Thoughts on Today’s Christianity/ Pop Culture 

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. 

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7 comments

    • Correct. In order to advance truth, there has to be a working together. Respect and charity must be at the heart of each dialogue with those we have differences with.

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  1. I believe I read the article in question – and I find it more worrying that Christianity doesn’t influence culture. She, on the other hand, does have an influence. She’s comfortable with sharing many facets of her faith, something not every Christian is. She owns what she believes and doesn’t apologize for it. She sees something unloving and unjust and she calls it out. The article is right, in a lot of ways she’s doing what Jesus did – challenge the status quo of the power elite – the legalists with the inerrancy and purity of doctrine card by holding up a mirror to show us what we are and by acting differently to show us what we are not.

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    • Thanks for commenting.

      Make no mistake, that the artist in question may be advancing social justice. She’s a progressive and progressives have their own theory behind social justice for vulnerable and marginalized people and groups. Her approach may have some truth and tips some Christians can use to genuinely embrace others in an effective manner. Especially in our culture of Post-Modernism. Her Christ like appeal for inclusion should always be the key for our interactions with everyone. So I applaud her on that.

      However, I think the author of the story was embellishing her credentials as a spokeswoman for orthodox Christianity. Operative word is “orthodox.” I don’t think she preaches from her pulpit , that is the performance stage, an orthodox view of historic Christianity. Instead, she offers a counterfeit feel good faith. If in your words Christianity doesn’t influence culture and the star in question does, shouldn’t she try her best to advocate on her platform the orthodox faith? Furthermore, her fans may not read Matthew , Mark, Luke, and John but instead view her as the 5th Gospel. Her works may be good for the advancement of marginalized groups in the domain of Progressivism, but her theology is far from the essentials of orthodox faith.

      With all the inclusion and platform she has, it isn’t directing people to the Church she is a part of. She is showing love and calling out injustice, but maybe she doesn’t think of herself as a pastor. Considering the author led a service in a tongue-in-cheek manner beginning with “Gospel According to..” dedicated to the artist leaves me to think otherwise.

      Im reminded of St. Hillary of Poitiers and his advancement of orthodoxy against the Arian heresy in the early church. Similarly today, the Church has to combat this rapid lukewarm shallow Christianity that reinforces self vs. God.

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      • From the article in question: “Her prayer is the same as countless progressive Christians who recoil at the hypocritical judgment of fundamentalism yet still seek to follow Jesus. She prays to an affirming God with expansive love, not a narrow-minded magician in the sky who damns nonbelievers to eternal conscious torment.”
        The article makes it quite clear that her views are an alternative to the more conservative element of the Church. You might not know this, but a statistically high number of homeless youth are LGBTQ teens who were kicked out of their Christian homes by their faithful parents in the name of tough love.

        I think that if people point people to the church, it’s okay – but it’s even better if people point people to Jesus. The church – well, it can be the middle-man that muddies up the message with unnecessary confusion – just how those Christian parents thought that the Bible told them to kick out their LGBTQ children I’ll never know. Because of the church’s stance against the LGBTQ community, a lot of kids don’t feel like God loves them. If anything, it seems like the orthodox church has fallen to a heresy of it’s own doctrine and has forgotten that it’s head – Christ – stood opposed to to the legalistic faith of the day.

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  2. The problem you see of people following other people is no different than in the New Testament. Paul came against the people for saying who they were following. However Paul also told the people to follow him as he follows Christ. We have to be careful to not cut down how some try to reach the world. What needs to be looked at is the fruit of the ministry. It is not all one way or the other. And love and Jesus needs to be the center. Thanks for sharing these great thoughts.

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    • Exactly, Paul had much to say on this in the New Testament. I think Paul hit it on the nail on many important orthodox views in his advancement of the Gospel in the Apsotlic age of the early church. Im reminded in Galatians 1:6-10 about the Church at Galatia embracing another gospel contrary to the one preached or his warning in Collosians 2:8 about being deceived by strange philosophy/human tradition from the world.

      The Gospel during the early church was constantly trying to be corrupted by outside hereseies such as Arianism or Adoptionism and many others. I think now resembles the same thing. We’re in a time where people prefer lukewarm counterfeit Christianity such as the Prosperity Gospel/Word of Faith movement, Eastern influence on Christianity , or Modernism in the Church. I would be fine with a person advocating orthodoxy in a unorthodox way, it happens all the time because God’s grace isn’t limited to orthodox means (preaching, baptism, etc). And like you said, which I agree with, observing the fruits of their ministry is key.

      Im simply trying to get others to see what Christianity is becoming and what we can do to reverse this trend that’s widespread in our culture. In Christ like love , gentleness, and respect.

      You’ve given me something to think about. I appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

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