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Tag: Jesus Junk

Christian Bling and Jesus Junk

jesus loves me 2015

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-headshot

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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How Will People Know Our Home is a ‘Godly’ Home?

spider-man

Snark ahead. If you are an easily offended Evangelical, please leave now before you feel a wedgie coming on.

Fundamentalist Nancy Campbell, blogger extraordinaire for the Above Rubies website, asks the question What Goes on in Your Home?  Campbell wants to know if people “feel” the presence of God when they come into a Christian’s home:

Do the people who come into your home feel the presence of God? Are your neighbors and those around you aware that your home belongs to God?…

…How will folks know your home is truly God’s home? It will be a house of prayer. Jesus said, “My house will be called a house of prayer.” Sadly, not much prayer happens in Christian homes today, but if our home is called by God’s name it will be filled with prayer. It will be filled with confessing the name of the Lord throughout the day. It will be filled with the riches of His Word. It will be filled with joy, singing, and God-inspired music. It will be filled with the inspiration of a mother who delights to be in her home, nurturing, feeding, and training her children to be God-seekers and God-lovers.

How are people on the earth going to know the name of the Lord? When they see our homes called by the name of the Lord. When they see that He lives in our homes. Everything comes back to the family and the home. We can get involved in all kinds of ministry, but if God doesn’t fill our homes, we miss the boat. It grieves my heart to see many people serving the Lord in different organizations and yet their families are in disarray…

Campbell thinks that a Christian’s home can give off some sort of God vibe, a feeling that resonates with the person entering the home. Evangelicals are taught that they have some sort spidey-sense that allows them to discern whether a person is a Christian. While their interpretation is out of context and does violence to the text, many Evangelicals think Romans 8:16 is a proof text for their Christian spidey-sense:

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God

According to Evangelicals like Campbell, a Christian should be able to walk into a home and “sense” that they are in a bought by the blood, filled with the Holy Ghost, followers of J-E-S-U-S home. (please emphasize the word Jesus like Oral Roberts or Robert Tilton would) Here’s the problem with this kind of thinking; if the standard for a Christian home is that it exudes love, joy, peace, and kindness, well…I know of many homes that are like this and none of them are remotely Christian. I also know of uncounted Christian homes where the pretend game is on full display when other Christians are around, but as soon as their fellow Christians walk out the door the home reverts to some sort of Simpsons/Girls Gone Wild/Animal House/One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest  home.  Anyone can fake it. I guarantee you that Polly and I could, come Sunday, put on our Sunday-go-to meeting clothes, dust off our KJV Bibles, and visit a nearby Evangelical church and everyone would think we are a wonderful Christian family; especially if we have Bethany the love magnet with us.  Everyone would “sense” that we are super-duper Christians on fire for Jesus, especially once they hear Polly and I lustily sing harmonies on whatever song the band is playing.  And their sense would be dead wrong.

The infallible marks of whether one is part of the Evangelical club is not some sort of seventh sense, can’t say sixth sense since six is the first number in the mark of Obama, 666. Evangelicals recognize one another by the clothes they wear, what bumper stickers are on the back of their car, what euphemisms a person uses in their speech, and how much Jesus Junk® is on display in a person’s car, home, and work place.  Ask any former Evangelical, they can spot an Evangelical family or a homeschooling family from a mile away.  Polly and I can be shopping at Meijer and we will see a family in the distance and both of us will say, homeschoolers. We will then laugh, remembering that we were, for many years, THAT family.

How do you know which car in the parking lot belongs to an Evangelical? It’s the car with a faded Ronald Reagan bumper sticker, Obama is the Anti Christ sticker, a partially removed George W Bush bumper sticker, a Ted Cruz 2016 sticker, an Abortion Stops a Beating Heart sticker, and a bumper sticker that advertises what church they attend. If you look closely, you will likely see a Bible in the back window, right where it landed when it was chucked there after church last Sunday. If you don’t see it in the back window, move closer to the car, acting like you are trying to steal it, and look down on the floor. You might see a Bible stuffed under the front seat, partially covered by a McDonald’s Big Mac wrapper.

Drive by their house and what will you see? Wind chimes with a small Christian cross as the chime ringer, a brightly colored gnome holding a sign that says Welcome! This is a Christian Home; a Jesus is Lord doormat, and out by the front of the house a sign that says Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem, A Christian Lives Here, or Protect Religious Freedom, or some other sign recently purchased from one of the fear-mongering Evangelical parachurch groups.

Once inside their home, what will you see? Everywhere you look you’ll see Jesus kitsch, likely made by child labor in China or some third world country. From Bible verse signs and paintings by Christian alcoholic Thomas Kincade to clock chimes that play Sweet Hour of Prayer and potholders with Christian slogans, Jesus will be on display everywhere you look. In the bookcase you will notice deep intellectual books by Tim LaHaye, Kay Arthur, Joyce Meyer, and Beth Moore and dusty, well worn copies of The Prayer of Jabez and The Purpose Driven Life. (What!! Harry Potter? Starting to wonder what kind of Christian home this is.) Even in the bathroom there will be no escaping Jesus. Try as you might to defecate in peace, Jesus and the trappings of 21st century Christianity will be staring you in the face. J-E-S-U-S is everywhere. (please say Jesus in the voice mentioned above)

team jesus

Visit them at their office, what will you see? You will likely  see a picture of their family sitting on the desk, but the picture will be housed in a frame that says. As For Me and My House, We Will Serve the Lord. The calendar on the wall will bear the name of the church they attend or an Evangelical parachurch group they support. Perhaps there will be a Bible or the latest Christian get rich quick book sitting next to the family portrait.  The screen saver on their computer will have a picture of Jesus or a Bible verse. Everywhere you look you will see visible proof that the person who works in this cubicle is on Team Jesus.

And here’s the thing, all the things I’ve mentioned in this post that are meant to say to other Evangelicals, Hey, we are on the same team, mean nothing. I suspect the home Josh Duggar grew up in had plenty of Jesus Junk®. I suspect the homes of Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, Ted Haggard, Eddie Long, Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, David Hyles, Paula White, David Loveless, and Tullian Tchividjian, to name of few of the Evangelical pastors who have run into sexual “sin”, gave the appearance that they were devoted, spirit filled followers of Jesus. Yet, in real life they were fornicators, adulterers, abusers, and child molesters.

All that the Jesus Junk® tells you is that family has enough disposable income to invest in the trappings of Evangelicalism. The clothing and the outward appearance of a person tells you nothing about the what kind of person they really are. Anyone can play the Evangelical game. Give me a few days and I can take a Muslim family and turn them into Bob and Marsha Evangelical. The Evangelical shtick is easy to reproduce, so much so that anyone can do it. I regularly correspond with closeted atheists who attend an Evangelical church every Sunday with their believing spouse. Everyone thinks the atheist is a Jesus-loving, praise and worship singing Baptist.  I also correspond with several closeted atheist pastors. Everything about their life, including their demeanor, says to others, I am a follower of Jesus, Yet, if an Evangelical knew they were an atheist they would say the person is a follower of Satan.

Now, this doesn’t mean we can’t know what a person is made of.  While we can never know all there is to know about a person, we can, over time, observe their life, and come to a conclusion about the kind of person they are. Here’s what Evangelicals need to understand. Non-Christians are not interested in or wowed by the consumer culture on display in your home, car, or workplace. They aren’t interested in what takes place on Sunday Morning at the church you call home. They are not interested in your Ken and Barbie pastor. What does interest them is the words you speak and your behavior, not only in public, but also when no one is looking. How do you treat your spouse, children, and grandchildren? How do you act towards minorities, the weak, the defenseless, and the marginalized? How do you treat those who are not your flavor of Christianity or vote differently than you do? How do you respond to those who have no interest in your God and have told you please don’t? What do your non-Christian coworkers say about you?

These days, when I see an Evangelical whose life is a walking billboard for the Christian Ghetto, I immediately doubt they are what they say they are. They are trying too hard to be viewed as a Christian. They are like the car dealer who tells you he is the most honest dealer in town or the husband who tells everyone around him how faithful he is to his wife. I don’t trust those who have to publicize their virtuous character. Just live it and everyone will notice.

Bruce Gerencser