I recently read an article by The Washington Post describing the unorthodox advancement of Christianity largely by a progressive pop star. The article mentioned how a very popular pop culture artist is advancing a different kind of Christianity that’s foreign to mainstream Religious Right.
-What worries me most about the article is its distinction between good Christians and bad Christians. The good Christians are those that embrace unorthodox positions that are counter to Church teaching. It often seems like , to say anything in opposition about their positions is to promote bigotry and hatred.
However, bad Christians are the ones that are orthodox in teachings. Also, sometimes they’re not the best at articulating orthodox positions with gentleness and respect. Good Christians would consider them obstructionists to progression.
-The article describes how this pop stars, “Christian values not of exclusion and discrimination but of empowerment, grace and self-acceptance.” Unfortunately, a lot of Christians, Catholic and non-Catholics, don’t embrace compassion and equality, but see their belief as a tool to put down others or place barriers to them having intimacy with the giver of life. Instead of being desperate patients coming to the church for the master physician, they have to fill out tons of paperwork and litmus testing.
This leads to many being kept away from our Lord because people play God. Instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to transform and renew a mind into a new creature, the barriers of man get in the way. As Jesus said to those , “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matt 11:28-30).” Open the church to be the most inclusive space and allow the Holy Spirit to continually draw those to Jesus Christ. That’s when the real change will happen.
-In addition, some Christians and pundits take the lead to label each other “conservative” or “progressive/liberal.” A big problem with this is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t a political affiliation. To place political terms on supernatural realities makes them attached to strictly material things when in fact Jesus said “my kingdom is not of this world” and St. Paul proclaimed the gospel was a revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal 1:12). I prefer to use “unorthodox” and “orthodox” which is more consistent with things such as doctrines and teachings.
-What the article describes in detail is how this popular singer is advancing a Christianity that’s built on self-acceptance rather than Jesus acceptance. That’s a larger theme in the culture too. So many times have I seen “I just want to be me” or “Love me for who I am.” However, Jesus Christ demands more than that. He wants it all. Not a compartmentalized partial life with its own desires and a religious life separate that it isn’t guided or informed by God.
Jesus said “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (Luke 9: 23). Thats what being perfected as a Christian is; daily commitment to following Christ rather than glorifying you and your inclinations. We all have inclinations. Some more severe while some are weak. We still have to take heed to James words , “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7).”
I’m reminded of a few saints who took great, sometimes harmful, steps to resist temptation. For example, St. Aloysius Gonzaga kept his head down in the presence of women in order to protect himself from temptation. Also, St. Rose of Lima, spread red peppers on her face to deter unwanted attention from men.
Following Jesus, just like any serous relationship (but this one takes precedent ) comes with serious boundaries meant for the good and to show a persons commitment to God (Jn 14:23-24). Essentially, the Christian life can be summarized by St. Paul, ” I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me ( Gal 2:20).” Paul acknowledges the flesh, but highlights that because he has been crucified he rather live for Jesus Christ. The gradual letting go of our former selves is a continual battle. Whatever inclination you have won’t go away in day, but might be something you resist daily.
Overall, my biggest worry is that people will look to these new pastors for what Christianity is supposed to be. This form of counterfeit Christianity mixed with exaltation of self is creating a feel good faith. Instead of the authentic faith once for all delivered to the saints, pop culture is advancing a lukewarm Christianity that sheds light into a watered down Gospel.