Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected.
Several years ago, I spotted this t-shirt at my grandson’s tee ball game. Most residents of rural northwest Ohio are Evangelicals or conservative Protestants and Catholics. Jesus is on display everywhere one looks. There’s at least one church for every three hundred Defiance County residents. Republicans hold every major office. Atheists and agnostics are endangered species. Declaring your godlessness is a sure way to be socially ostracized and marginalized. If there is place where Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, this is it. Why then are local Christians obsessed with wearing Christian bling and displaying Jesus junk?
Take the woman wearing the Jesus Loves Me t-shirt. Does she wear it to remind herself that Jesus loves her? Or perhaps she wears it to let her fellow Christians know that she is on their team. I wonder if she has thought about who made the shirt, how old they were, how much they were paid? Like American flags made in China, most Christian bling and Jesus junk is made by impoverished people who are paid poor wages.
My wife works for a manufacturing concern where Christian bling and Jesus junk is on display everywhere one looks. Christian slogans and Republican one-liners are prominently displayed on office walls and desks. I’ve often wondered what the response would be if someone put on their desk a sign that stated There is no God or that There is no God but Allah. This will never happen, of course, because doing so would be career suicide. But, knowing how Evangelicals love to whine over having their feelings hurt, I wonder how Christians in the office might respond. Would they demand the offensive signs be taken down?
Any cursory reading of the Bible reveals that Jesus preached a lifestyle of moderation and simplicity. I wonder if Evangelicals bother to consider what Jesus thinks about their bling and junk? Would the apostles have worn Jesus Loves Me t-shirts or adorned their wrists with WWJD bands? The apostle Paul went from community to community preaching the gospel and establishing new churches. I wonder what he would think of twenty-first-century entertainment Christianity? If Matthew 5-7 — the Sermon on the Mount — is the essence of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, where can one find such followers? Rare are Evangelicals who verbalize their faith in the hope of leading a person to Christ. Even in IFB churches — a sect that puts a premium on soulwinning — most church members never verbally share their faith even one time. If Jesus is the greatest story ever told, why is it most Christians never share it?
Christian bling and Jesus junk are meant to identify one as part of the club. The purpose isn’t to evangelize, it’s to let everyone who gazes on their bling or junk know that they are part of Club Jesus®. When Christians put on their Jesus shirts and go to the mall, grocery, or restaurant, everyone will know what club they belong to. Granted, atheists can do the same, but most atheists I know are content to quietly live their lives. And Muslims? When’s the last time you’ve seen a Muslim wearing a shirt that says Allah Loves Me or Allah, the One True God?
It is primarily Evangelicals who are obsessed with public displays of affection for Jesus. It is Evangelicals who co-opt culture and turn it into shirt-worn slogans such as This Bloods for You or Jesus died for MY SPACE in Heaven. Corporate slogans and logos are turned into cute clichés and plastered on t-shirts and bumper stickers. Why? Are Christian bling-wearing Evangelicals over-compensating for something they lack? What are they hiding behind the bling and junk?
Remember the manufacturing concern I mentioned above? Why is that some of the most hateful, argumentative, and critical people are those who have the most Jesus junk on their desks? Why does the car of the asshole who cuts you off in traffic often sport a Christian bumper sticker? I love to stand back and observe the behavior of God’s chosen ones. While certainly there are many thoughtful, polite, helpful, and humble Christians, why are so many of them arrogant, rude, and unkind? Ponder for a moment the comments left on this blog by warriors for God, soldiers who likely have Bible verse screen savers on their computers and tablets. For every Evangelical who has left a thoughtful, respectful comment, there have been a hundred Evangelicals who’ve left hateful, argumentative, judgmental ones. Why is this?
While I was still a Christian, I concluded that hundreds of millions of Americans might be Christian, but most of them have no interest in following after Christ. They are more interested in avoiding hell and gaining political and social power than they are walking in the steps of Jesus. According to orthodox Christian doctrine, the Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Simply put, this means Christians have God living inside of them as their teacher and guide. If this is so, then please explain to me why few Christians behave in a way that evidences this? Galatians 5:22,23 says:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Bruce, the fruit of the Spirit is the goal. God sanctifies the Christians and they grow and mature, evidencing the fruit of the Spirit later in life. Why is it then that so many people who have been Christian for decades behave as if they have never heard of the fruit of the Spirit? Besides, Galatians 5:22,23 says the fruit (singular) of the Spirit is (present tense). Not a future hope or desire, but a present reality. Can one be a Christian and not show any evidence that God lives inside of them? The same could be said of the Biblical qualifications for being a pastor. I Timothy 3:2-7 states:
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
A bishop then MUST BE. Not hope or aspire to be, but must be. I will soon be sixty-three years old, and I have yet to meet a pastor who meets the qualifications found in 1 Timothy 3. Why is this?
By all means, exercise your first amendment right to wear Jesus bling and display Jesus junk. But, if you want to convince me that I should be a Christian, you better start living according to the teachings of the Bible you say you believe. Until then, you have nothing to offer the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. As long as Evangelicals continue to publicly state that their religion is the one true faith and the Bible is THE moral standard by which Christian and non-believer alike must live, I plan to point out to Evangelicals how hypocritical they are. I’m just practicing what the Bible says . . . judging Evangelicals by their fruit (Matthew 7:16-20). So far, all I see are barren trees.
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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