“Give Satan an inch, and he’ll be a ruler”. As I read these words from a recent church marquee, I couldn’t help but to laugh and turn my car around to take a photo. I would pay big bucks to be in the congregational business meeting when the church was looking for a new evangelistic catch phrase to scroll across their marquee:
“The last order of business for this quarter’s business meeting consists of what will now fill our church marquee. Remember that people daily drive by the marquee and nearly wreck into the nativity scene contemplating how these evangelistic statements can be applied in their lives. Momentarily I’ll ask for a motion to vote so that I can then ask for a motion to vote between “Give Satan an inch, and he’ll be a ruler” versus “Prevent truth decay by brushing up on your Bible.”
Is this where the Church in America has come to? Where Christianity is seen and communicated through t-shirts and marquees. We don’t communicate our business projects, vacation plans, and political positions through marquees and t-shirts, so we don’t need to communicate our faith through such means.
The church in America has simply taken out the terminology of America and replaced it with its own terminology with a Christian twist. Christian bookstores are taking on the feel of a Super Wal-Mart, but without the food, except for the “testamints” and crucifix lollipops at the counter. Clothes, video games, toys, comic books, food, and music has been changed just enough for it to appear on the surface as Christian. From shirts branding “a bread crumb and fish” (see the likeness to Abercrobmie and Fitch) to Bibleman action figures to Majorvictory Superhero to Dance Praise video games.
Having Christian clothes, toys, comic books, and video games aren’t bad things in themselves. But does it make Christianity relevant to the rest of society? And what is our motive in creating Christian super heroes?
In essence, the church has separated itself from America and created its own culture by putting a slight Christian twist to clothing, video games, toys, comic books, food and music. It has stated through its actions that it doesn’t want to be a part of culture, but rather create it’s own culture. It has become a “Christian pop culture” that is disconnected from the rest of society.
What are the implications of Christianity creating it’s own culture? First of all, culture can closely be defined as a group of people that are defined by their language, politics, customs, beliefs, etc. With this in mind, a Christian culture would be one in which the language, politics, customs, and beliefs are heavily Christian. Although it may not be wrong having Christianity mixed with these things, there is something starkly wrong when Christianity exists in a culture by removing itself from that culture and creating its own culture. This is how much of the Christian church in America exists: in its own Christian sub culture.
In this Christian sub culture, Christianity becomes exclusive. Rather than having a warm and fuzzy community feel to it, the church feels more like a cold and stuck up country club. Christians pay their dues, abide by the enforced rules created by the committee that oversees all the other committees, make people come to them, dress and talk with a certain distinction, participate in private social events, and regard their fellow country clubbers as “we” and “us” and those on the outside as “them”. What would our reaction be if a scruffy older man walked in during a church service carrying a 40-ounce Bacardi or if two younger female partners walked in together while holding hands? Just as Americans feel uncomfortable visiting another country, similarly do the un-churched feel uncomfortable visiting a church.
What is our motive for creating a Christian sub culture, whether we’ve created it consciously or unconsciously? Is it a motive of love? Sacrifice? Pride? Self-righteousness? Comfort? It could be a number of different motives. It could be a motive of comfort where we live among our kind, avoiding at all costs confrontation with others that may make us feel uncomfortable. It could be a motive of self-righteousness, where we want people to take notice of our external Christianity, so they see how spiritual we are. And it may be a motive of pride, where we see ourselves as superior to those around us. Whatever our motive is, it’s hard to believe that it could be a motive of love as Jesus demonstrated.
Can you imagine Jesus running the neighborhood Christian gift shop while wearing pleated pants, loafers, and a t-shirt saying “1 savior + 3 nails = 4given”? Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that Jesus would be meandering around in his Leisure Toga. I personally think Jesus would mix some old school with new school, rocking Reebok Pumps with a popped collar. However, that is beside the point. The point is that it is unmistakable that Jesus’ life on earth was motivated by love.
One of the best examples of Jesus’ love and his association to those he didn’t even know, comes from Mark 6:30-44. In this account, Jesus sees a crowd of people that has just run from several surrounding towns in order to see him. Upon seeing them he is moved with compassion. The actual word for compassion is a deep feeling of pity, likened to a yearning or movement within the bowels (“bowels” certainly isn’t the word I would prefer to use but it’s what the Greeks and Jesus chose to use, so if you’re insulted because of my impropriety you can blame the Greeks or Jesus). Jesus’ so-called successors, also known as his disciples, told Jesus to just send them home. The disciples said this with it already being late and right after they had just spent solitary time with Jesus. They had been by themselves all day and without even spending a moment with the people, they tell Jesus to send them off. Not only did Jesus not send them away, but he met their physical need and spiritual need. He taught them and then he fed them.
So who are you in this account? Jesus or the disciples? If you say you’re Jesus then you’re lying because if Christians imitated Jesus’ example in this account then there would be an attraction to Christianity in America, but there is not. When was the last time you saw Christians being depicted as loving. Christians have been depicted as protesters, politicians, and moralists, while atheist celebrities are the ones being depicted as loving.
The challenge then is to recapture the love of Christ. We will never be able to recapture that love until we stop living out of our own Christian sub culture and start spending time with Christ and with people. C.S. Lewis said it well when he stated: “Love comes when manipulation stops; when you think more about the other person than about his or her reactions to you. When you dare to reveal yourself fully. When you dare to be vulnerable.” Let us be a people who reveal ourselves fully, and better yet, reveal Christ fully.