And a Good Thing Too

  06/06/16 , by Dissidens, Categories: Evangelical culture

“The shift in the last few years has really been stunning," said Ed Stetzer, executive director of Lifeway Research, an evangelical consulting firm in Nashville, Tennessee. "Nobody would have guessed the pace of change. That's why so many people are yelling we have to take our country back.”


"We've lost our home field advantage," Stetzer said.


What has caused Stetzer and his tribe of faux skollers, bean counters, and political wonks to feel stunned, to feel alienated and anxious? Why, declining political clout, of course! That should tell you an awful lot about Evangelicals.

Evangelicalism’s devotion to pop entertainment, its obsession with celebrity, its moral disgraces, its criminal materialism, its conspicuous worldliness, its doctrinal infidelities, were not shocking enough for “Special Ed” Stetzer and friends, but knock them on their sanctimonious fundaments, and you will have gotten their attention.

Apparently they really did think America was their “home field”.

But this is a good thing, an excellent thing.

This is a really hopeful and encouraging development. Let’s hope the “sharper” Evangelicals—if that’s not too hilarious an oxymoron—will sit up and take notice for once.

Leave a comment »

Obscene Before, Obscene During, and Obscene After

  05/14/16 , by Dissidens, Categories: Evangelical culture

The Association of Baptists for World Evangelism has, half a century late and after determined efforts to hide the guilty and abandon the victims, expressed regrets for “corporate failures [which] generally fall under the category of failure to implement its own Principles and Practices, guidelines, instructions, and directives as outlined below. The organizational failures cover decades before, during and after Donn Ketcham’s termination, beginning in the early 1960s.”

I don’t necessarily recommend that you read this final report: it is so thoroughly disgusting I can’t imagine it has any power at all to edify anyone. How it is that anyone connected to this organization (or in support of this organization) can walk about in daylight genuinely tests one’s commitment to civil discourse. Some people are just loathsome beyond polite language.

I do not stand behind all the work of Professional Investigators International. They themselves seem more than a little creepy, but perhaps Evangelicalism has brought us to the point that it takes the creepy to expose the cruel.

So while I don’t recommend a reading, if you are an honest person who wishes to perpetuate the notion of civilized men that history must be more than hagiography, if you want to understand the health of this movement, and if you want to take a measure of the integrity of its followers, you probably ought to read it.

I do suggest you read the “Root Causes”, p. 192. There is much you might recognize, and if you do, you must ask yourself if any of this scandal properly falls under the heading of “doing the work of the ministry”.


“Bible Studies for People Who Like Movies”

  05/10/16 , by Dissidens, Categories: Evangelical culture

Not to be believed:

MODERN PARABLES. Modern Parables is an original film-based Bible study series on Jesus’ parables. It uses short films combined with teaching by pastors and in-depth study materials to create an entirely new learning experience.

Modern Parables seeks to re-create the emotional immediacy that Jesus’ 1st-century audience felt when hearing the parables. It does this by using some of the best parable scholarship and exploring it through creative filmmaking. The gut-level understanding made possible by the films is intended to drive listeners into a deeper understanding of the Bible.

By modernizing the parables, they become more accessible to a contemporary audience. People can immediately relate to what the films are saying as well as to what the pastors are teaching. The pastoral application videos show how the parables relate to our daily lives, as well as how we each fit into the broader scope of the Kingdom of God.


An Answer Perhaps?

  05/06/16 , by Dissidens, Categories: Evangelical culture

An Evangelical can, and therefore inevitably will, believe anything.

After reading Paradise Lost years ago I’ve often had reason to wonder what could possibly give Beelzebub any sliver of hope that in going up against the Almighty he could enjoy any success. Could he turn a profit of even a penny?

Does he maybe admit that while he can’t win outright, he might take consolation in some blemish left on God’s glory? “I may be destroyed, but God will wince every time he thinks of me.”

Is he hoping a pyrrhic victory will haunt God’s hopes for the world to come?

Does he suppose he’ll still be able to mount a counterattack in the New Heavens and the New Earth? God is bound by his eternal and perfect plan; like a terrorist, I have to succeed only once, and I have forever to sully this perfection. God has bound himself to redemption and reconciliation, and with man that has got to be a grubby and tedious business.

Then I read this over at Thom Rainer, and it hit me: the Serpent has Evangelicals on his side!

An Evangelical—and I put this forward as a case in point—has snapped on his plastic thinking cap and come up with 5 reasons his sort of church bumpkin should “pay attention” to hip-hop: cultural understanding, effective communication, different perspectives, theological conversations, and ministry reminders.

You should read it. Notice how the writer treats scripture. Notice his incompetence in cultural matters.


Because, as I say, if Beelzebub has any chance at all, I think it probably starts with the gullibility and witlessness of Evangelicals.



  04/27/16 , by Dissidens, Categories: Evangelical culture


A few years ago I was, in my personal life, engaged in the music ministry of an Evangelical church we might call thoroughly undiscriminating and perpetually innovative. (It was not innovative in the least, but it felt innovative to be doing things in a way that hadn’t ever been done before.) This group of people engaged in all sorts of self-amusing, experimental flops including congregational jazz.

But, bizarrely enough, I was also engaged at that moment in correspondence with Evangelicals of another stripe whom we might call unstintingly parochial and valiantly conservative. (They weren’t actually conserving anything, but the word had a miraculous effect when incanted.) They were especially fond of pirate-evangelism and Arsh Music.

The two groups viewed themselves as being at war with each other.

One of the spokesmen from the second group had a prosaic name, but to better characterize his views (and to protect his family from embarrassment) I shall call him Fluffles. Fluffles was a minor clown whose views, he believed, deserved a wider hearing. One of the things he said which he thought was perceptive was that “there was no golden age of liturgy”, and the purpose of his comment was to assure others in his group—who also had no powers of observation or discrimination—that the nonsense that they preferred to sing and play could not be compared unfavorably to “some golden age”.

Fluffles had not, and still has not, distinguished himself as an expert in the arts, nor in history, nor even in metallurgy. He’d heard the phrase golden age, it sounded sweet to his ears, and his heart felt strangely warmed when repeating it.

It was during this time in my life that I finally concluded that no change was in the offing, no reform could be expected, and no improvement was possible. It was as though everyone had grown up eating greasy burgers and cold french fries, but was nevertheless divinely inspired to be a food critic for Bon Appétit and to teach at the Culinary Institute of America.

That’s when I knew for sure that it was over.

But I knew that while reform was impossible, someone somewhere was going to have to start to talk sense even if only to himself. Scrunchy-faced public emoting wherein adolescent and effeminate souls in funny hats try to use facial contortionism to convey transcendent ideas would not be convincing for much longer.

So for those who might want to begin a rational inquiry into why we call things good, better, and best, there is a book you ought to read.

Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven, by John Eliot Gardiner.

I can recommend it indiscriminately because I have no fear that clowns like Fluffles will understand the book, will know what is important about it, or will even be able to finish reading it. It is a book for adults about serious things.

I don’t want to ruin the reading for anyone, but I will offer one introductory observation: when we say that God extends his grace to mankind, bear in mind as you read this book how God’s grace was extended to mankind. It was not grace that gave us just a Vivaldi or a Handel or a Bach; it was a grace that God brought out of the Thirty Years' War a set of conditions, a set of necessities, a set of sensibilities, a set of desires, a set of appetites, a set of skills that provided a meaning for all worship.

If you are an adult, you really ought to read it.

1 comment »

:: Next >>