If It Looks Like an Evangelical Skunk…
(Or Why You Can Leave Me Behind Too)
by Michael Spencer
I think Jan Crouch’s hair is the darnest thing since the Tower of Babel. I think Benny Hinn is sincere, but probably unstable. I think T.D. Jakes is preaching gnosticism. TBN in general convinces me television is utterly incompatible with Christianity. Most Contemporary Christian music makes me wish I was wandering in the Antarctic wastes. A tour through the Christian fiction section of my local Christian bookseller reveals enough mediocrity to fill a small country. Christian radio, for the most part, makes NPR look downright intelligent. Evangelical cinema is bad- just plain bad. The best Christian movie ever made- Chariots of Fire- was produced by a Muslim.
Yep, those are my opinions, and as my dad used to say, all of them and fifty cents will get you a cup of coffee. These are my evangelical brethren, and in general, I think their product stinks. I know billions of evangelicals love this stuff, and always will. Evangelicals will soon be building amusement parks, world-wide satellite systems, movie studios and publishing conglomerates. But if the past is a predictor of the future, we’ll just be swimming in an ocean of tacky.
All of this is my way of voting with Mr. Eric Rigney on the proposition that Christians are not obligated to approve of all that comes sprouting forth from the evangelical subculture compost heap. I agree with Eric totally that we have an obligation, in the name of the integrity of truth, to call a skunk a skunk, even if he is carrying a Bible and singing “As the Deer.”
I would not be as severe as Eric on the Left Behind phenomenon, because I have not read the books. Nor do I plan to. Since they propagate the “rapture” theory, I consider them to be carriers of considerable false teaching and the amusing apocalyptic sub-plots don’t interest me. Evangelicalism embraced rapturism and its bizarre discovery of two returns of Christ just over a century ago. I prefer the classical and Biblical Christian consensus of the previous 1800 years that Christ will only return once. I know the rapture theory makes for a neat scary movie, but we’re talking about what the Bible really teaches, not what makes for a great special effects scene.
I also agree with Eric that Christian propaganda is the use of fractional portions of truth, surrounded by distortion, for the purposes of persuasion. It seems to me that Christians should be the last people on earth to resort to partial truths, caricatures and misrepresentations to win arguments. We believe that our worldview has the advantage of matching reality. So why do I need to resort to the tactics of liberals to make my points? When the truth is told, from all sides and all perspectives, the Christian worldview will be the sturdiest and most realistic.
That means that our ventures into the cultural arena must stand up under scrutiny and comparison. This is where evangelicals wimp out. We have created a Christian cultural ghetto with our own standards of art, writing, quality and truthfulness. The larger world isn’t signing up for that party, and we are diminished by playing the game this way. The use of propaganda is simply a way of talking to ourselves rather than listening to the real world.
I would not join Eric in automatically calling highly biased publications propaganda. Bias is allowed in a lively partisan discussion of issues. That is not the same as misrepresentation and distortion. So if I make every pro-choicer into a slobbering baby killer I am putting out propaganda. If I strongly state the pro-life case and refrain from misrepresenting those who disagree with me, the power of truth will prevail. I think partisan pamphleteering is not the same is promoting propaganda. That’s what I hope this web site is all about.
I agree with Eric that Chick tracts are reprehensible propaganda. And that the public needs protection from Michael Bolton. I would also like an explanation for why so many preachers have weird hair.
I would want to add one point beyond Eric’s article. I think Christians should freely express their criticisms of the mediocrity and distortion that emerges from the evangelical ghetto, and not be the least ashamed to do so. If we critique ourselves, that only speaks more to our confidence in the truth. It also shows (surprise) humility to acknowledge none of us are beyond criticism. It is a general observation of mine that Christians are woefully afraid of engaging in criticism of their own sub-culture as if that meant they were criticizing Jesus. Believe me, Jesus did not come up with all that Y2K nonsense. Or the script for the Omega Code.