Friday, January 06, 2006

There's No Christianity in Your Christianity

Atrios and Amy Sullivan from Washington Monthly have been going back and forth about Pat Robertson's latest insane barking hallucinations, with Amy saying that Robertson shouldn't be considered a real evangelical spokesperson (he's officially Pentecostal according to Amy, which me he isn't strictly fundie like Falwell), and with Atrios questioning back as to who, then, the rest of the world should look to in the Christian world for spokespersonship.

My recommendation, if you want someone sane and compassionate, would be Philip Yancey. But that would be neither here nor there.

I've made a variation of this point before but thought now would be a good time to revisit it. I watch a fair amount of Christian television, probably more than I should for my sanity. And what I find interesting about it is, how little of it is actually very biblical. Take the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). It's a 24-hour evangelical-pentecostal-fundie religion-athon. On any day you can find T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn, Pat Robertson, Eddie Long, Hal Lindsey, Charles Stanley, D. James Kennedy, Joyce Meyer, Rod Parsley, Joel Osteen, John Hagee, Jesse Duplantis, and many more.

The only serious Bible person out of this group is Charles Stanley. The rest are politicians masquerading as ministers (Kennedy, Parsley, Lindsey, Robertson), money raisers (Hinn), or motivation speakers (Jakes, Long, Duplantis, Meyer, Osteen) . For the most part, there's very little Biblical stuff here. There's probably less biblical material on the Protestant TBM than on the popeapaloozing Catholic Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN).

Now, I'm not saying that all of the above speakers are bad people. I think Jakes, Long and Hinn are interesting. I think Osteen is sincere. And much of the stuff is, quite frankly, rather entertaining.

But it's interesting to me that televised Christianity at least has more or less abandoned any real serious bible teaching, preferring instead some form of entertainment or contrived outrage to appeal to viewers. Maybe too much biblical discussion would, ironically, prove to be divisive. I mean, what are we to make of the Beatitudes, for instance? What little bible teaching there is focuses on, not surprisingly, those passages that in some way can be construed as relating to "giving". As in giving to TBN or its affiliated ministries. But I digress.

I guess my point, if I have one, is these terms like evangelical, fundamentalist, pentecostal, are increasingly coming to seem to me largely irrelevant.

The rationalist former Episcopal Biship John Shelby Spong has written that Christianity must change or die, meaning that Christianity must come to terms with its heritage, honestly confront the irreconcilability of its historic writings and biases to the needs of a modern world, or risk becoming an irrelevant farce. By taking the entertainment and political routes while avoiding scripture, most popular Christian speakers are making Spong's argument for him.

1 comment:

The Rogue Progressive said...

Perhaps Christian reality TV is not far behind. When TLC stopped showing educational/learning programs, it was to make room for Trading Spaces 24/7.

'popeapaloozing'? hilarious.