Monday, June 16, 2008

No More Jesus Junk!

Back in my early twenties, I loved the T-Shirts. I have a couple that are understated and cute. I had a collection of pro-life ones. I loved one that had the Statue of Liberty holding a baby that said "Liberty Delivers Life" on it. (And we were involved in crisis pregnancy center work, so it wasn't just empty and a nice idea.) My other favorite shirts were lesser known ones that had NT verses in Hebrew on them and the English translation on the back. And I was sorry to see my old car with the "Equal rights for unborn women" bumper sticker go when I sold it (it had a symbol for women with a small one inside the circle).

And then I got a belly full of the the fakery in the spiritually abusive church that I attended. Most other Christians who had not been through the process wanted nothing to do with us, and some who did wanted to avoid the topic because they had "cult hopped." (People who do not deal with the issues and learn about the dynamics usually just join up with groups that are just as abusive as the one that they left.) The superficial implications of the t-shirt messages seemed too hypocritical. Most of the church, suddenly, became all very superficial to me and completely unable to make good on most of the claims on those shirts. When your church wants you to (or just declares that you will) just crawl away and die or gives you the option to come back and have what amounts to a lobotomy, it really does not seem like liberty delivers life. (I didn't believe that the concept was no longer true, but the religious context of it seemed like near-total hypocrisy to me. It certainly was not anything that I wanted to declare on a t-shirt.) And time was marching me into my thirties. T-shirts seemed to loose their luster.

If you feel good about wearing them, then wear away. I just felt like there wasn't enough substance behind most of the church to back up the "advertising". If someone converted, I would be hard pressed to find the name of a church that I could send them to attend. I actually had an experience once where I did pray with someone and recommended a church closer to where he lived. This person contacted me later to say that the pastor that ran the singles group asked him back to his home to be a voyeur in his bedroom as the pastor had relations with his wife that night. I didn't know where to send the guy then! I have been reluctant to make such recommendations since then.

A few months ago, I saw a documentary on PBS in the middle of the night that talked about all of this merchandising in Evangelical Christianity. They interviewed people at the Christian theme park in Florida. (I remembered the similar passion plays and stage shows in Reading, PA near where I grew up.) This past week when we retreated to a hotel to escape the heat and no electric, my husband and I watched an HBO documentary series episode on Evangelical Christianity and its practice. It started out with Ted Haggard and some other mega-churches with their coffee shops and wireless internet. They visited a miniature golf course that was "Biblical" and some other strange places. They interviewed a growing family that sounded like Vision Forum devotees, the woman with her head covering and all of the girls and the mom in homemade dresses that looked identical to the Fundamentalist Mormons that were removed from the El Dorado, TX compound. The father spouted the typical "militant fecundity" rhetoric and sounded just like you-know-who. And most all of it (save for a few older men who made wooden crosses to put up along highways and the truckstop that offered a Bible study) was a huge embarrassment to me.

And just a day or so before, my husband says that he watched this clip on, saying that this Jewish author knew more about what real Evangelical Christianity is than most of us do. The book is "Rapture Ready" and I have yet to read it. Now if you think I've dropped off some weird Jewish cliff, think again! I would have put a Mormon or a Moonie on here if there message, in context, was sound. If Jerry Falwell can hang out with Larry Flint, I can post a video! It is a message much like the message that also comes through in the "unChristian" book and has some good information that we ought to take to heart (I think!).

Primary point: Too often, we are more sales than substance.