A lot of people have sent me this video made by BuzzFeed, the same folks who produced such film classics as “What Bros Do Before a Date,” “Weird Things Couples Do When They Lose Their Phone” (apparently they look for it — so weird!) and “What It’s Like To Be A Hairy Girl.” It’s about as insightful and deep as you’d expect, considering the source and the title: “I’m a Christian, But I’m Not.”
The viral clip, which spawned thousands of shares and a trending hashtag, features six millennials describing their makeshift Build-A-Bear faith. It starts with each person assuring us they’re “Christian” but they don’t think they’re “perfect,” and they’re certainly not “homophobic,” “unaccepting,” “uneducated,” “judgmental,” “ignorant” or “conservative.” If lumping “conservative” in with “uneducated, homophobic and ignorant” didn’t get the passive-aggressive message across aggressively enough, the next part makes it painfully clear: one by one, the carefully selected collection of manicured trendies informs us that although they are allegedly Christian, they’re also “accepting,” “queer,” “gay,” “feminist,” “feminist,” and in case you missed it, “feminist.”
The video falters badly here, in the first 60 seconds, for the reasons:
1) To say “I’m a Christian, but I know I’m not perfect” is nonsensical. There should be no “but” in that sentence. There are definitely some haughty Christians out there (see: the ones in this video), but a Christian, in principle, is by definition a person who knows they are part of a fallen race and can only be redeemed through the blood of Christ Jesus. The Christian sins like all people sin, and it’s this recognition of his own sin that causes him to cry out, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Romans 7:21). By his Christian faith he knows that it is “God who delivers him through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” The correct way to say it then is, “I am Christian, because I know I am not perfect.”
2) There’s nothing more self-righteous than making a big show about your supposed lack of self-righteousness. It’s true that Christians need not be — and in fact usually are not — “ignorant,” “uneducated” or “homophobic.” But when you say, “I’m a Christian but I’m not _____”, you are passively accusing most other Christians of being whatever you said you aren’t. Therefore, in the process of pointing out how you’re not “on a pedestal,” you have placed yourself on a pedestal. In saying, “I’m not judgmental, unlike all those guys over there,” you are being judgmental. In showing off your humility, you are showing off your staggering arrogance.
As Christians, our goal is not to avoid being like the big bad “other Christians,” but to strive to be like Christ Himself. This is one of the advantages to having an Incarnate God. He went around acting and speaking and teaching and generally functioning in our realm, thereby giving us a model to follow. This is the model of a loving and merciful man, and also a man of perfect virtue who fought against the forces of evil, condemned sin, defended his Father in Heaven with sometimes violent force, spoke truth, and eventually laid down His life for those He loved (which would be all of us).
Only Jesus is Lord, so we of course cannot emulate everything He did, and we probably shouldn’t try (like walking on water, etc.). And it’s important to remember that Christ came to open up the gates of heaven and deliver us from evil, not merely to give instructions and set a nice example. He is the lamb of God, not a character on Full House. Still, His example and His instructions aren’t irrelevant to our salvation, nor are they optional. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus tells his disciples over and over again that they must follow Him. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Because He is not physically here to be followed in the directional, point A to point B sense of the word, we understand that “following” means, very simply, doing what He did and what He said.
This is what it means to believe in Christ. Not just to believe that He existed, but to believe that Christ is Truth itself, and that everything He said and did was totally and absolutely and irreversibly true forever and always. Many Christians today — not only the ones in the video, but millions alongside them — seem to think we can rightly claim to have “faith” in Jesus or a “relationship” with Him while still categorically denying much of His Word. This is a ridiculous proposition. We can’t declare, in one breath, that Christ is Lord, and in the next suggest that maybe God got it wrong on this or that point. Well, we can make that declaration, but we expose our belief as fraudulent and self-serving. We worship a God we either invented in our heads, which is a false idol, or a God who is fallible, which is a false idol. I’m not saying we can’t be Christians if we fall short of His teachings — I do that all the time, much to my shame — just that we can’t be Christians if we fundamentally deny His teachings.
We might pretend that so long as we believe He is Lord, the rest is more of a buffet that we can digest or reject at our leisure, but on what basis do we believe that He is the Son of God if we don’t believe anything else He said, either vocally or through the authors who wrote the various books of the Bible? How can we believe a guy when he claims to be God Himself, but not when we claims to know a thing or two about the way we’re supposed to conduct ourselves?
Christ: You should do things this way.
Buffet Christians: LIAR!
Christ: I’m the Son of the Living God and I will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.
Buffet Christians: OK, well that part I’ll buy.
There appears to be a massive disconnect here, wouldn’t you say?
So, for example, we have to make up our minds when we’re confronted with passages like this: “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:4). The Incarnate God defines marriage as between a man and a woman. He is right or wrong here, and if He’s wrong then He is not God, and we all should become atheist or find another religion entirely (I hear Buddhism is nice this time of year). But if He is right, then we are required as Christians to believe this view and proclaim it from the mountaintops. If we fail in that task, we fail as Christians. This brings us to item 3.
3) The video advertises sin. It’s true, again, that Christians can be gay, as in they can experience same-sex attractions. But they cannot suggest that it’s all right to act upon those sinful temptations, let alone define themselves by them. It’s not stated explicitly, but it seems pretty clear that the homosexuals in the video aren’t advocating that same-sex attracted people reject their urges and live a celibate life. Instead, like so many in the West, they appear to be saying, “I am actively gay — and that’s OK!” No, it isn’t OK, and when you say things like that, the homosexuality is now a secondary concern to the blatant apostasy.
The great danger in our society is not that it is populated by sinful people, but that it’s populated by heretics who campaign to move their favorite sins from the “bad” column to the “good,” as if God is some indecisive bureaucrat whose moral laws can be amended or abolished by popular vote. Many sins — especially any of the sexual variety — have their own PR teams these days, making it all the more necessary for Christians to fight back, as unpleasant and politically incorrect as the fight might be. If the homosexual embraces his temptations (or if anyone, gay or straight, engages in sex outside of marriage), we should not beat down his door and berate him. But if he opens the door of his own volition and proclaims to the world that God approves of what he’s done, then we must respond by saying emphatically, “no.” This is not our judgement, but God’s. And because God has told us His judgement, we are required to relay the information whenever someone attempts to sow confusion into the subject.
All in all, the video is yet another sleek and bright-colored collection of liberal heresies, designed to again reinforce the new, fashionable, contemporary Christianity. That is, the sort of Christianity that has no reason to exist. If you can suffer through the first 90 seconds of hipster Christians congratulating themselves for being “queer” and “feminist,” you’ll make it to the grand finale, where this terribly undiverse crowd explains the one thing “they want people to know” about the Faith.
Here’s how they each answer the question:
“I guess what I’d like people to know about Christianity today is that we’re all kind of not crazy.”
“We shouldn’t be judged on just the people that you see in the media, or just the people that you’ve met in everyday life. Every Christian is different, and we deserve a chance to explain ourselves.”
“A lot of people think Christianity ruins people, but to me I think it’s people that are ruining Christianity, you never really see the good that happens, you only see the hypocrites, and the people who put themselves on a higher pedestal.”
“But at its core, it’s really about love and acceptance and being a good neighbor.”
“Just because we prescribe [sic] to a faith that has some really terrible people in it doesn’t make all of us terrible.”
“I don’t think that Christians should judge people for who they are or what they do, I think everybody is in different part of life on their own path to wherever they’re trying to go. We’re all people and love is the most important thing.”
As Mollie Hemingway points out, these people are given the chance to tell the world one thing about Christianity, and none of them say anything about Jesus. Of course, neither do they mention salvation, sin or scripture. Instead, according to them, the most crucial fact is that Christians are “accepting” and “everybody is going wherever they’re trying to go” and should not be judged “for who they are or what they do.”
In other words, what folks should know about Christianity is that there’s really nothing to know about Christianity. The entire revelation of scripture and the insights of 2,000 years of Christian teaching could be just as easily obtained by listening to the ramblings of a stoned high school atheist.
“Man, like, the thing is, man, you know we’re all, like, going wherever we’re going, bro. So let’s just be friends and be totally cool to each other, you know?” – John 3:16 BFV (BuzzFeed Version).
Here’s the thing: this brand of Christianity is only popular in the abstract. People, particularly non-Christians, like to share YouTube videos about it and maybe go so far as leaving a supportive, self-aggrandizing comment. “I’m not homophobic either! Yay us!!!” But nobody will give their lives over to this nonsense. They won’t even give their Sunday mornings to it, so liberal churches die rapidly by their own hand.
The Episcopalians, for instance, have been very good at keeping up with the times, sacrificing Christian ethics and moral law at the exact rate with which they fall out of popularity in our culture, and for their troubles they’ll be mercifully extinct in a few decades. Fortunately, they can ordain all the transsexual lesbian bishops they want, but while the culture applauds them, nobody will actually show up on Sunday to hear their homilies promoting sodomy and abortion. They can just stay home, watch some MTV or Internet porn, and receive the exact same message.
But even if all Christian churches aren’t achieving Episcopal-Level Blasphemy (ELB) — hosting Planned Parenthood banquets and literally celebrating the murder of children and so forth — still, we see more and more embracing a belief system drained of its moral substance. It is a belief system not only heretical, but utterly arbitrary and boring. After all, who needs Christianity if all it offers could be just as easily summarized on the inspirational poster your kid’s guidance counselor hangs on her wall? No reason for church or the Bible when you can just pop on by Mrs. Gunderson’s office and see insightful slogans like “smile” and “positivity is key.” Throw in a few vague bits about some generic hippy named Jesus, and you’ve got the sum total of the entire faith, as told by liberal Christians.
From there, you soon discover that you don’t even need the generic hippy version of the Savior. In the end, the attempt to separate Christ from his moral teaching fails on its own. First, the morality goes, but then, eventually and without exception, Christ goes with it. Indeed, what’s the point of having a Christ if the fact doesn’t have the slightest bearing on our lives, nor does it provide the faintest clue as to how we are supposed to live? Remember, Christ tells us to follow Him, and Christianity — with all of its dreaded “rules” and laws and talk of sin and forgiveness and salvation — is supposed to help us stay on that path, through the fog and wind and storms of daily existence.
If we say, “hey, just go any which way you want, it doesn’t matter,” then we end up following “Christ” right into hell. Hopefully at some point prior to plunging into damnation, we will realize that it isn’t Christ we’ve been following, but a golden calf forged in the fool’s gold of our own desires and temptations. But we cannot arrive at this conclusion without a true, deep, unabashed, challenging, demanding, loving, forgiving, painful, joyful, profound, ethically and morally sound Christianity there to wake us up before we fall to our eternal death.
It’s funny that often intelligent and honest non-Christians see this more clearly than the weak and lukewarm believers themselves. I broke my policy and read the responses under that Mollie Hemingway article I linked above, and I found one of the approximately seven worthwhile remarks ever recorded in an Internet comment section. This is an agnostic Jew named Inez, demonstrating a deeper understanding of the faith than many so-called believers:
You guys (Christians) have really got to figure out your liberal Christianity problem. Look, I’m a Jewish agnostic, and my Sunday morning ritual is brunch. Why anyone would swap out real brunch for fake “we’re trying super-hard to be secular and cool and brunch-like so that you guys will like us” Christianity, I have no idea. Real Christianity is a compelling, complete belief system that demands something of its adherents: hence, a REASON to skip brunch. “Brunch Christianity,” on the other hand, has absolutely zero appeal over real brunch. At least at real brunch the wine is better.
… I mean the loosening and dumbing-down of the ethical demands Christianity makes on its adherents, for example, to not have sex before marriage, etc. There is a difference between emphasizing forgiveness for sins and basically keeping mum when you know even those in your direct congregation are flagrantly violating the ethical rules of the religion over and over again, and in fact, defend those violations as ethically sound.
My point [is] that Christianity, stripped of any “hardness” and requirements, is just one more activity to feel good about yourself on a Sunday. I humbly suggest that sitting in a church pew, stripped of higher moral instruction or serious examination of theological truths, is not good competition for other Sunday activities similarly lacking in ethical dimension, such as brunch or watching football. In my view, these liberal churches will continue to bleed adherents, because attending doesn’t really matter in the end; it’s no different than other activities in the world.
This secular Jewish woman can see that Real Christianity is “compelling” and “complete,” and laments the secularization of the faith even more than many who profess it. I think when we reach a point where unbelievers are (rightly and truthfully) scolding Christians for not being Christian, it might be time to listen. It’s also a time to feel immense shame that so many of us have disappointed the entire world by abandoning the complete and compelling moral code that even those outside the faith have looked to for light and clarity.
We can’t, it turns out, be Christians but.
We can be Christians or not at all.
Now let’s all make up our minds between the two.
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