FIRST THINGS: Friends of God

This has to be one of the most thought-provoking arguments on the condition of the evangelical movement in America I have ever read. Most of which you could overlay onto Catholic attempts to mimic the evangelical movement’s appeal.

We, “us,” the Evangelicals with the capital E, have become thoughtless, sensualistic braggarts. For some time, we’ve been accused of being simply thoughtless–an unfair charge (Jonathan Edwards was an evangelical after all) but a charge with some truth to it. But what doctrinal rigor we might have had has been progressively smothered by sensuality draped with arrogant irresponsibility. We don’t think; we feel. If it feels right, it’s the Lord’s working, and if it’s the Lord’s working, we can be proud of it. Pelosi lays it all out for us to see.

Pelosi visits Rob Vaughn, of the Christian Wrestling Federation, who apparently sees nothing thoughtless in encouraging junior-high kids to come cheer violence for an hour so they can hear him tell about the Prince of Peace for ten minutes. She questions the heavily pierced high school student who wants to win a Nobel Prize for disproving evolution but who apparently sees nothing odd in his neo-pagan self-mutilations (mutilations his Celtic ancestors abandoned when they were saved). She films the church presentation of the anti-Darwin evangelists who, while promoting clear thought, teach the absolute certainty of the co-existence of dinosaurs with Adam and Eve and proclaim (proclaim is the operative word, because there’s a song that goes with it) that the Behemoth of Job 40:15 is a sauropod because “the Bible says so” (well, maybe, but probably not).

She visits “Holy Land” in Orlando. Rather like Porky Pig toddling through nearby Fantasyland, an actor costumed like the Jesus on the cover of the old “Living Bible” walks the streets of a pretend Jerusalem, quoting Scripture. Pelosi’s camcorder picks up no one showing any signs of disquiet at this strolling impersonation of He who will come to judge the quick and the dead.

There is the youth evangelist Ron Luce, who appears undisturbed by the thought that the enthusiasms generated by his team’s nocturnal mass rallies might simply be the predictable outcome of Nazi stagecraft mixed with Dionysian opera (and oblivious to the notion that some folks, living in an age of real religious war, might be unsettled by the name he gives to these rallies: Battle Cry).

And then there’s Pastor Ted, who thinks (or at least thought) that one of the clearest proofs of the Lord’s blessing is a great sex life. The possibility that it might be deeply indecent for a Christian minister ever to ask a man to reveal the most intimate nature of his relationship with his wife in front of anyone else–let alone in front of a camera–is apparently not within his ken. And the idea that these men should protect their wives’ privacy and refuse to answer isn’t in their ken either. They boast about their . . . well, you fill in the blank (we’ve all been in locker rooms). It feels so great. It’s all for the Lord. High fives, everybody.

If anything, Michael Linton has taken Alexandra Pelosi’s polemic Friends of God and turned it into an introspective argument for humility.

Certainly the watering down of the Gospel for pure attendance is an issue that affects many Christian places of worship in the modern age… except for those that hold to orthodox teachings in the face of heterodoxy. Somehow places of worship that believe something seem to do just fine.

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