I fully believe that were it not for prayer and a consistent diet of the word, it would be easy to grow cynical of what goes by the name of “evangelicalism” in America. On the whole, American evangelicalism is very materialistic and individualistic rather than sacrificial and collective.
I am exposed to it constantly, and as I’ve already said; were it not for plenty of prayer, meditation on Scripture, and many a good night’s sleep, I’d probably have quit pastoral ministry a long time ago.
I, along with many atheists and skeptics roll my eyes (but for completely different reasons) when I see another goofy church marquee or read another article about Rob Bell’s latest heresy, or hear supposed evangelicals pounding the drum of what is known as “social justice”. I roll my eyes because all of these groups are missing the point.
It’s not that I question Biblical Christian theism in any way; quite the contrary, I have full epistemological confidence/warrant that it is historically true and I fully believe that the Biblical gospel is the power of God unto salvation and such salvation naturally entails societal changes from the ground up. However, much of American evangelicalism seems to be all about two things: (1) “Hipster christianity”, (2) and “Hippy christianity”. The lowercase “c” in “christianity” is there for reasons that you’ll see in the explanations below.
“Hipster christianity” presents Jesus in a shiny, slick materialistic veneer with a limp wrist wearing a Hawaiian shirt on. He avoids offending heretics, homosexuals, and theological liberals at all costs and he certainly doesn’t want to be politically incorrect. After all, being politically incorrect earns you zero social currency at the water cooler. A “Hipster christian” would be much better off at the water cooler being thoroughly conversant with the latest “House” episode or the latest reality show details, or having already memorized their favorite lyrics from the most recent Avril Lavigne release that they just downloaded this past weekend from iTunes. In a nutshell, “Hipster christianity” majors on skin-deep superficiality since religion is still considered somewhat “hip” in America. It loves to join hands with the world to throw money at social problems all the while ignoring the problems in its own congregations and communities that are ultimately rooted in sin. It holds conferences that provide a platform for the world’s unbelieving gurus who are diametrically opposed in both philosophy and deed to the Biblical gospel while spilling their rank heresy onto their unsuspecting, but “thirsty-for-the-world” congregations. For the average “Hipster christian”, really knowing what the Bible says about the Jesus of history and faith is a foreign concept since the Bible paints a portrait of Him that doesn’t fit well with the materialistic, cool, hip, world-consuming “evangelical” masses. The Jesus of the Bible angers the Hipster christians because He demands of them the very thing that they aren’t willing to give to Him: everything (Luke 14:27-33).
“Hippy christianity” has Jesus with holes in his bleached jeans, dreads in his hair, wearning thick-rimmed $500 designer eyeglasses. He is all concerned about the poor, homeless, and sick, and he even ministers on the street to them while living in a 100 year old tenant apartment house along with 20-25 other people right in the middle of downtrodden downtown. This “Hippy Jesus” doesn’t preach the gospel of sin, righteousness, and judgment because that would reveal what the real underlying problem is: sinful men. Not only that, but if the “Hippy Jesus” starting preaching the gospel of the Biblical Jesus, He might get persecuted or killed like the Biblical Jesus. After all, the gospel infuriates many and our “Hippy Jesus” doesn’t want to be at enmity with the world. Those who follow the “Hipster Jesus” fail to understand that the community is the way that it is because those evil bureaucrats attending their theologically liberal churches (or atheist meet-ups) have long rejected the gospel and have treated the poor badly because they believe the only ones they ultimately have to answer to are themselves and if dissing the disenfranchized (but not too much) allows them to get ahead in the world, then so be it. On the other hand, while many of the poor attend “church”, they attend those that have long left the Biblical gospel too and traded it in for a mess of heretical Word of Faith pottage, blab-it-and-grab-it, and give-to-get scheme religion. Since they don’t embrace the true gospel which changes lives forever and for the good, they have responded with their own evil by hating their enemies, embracing the sin of laziness by depending upon the government to save them (as well as the “Hippy Jesus” community to give them soup and sandwiches) and they avoid work hard. After all, if the “Hippy Christians”, Uncle Sam, and HUD housing can save them by putting bread on their tables and a roofs over their heads, then why would they ever need to hear about the Biblical Jesus, especially since the Word of Faith “Jesus” has promised them that if they give what little they do have (which many of them received from Federal subsidies), then their version of “Jesus” will give them food, shelter, and clothing? After all, in a system like that, why give hope to the community through opening “their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in [the Biblical Jesus]“ (Acts 26:18). You see, the “Hippy Jesus” is too urban for all of that ancient nonsense. After all, what good is giving the poor, homeless guy a sermon when his real problem is that he needs a sandwich? The Jesus of the Bible also angers the “Hippy Christians” because He demands of them the very thing that they aren’t willing to give to Him: everything (Luke 14:27-33).
Both portrayals of “Jesus” and “christians” reveal that many professing believers really don’t read their Bibles (much less believe them) and that they are content with having the sticky jello of the world on our hands rather than use their hands as a vehicle to exude the eternal message of the gospel that saves men from God’s wrath.
Now, all of the above commentary was inspired not only by some great interaction this past Sunday in our church meeting regarding the role of “social justice” in the life of a church and individual Christians, but the following short article by Anthony B from WORLDmag.com touches my nerve too:
The number one social justice issue for African-Americans in New York City is abortion. Period. The city’s abortion rate is twice the nation average, with 41 percent of all pregnancies ending in abortion. According to recent data, the rate for blacks is even higher: 59.8 percent. For Hispanics it’s 41.3 percent, Asians 22.7 percent, and whites 20.4 percent. In 2009, unmarried women accounted for 84 percent of the abortions in the city.
To make matters worse, votes will be cast today for Bill 371, which will effectively shut down New York City’s pro-life crisis pregnancy centers by imposing outrageous regulations that most centers do not have the manpower to implement.
Then last month, controversy was stirred up over a billboard erected in SoHo noting, “The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.” The billboard was only around for a few days.
All of this has me wondering why the missional, center-city evangelicals, who are all about “justice,” “loving the city,” “renewing the city,” “serving the city,” etc., do not seem to consider abortion one those flagship “justice” issues.
I’ve been browsing the mercy and justice websites of several of New York’s well-known churches and Christian non-profit groups for discussion of New York’s abortion crisis. Outside of the crisis pregnancy centers themselves, I have not found much of anything. What one will find are very good discussions on subjects like fighting homelessness, improving inner-city education, opening women’s shelters, and dealing with sex trafficking and juvenile delinquency. I raise this issue because I am concerned that perhaps the missional pendulum has swung too far in one direction.
There are groups of 30-something-and-under Christians in cities who are trying to present a different kind of evangelical Christianity—one that’s not so political and not so much about “culture wars,” protesting abortion, or escaping “the culture” to the safety of the suburbs. These groups have made a conscious decision to not live out Christianity politically.
But Christian withdrawal from politics can inadvertently undermine the justice work of the church by not having a voting presence to maintain religious liberties for Christians to do what they are called to do. I fully recognize how an organization’s non-profit status constrains certain types of activities and speech, but if New York’s Christians are not encouraged to get involved in the politics of religious liberty, people are going to die, literally.
If there were pro-life Christians on New York’s City Council, Bill 371 would fail and the crisis pregnancy centers would not be in jeopardy of closing. Bill 371 is a reminder that if your center city church is too missional for the politics of abortion and religious liberty, Christianity eventually will be limited to serving and renewing the city in rhetoric only.
So where are the missional people when it comes to abortion? Where are the books, the debates, the conferences addressing this issue from the social justice preaching missional proponents? Where are the missional churches in Greensboro, NC at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning outside of A Woman’s Choice abortion clinic begging young mothers not to kill their children, offering to adopt their children, and giving them the only message that the change them forever, the gospel of Jesus Christ? Where are the black Word-of-Faith church attenders on Saturday mornings when statistically-speaking, a genocide of black people is taking place at 201 Pomona drive? Where are the black pastors who are not only exposing abortion for the damnable genocide that it is but are also educating their people to vote for political candidates not because of the color of their skin but because of their dedication to protect pre-born life because the Bible says that the life of a human person begins at fertilization/conception? Where are they?
IN CONCLUSION, I’ve been listening to the social justice, missional people for years and like most other things I’ve watched come and go within evangelicalism, they too will eventually run out of steam and morph into something else that is just as non-gospel preaching as their current schtick. They are a fad that has come and will eventually go as their “wave” runs out of fleshly energy and their adherents grow up a little bit and get tired of “the cause”, especially since it has no eternal, heavenly-minded gospel perspective and shows little results for such hard, dedicated work. Some missionals need to repent of their worldly, godless thinking and embrace the gospel and then go and preach it while giving people sandwiches, clothes, and adoption options. If you give an able-bodied man a fully belly, a warm cot, and a roof over his head and fail to give him the gospel whereby his soul can be saved, then you have done nothing more than heaped up more condemnation on him on the day of Judgment since his ongoing, continued dependence and trust upon you and “the system” instead of the Sovereign God to provide for his needs further calcifies and solidifies his ungrateful, lazy, and unrepentant heart. The real Jesus said it best:
Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal. (John 6:27)
The original appears here complete with a comments section here.