Now that my wedding and move-in are done and I can actually settle down to write one of these. I’ve been sitting down trying to decide what to write about and several topics have buzzed through my mind over the last few days dealing with the Christian culture (a nice break from all the politics I’ve been talking about lately). Instead of spending weeks talking about each one, I thought I’d convey them all briefly in one post, as they’re related to things I’ve experienced very recently and waiting on them would make them no longer timely.
Christians Don’t Think They’re Doing Christianity Wrong
Back in December, I wrote a blog about what versions of the Bible are more accurate than others. In it, I was kind of hard on The Message:
The Message just makes God a liar: “The moment you eat from that tree, you’re dead.” That explicitly states that as soon as Eve ate the fruit, she’d have died before she could have even gotten it to Adam, which makes God a liar. Now you can argue that they died a spiritual death, which is true, but it’s clear that’s not what God was saying. That doesn’t fly.
The ESV paints a picture of a God who hates when people do one thing at religious meetings and another thing at home. The Message paints a picture of a God who hates religious meetings, and says they’re just a waste of time and we should do other things instead.
Verdict: The Message contradicts itself and standard biblical teaching in so many places that I have to discourage anyone reading this from ever using it, even for just a small illustration as some people do. It’s not accurate, it’s not scripture, it’s not helpful and it’s not worth you wasting your time on it.
I stand by everything I said and even more so as I’ve looked through the Message even further. I’ve found that, especially in the New Testament, the Message replaces hard commands with soft suggestions and calls to action into calls to “not judge people.” It’s really soft on people where the Bible is really hard on people. It’s a quasi-commentary that passes itself off as scripture.
Some people commented that the Message was useful if you don’t understand something from the Bible itself. Well, that’d be true if the Message weren’t wrong about everything. The fact is you can flip to any chapter in the Message and compare it with any other version, and you’ll find something in that chapter where you’ll say “What the Message says isn’t what that means.” Go ahead and try it.
This incident, along with some others that I’ve seen in my life, has given me a sort of revelation about Christians in general and about myself: people (myself included) are okay being called out on sin, but they can’t accept when something they think is God-glorifying is wrong.
I don’t think we latch onto everything with the name “Christian” on it and run with it; most of us understand that Joel Osteen and Rob Bell aren’t the kind of brilliant theologians we should be listening to. But I do think that once we do latch onto something we believe is good Christian practice, we don’t want to let it go, even if it doesn’t line up with the Word of God.
That essentially makes us Pharisees. Often, we try to see ourselves as the poor, helpless victims Jesus saves in the New Testament. But for most of the people who read this blog, we’re the Pharisees. We’re the spiritual leaders, and even though we’d never admit it, we think we have Christianity figured out. We don’t. One of the functions of the Bible is to show us how our Christian walk can be better, and to warn us against things that claim to be Christian, and even have the best of intentions, but are harmful.
Christian Celebrities Aren’t Better Than You
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Christians love their celebrities. Whether it’s in the Christian media world like Chris Tomlin or Francesca Battistelli or Christians in the secular world like Tim Tebow, Christians go nuts over their celebrities.
We shouldn’t treat celebrities like celebrities, much less the Christian ones. After all, they’re just normal people doing their job. Pay to see their concerts, sure, and try to meet them, but they aren’t worth getting starstruck over. Just like you, they’re doing their job, and God has given them everything they have. Let them be just people.
And Christian celebrities also need to act like regular people instead of celebrities. Some of them are already good at this. One woman in particular, V-Rose, has blown me away with the way she treats her “fans”, for lack of a better word (even if I don’t enjoy her music myself). My boss at the TV station has a young daughter who loves V-Rose’s music, so they brought her into the station to sing at a few events. V-Rose actually spent time with this little girl, let her have her phone number, sent a video for her birthday, and really treated this girl like she mattered to her. V-Rose, Todd Agnew and Rush of Fools are among the top 5 biggest names I’ve worked with, and they’re likely among the top 5 most humble and easy-going people/groups I’ve worked with.
Other Christian celebrities know their fame and act like celebrities. This needs to stop. You’re not better than anyone. You’re just a human being.
Emotions Are Okay
So, a big problem I have with the culture at large is the fact that feelings dictate everything, and I’ve talked about that a lot. So it may surprise you that I think Christian culture has a problem of trying to suppress their feelings too much.
Job is a wonderful study in human emotion in a relationship with God. Job weeps and mourns everything he’s lost; he is constantly upset, fearful or even angry. Yet he never uses it in a way that leads to sin. He’s lost everything, he has sores everywhere, his friends are trying to tell him that it’s somehow his fault while he’s trying to defend himself. The range of emotions is there, but he still trusts God the whole time. He doesn’t even get answers in the end, but he trusts God.
I think Christian culture today says that if you’re upset or worried, you’re not trusting God. I don’t think that’s true. I think you can trust God while still understanding the clock and the bank account.
When Tabatha and I got married we started our marriage without a place to live and I still didn’t have a job with benefits or decent pay. It was hard to cope with because I have spent a year searaching for a job with benefits and good pay so that I could even afford a place to live and provide for us. We knew God would provide for us eventually, but that didn’t make it easy. It has been a difficult time full of anger, sadness, confusion, and pretty much any emotion you can think of. Thanks to Christian culture’s obsession with making sure we’re always happy because God will handle it, I felt really guilty about that. But Job teaches us that we can feel those negative emotions as long as those negative emotions don’t guide us or change our feelings toward God.
And I know what the response is: “Philippians 4:6.” Well, context:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:4-7 ESV
More of a call to pray WHEN you’re worried because God is there than a call to think you can never worry.
All of those things together have been on my mind lately, what with all the wedding stuff and working at a Christian television station and such. Just a few things to think about.
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