Christian Worldliness Skewered by a Secular Jew

This is too good not to pass on immediately—from a newsletter I write for BJU that goes out to churches:

Evangelical Christians have a “deeply neurotic relationship with popular culture,” says journalist Hanna Rosin in Slate.

Evangelicals in America are like the Old Testament Israelites, says Rosin: “They are blending into the surrounding heathen culture, and having ever more trouble figuring out where it ends and they begin.” They’ve even “created their own enormous ‘parallel universe.’” An evangelical “can now buy books, movies, music—and anything else lowbrow to middlebrow—tailor-made for his or her sensibilities. Worried that American popular culture leads people—and especially teenagers—astray, the Christian version is designed to satisfy all the same needs in a cleaner form.”

Christians were known in the 1980s for boycotting offensive offerings from popular culture, says Rosin. But in the 1990s “the boycotters became coopters and embarked on the curious quest to enlist America’s crassest material culture in the service of spiritual growth,” she says. “Every American pop phenomenon has its Christian equivalent, no matter how improbable.” Rosin, a secular Jew, compares this phenomenon to “another planet hidden somewhere on Earth where everything is just exactly like it is here except blue or made out of plastic.”

“There is Christian Harlequin and Christian chick lit,” Rosin says. “There are Christian raves and Christian rappers and Christian techno, which is somehow more Christian even though there are no words.” Rosin’s favorite is “Christian professional wrestling.”

Rosin asks two penetrating questions of this parallel culture: “What does commercializing do to the substance of belief, and what does an infusion of belief do to the product?” She notes that “When you make loving Christ sound just like loving your boyfriend, you can do damage to both your faith and your ballad.” When you “sanitize” “Nirvana or…Jay-Z…You shoehorn a message that’s essentially about obeying authority into a genre that’s rebellious and nihilistic, and the result can be ugly, fake, or just limp.”

Those two questions in the last paragraph—excellent. Common grace embarrasses me; that was hyperbolically incisive insight.

Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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