Friday, April 25, 2008

Rolling Stone and the Rock of Ages

I've never trusted journalists or news sources that try to convince me that they're "unbiased." Because, honestly, is there any such person in the world?

One of the things I like about Rolling Stone is that they call it like they see it. And they have Peter Travers, the only movie reviewer I consistently agree with.

So when I received the May 1 issue and it said that one of their reporters had gone "undercover" with the Christian right to write an article I cringed. Reporter Matt Taibbi goes undercover at Cornerstone Church in Texas.

It's not an easy article to read, but I'd suggest you read it to the end. Here's the link to "Jesus Made Me Puke and Other Tales from the Evangelical Front Lines."

As painful as this article is, I'm afraid that Taibbi pierces American evangelicalism in several of its ugliest boils with carefully accurate observations. Of course, he's coming into the situation with some prejudices and makes a few unfair statements, and has clearly chosen a church where he could easily find some extreme behavior. But even adjusting for that, there are a lot of things in this article that show precisely why Christians must be cautious to follow Christ and Christ alone, and not to wander off after other things.

A few of the most salient points:

1) Too many speakers emphasize their personal abilities rather than Christ.

2) We have too many programs that are not based on the Bible, but rather on a sort of secularism dressed up in religious clothing. Taibbi specifically talks about how the majority of the church retreat he goes on is about "schlock Biblical Freudianism." I wish I had said that first. I've actually run into the precise bit of schlock Biblical Freudianism that Taibbi does, and seen it used in the same way... as the defining issue in a person's life... "if you deal with this everything will be right." But I just don't remember the apostle Paul blaming his "father wounds" for causing him to persecute the church.

3) The strange picture of "Biblical Manhood" that is currently being pushed in some circles is monstrously repulsive to people on the outside . Taibbi describes them as, "Fiercely pro-military in their politics and prehistorically macho in their attitudes toward women's roles" and yet ready to burst into tears at any given moment.

4) Taibbi makes an interesting observation about how easy it is to build the outward shell of "correct behavior" in Christian community without having any sort of internal transformation. Taibbi was disturbed, in fact, to see how quickly he started to do all the "right things" without thinking about it. It's amazing how easy it is for people without a true relationship with Christ to behave in a way that causes it to appear that they do.

As too often happens, in the end someone was unable to interact with Jesus because of the people who claim to follow him. (I don't doubt, by the way, that many of the people in the story are sincere in their beliefs, or that, as I said earlier, there are parts of the story that are unfair.)

Lastly I just want to say that if you're out there, Mr. Taibbi, I wish you would come hang out at my church, or that you would let me give you a tour of my circle of friends. We have our foibles, certainly, but I think you would enjoy hanging out with us.