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The Replacement Doctrine: How Evangelicals Attempt to Co-opt the “World”

The Wall around Vatican City, similar to the wall around the Christian Ghetto

Many Evangelicals see a clear dichotomy between the spiritual and the non-spiritual world. The spiritual world is where the Christian God rules and reigns. This world is dominated by Christianity and its God, Bible, and standard of morality and ethics. The non-spiritual world is one where Satan is king. The Bible says that Satan is the God of this world, the prince and power of the air. According to the book of 1 Peter, Satan walks about the earth as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. While Satan certainly is not equal in power or authority to God — after all he’s a created being — he can display near God-like powers such as causing death, sickness, and all sorts of catastrophes. Just as God the Holy Spirit does with Christians, Satan can invade non-Christian minds and bodies, taking up residence and controlling them.

Evangelicals believe that God and Satan, both on earth and in an unseen spiritual dimension, are locked in a battle for the souls of humanity. Satan wants to take as many souls to hell as he can, so Christians feel they are duty-bound to do all they can to make sure that as few people as possible end up in the Lake of Fire. They also believe that Satan, despite Christians being indwelt by the Spirit of God, can influence and, at times, control followers of Jesus. While Satan cannot take away their salvation, he can, through trial and temptation, keep them from being the kind of Christians they should be — people who follow the Lamb (Jesus) whithersoever he goeth. Such Satan-influenced Christians are often called carnal or worldly believers. Often these weaklings in the faith are called baby Christians. This terminology came up recently in public discussions about “Christian” Donald Trump’s abhorrent, vile behavior towards women. Desperately wanting to believe that the Republican candidate is God’s chosen leader for America, some Evangelical talking heads have suggested that Trump is a “baby” Christian. By labeling Trump this way, they dismiss virtually all of his narcissistic, psychopathic behavior.

Evangelical churches, pastors, and parachurch leaders, realizing that the overwhelming majority of American Christians are behaviorally no different from the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world, have decided that the best way to counteract and repel Satan and his atheistic, secularist followers is to build some sort of alternate reality, one that I often call the Christian ghetto. The goal is to wall off Christians, as much as possible, from the world. They do this by replacing the “things” of the world with Christianized versions. The Bible says in 1 John 2:15-17:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

Knowing God’s view of the world while at the same time understanding that Christians are, after all, h-u-m-a-n, Evangelical leaders have developed programs and activities that allow Christians to feel that they are part of the human race without being tainted by worldliness. Every day, millions of Evangelicals, forced to work secular jobs, go out into the world and endure rubbing shoulders with the followers of Satan. They do all they can to put in a good word for Jesus through witnessing, handing out tracts, writing Jesus loves you on bathroom stalls, and decorating their cubicles with religious kitsch. When lunchtime comes, these light-in-darkness followers of Jesus will quietly bow their heads and offer up a prayer of thanks for the lunch. They will also likely ask God for strength to help them get through the day as they come in contact with “sinners.” Come 5 o’clock, these world-weary Christians file out to their cars, turn on the local Christian radio station or stream their favorite contemporary Christian artists to their car’s entertainment system, and head for home. Once home, they immerse themselves in the Evangelical replacement culture. Whether in their car, at home, or at church, Evangelicals do all they can to cleanse their minds and hearts from what they perceive to be the filth of the world. Many of them will offer up prayers of not only thankfulness, but of repentance, telling God they are sorry that they allowed the “world” to influence their behavior.

Evangelical churches and parachurch groups have spent the past seven decades building a Trump-worthy wall around the Christian ghetto. On Sundays, the front gate is opened so unsaved people — often viewed as Wildlings (Free Folk) in the Game of Thrones — can attend their services, hoping that the sinners will get saved. The rest of the time, the gate is shut, opened only when its inhabitants go out into the world to scavenge for food and earn money to pay their ties and offerings.

Inside the Christian ghetto is found a plethora of worldly things that have been Christianized. Today is Halloween, and many Evangelicals, not wanting to support Satanism and witchcraft, instead turn to Halloween-like parties and events that have been sanitized for Christian use. Children wear Bible character costumes instead of dressing up as witches, fairies, or Walking Dead characters. Some churches use Halloween as an opportunity to evangelize those who live outside the ghetto. These churches sponsor what are commonly called Hell houses. One such event was scheduled to be held at the Chicago public school, that is until school officials found out that the event included a re-creation of the Pulse nightclub shootings. The goal is to scare the hell out of people, and lead them to saving faith in Jesus Christ. As is often the case, Evangelicals are quite willing to use the world to further their agenda. The Catholic church wrote the playbook for this when it, centuries ago, co-opted pagan and secular holidays and turned them into religious holidays.

Most of the time, however, Evangelicals are content to live safely behind the walls of the Christian ghetto, reading Christian books, listening to Christian music, surfing Christian websites and blogs, and attending a plethora of services and activities meant to make fat sheep fatter. Evangelical pastors, churches, and parachurch leaders, know that most Christians want what the world has to offer. We humans want what we want, right? Despite everything the Bible says about the world and avoiding its soul-damaging influence, most Evangelicals want to enjoy all that life has to offer. While some Evangelical sects choose to develop rigid lists of rules that dictate what behaviors are permissible, other sects choose to allow congregants “freedom” to enjoy life, but only within the context of the Christian ghetto. Evangelical preachers will preach against rock music and secular musicians, encouraging church members to listen to contemporary Christian music or Christian rock. They also encourage members to listen to local Christian radio stations instead of tuning into classic rock or top 40 stations. The recent explosion of praise and worship bands onto the church scene allows pastors and church leaders to use rock ‘n’ roll music during worship services. Churches now have full-blown bands that almost rival Satan’s bands. I say almost, because, as anyone who has ever lived in the Christian ghetto knows, rarely are Christianized replacements as good as those which are found in the world. Sadly, much of the entertainment-driven worship found in many evangelical churches is a cheap imitation.

When presented with a choice between the real thing and a cheap imitation, many Evangelicals choose both, negating the purpose and reason for the Christian alternative. Fact is, despite an endless stream of Christianized entertainments, Evangelicals still love the world. DirecTV provides all sorts of Christian and “family” oriented channels and programming, and I am sure that cable TV does the same. Despite having a treasure trove of Christian programming at their disposal, Evangelicals still watch “worldly” programming, and are quite capable of having intelligent conversations about shows such as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. The same Evangelicals listen to Christian music, but when pastors or fellow Christians are not around, they flip the channel to local classic radio stations and sing along to songs by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Perhaps it is time for Evangelicals to give up on the replacement doctrine. It simply does not work. Evangelical parents can homeschool their children or send them to Christian schools for 13 years, hoping to shelter their offspring from Satan and his humanistic, secularist, immoral ways, but sooner or later these same children will have to go out into the world without mommy and daddy protecting them. And once out in the world these lambs become easy prey for those who really do want to hurt them. Or, as many of us can testify, once free from the constraints of Evangelical parents and churches, young adults will throw themselves headlong into “worldly” wants, pleasures, and desires, often making a big mess in the process. The solution is not to build higher walls around the ghetto, but instead to teach children how to navigate a world filled with things that could harm them. Instead of giving them long lists of things to avoid, children would be better served if they were taught to think for themselves. Instead of telling Evangelical teenagers that drinking alcohol and engaging in premarital sex are sins, perhaps it is better to teach them how to make responsible decisions when confronted with opportunities to engage in these behaviors. Of course, part of this training would mean teaching them a situational or relativistic view of human conduct, and therein lies the problem. Evangelicals are wed to the notion that the Bible is some sort of divine road map for life, and its directions must be followed at all times. Because of this, Evangelical girls end up pregnant and boys end up infected with sexually-transmitted diseases. No need to teach them to handle their sexuality responsibly, because God says it’s a sin and that is all they need to know. Well, God says lots of things are sins, yet from my seat in the pew it seems that most Evangelicals are not paying attention. Try as they might to play by the rules, Evangelicals need, want, and desire that which a bunch of Bronze-Age and First-Century men say they can’t have. Freedom awaits those who dare to consider leaving the Christian ghetto. The first step towards freedom is relegating the Bible to the dustbin of human history. Once free of the Bible, people can then embrace their humanity without fearing God or Satan is going to get them.

Did your parents practice the replacement doctrine? Did you as a Christian parent do so? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.


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    My preacher dad tried to replace us with an IFB-armed Christian drone version of ourselves. Step one is to convince a child that they are evil, that they are loved and evil. It is not really the child’s fault because all humans are born broken, fallen, apt to do evil. The human heart is evil without God. (This is all biblical bullshit we are well aware of…) Every child loves their parents and every child will adopt Christian self-hatred because that is love, that IS their parents and their life. So it begins. Sweet Jesus must be invited in to take over and then you have the perfect replacement, and you have a truly fucked paradigm for your entire life.
    No sports on Sunday was a big one in our family for years in the late-fifties and into the sixties. Dad eventually relented when it appeared clear that God didn’t mind sports on Sunday if it was after church and did not interfere with devotions.
    The idea is to replace yourself with sweet Jesus by hating the sin that is you. You try to stop thinking bad words but fuck, it’s hard and fuck, the mind proves over and over that you are indeed a filthy shit and undeserving because fuck… Simple huh?
    When you begin to have sensual feelings as a young person you are royally fucked because every sexy thought comes from you-know-who!
    On it goes as the offering plate comes round again and you pay your tithe to the church as it helps you ruin your own humanity.
    As I remember the lyrics to “What a friend we have in Jesus,” I have to laugh at the true meaning for me. When you have friends like this, you don’t need enemies.
    Jesus has always walked arm and arm with the devil, you know, both of them characters in the human psyche, both of them serving our unconscious (or not so unconscious) needs. Both of them have lackeys nearby with offering plates held out.
    I wish my parents would have replaced Jesus with themselves and just been with me, not given me over to God. I wish they had simply stayed and not made Christian drones of themselves so that they were no longer there for me. I wish we could have failed together, had some wins too and not hated ourselves.
    What a glory it is to be free of that constriction, that horrible hatred of self! I am grateful the Vatican has a high wall around it. I wish the gates had locks on the outside…. What a wonderful opportunity human beings could have if we could dispense with popes and preachers, Christian drill-sargeants and the Pearls! I ss grateful for Bruce Gerencser too, that I can speak freely here and just say it.
    Don’t misunderstand me, please. My dear parents loved me with all their hearts but they were broken people, crushed by Christian beliefs and they gave their lives. I loved them then and still do.

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    It may be quite different in the States, but here in the rural part of Canada where I live, it’s difficult to pick out the Christians from the heathens. The Christians who comment in the blogosphere (most of the fundamentalists, that is) seem to feel that they’ve got some sort of ‘aura’ which readily identifies them to the masses and gives them some sort of moral superiority. . . nope. Now, I can probably tell you which of my neighbours/friends are humanitarians but that has not one thing to do with belief in a deity. As I have pointed out to a few people, the fact that they are a nice person has little to do with which deity they believe in – it just means they are a nice person.

    P.S. Bruce – I am still not getting your posts automatically; I linked to this from Zoe’s blog. I have tried subscribing (and will do so again today) but that’s the reason you don’t get any comments from me. .

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    Luckily my parents werent too crazy on the world being a problem. Dont get me wrong we still had plenty of focus on the family radio programs to listen to, but they also got cable or satellite and actually listened to good secular music. I think they understood in some sense that we still had to interact with the world and should know about it). The worst i had to deal with was the occasional would you be watching that with jesus next you when family guy was on. Considering that they believe god is everywhere then yes i was in a sense. Shocker though, my mom wanted to watch deadpool just to see how far the world has degraded( now only if she could see what the romans put on their walls and pottery, definitely xxx). That being said most of the crap that christians put out as wholesome is crap. If some movie or book comes with discussion questions on the cover or after each chapter i usually try to avoid it because the message is probably now the most important thing besides things like plot, story, character, acting/writing etc.

    On a side note i learned what sex was from one of james dobson’s books. Needless to say the book was trash and completely unrealistic about several things as unfortunately it treated puberty as a one size fits all kind of thing

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