and unsaved savages, and you are only vaguely familiar with the political unrest and economic corruption there but you've inferred somehow is that if Africa were a Christian nation then they wouldn't have these problems. Then one day you might read The Poisonwood Bible and think, hmm, maybe all these missionaries aren't actually doing what Jesus said to do. Maybe some of them don't even know Jesus at all. Then you might think "What if Christ and Christian culture aren't really on the same wavelength?" Then you might start a blog about the disparity between the two and Beliefnet might take a liking to it and ask to sponsor it and put ads on it with IQ quizzes and graphic pictures of people's muffin tops. And all because of Africa. Isn't the universe strange?