What’s Wrong With Christian Pop Culture (Part Two)
So when the church of power started losing its grip, particular in the Anglo dominated portions of North America, there were a lot of little churches and pastors eager to capitalize on this.
The wealthiest people in the English colonies derived their wealth from enslaved labor.
And while the Enlightenment had done a lot to remove the shackles from white Europeans, it proved a little more standoffish regarding non-white non-Europeans.
To justify their use of enslaved labor, the Enlightenment argued it was permissible to enslave Africans because, hey, they weren’t really human.
The slave masters were happy to use this argument, but it didn’t go far enough.
Even people who didn’t believe Africans were the intellectual or moral equivalent of white Europeans could argue that didn’t justify their captivity and barbaric treatment.
So the slave masters encouraged (read “spent money on”) pastors and preachers and professors and publishers who argue the Bible justified slavery. Made it a holy task that bound up the white masters even more tightly than those in chains.
That could only be interpreted by a very strict, very legalistic reading of scripture, one that followed the words of the Gospels but not the spirit.
But that was important!
Because the moment one stopped reading the Bible literally, black people started going free.
Slave masters stopped making as much money.
White people stopped being special.
So American evangelical Christianity developed a toxic strain of fundamentalism that really distorted and misinterpreted the Bible in order to keep rich white people rich and poor white people complacent in their poverty.
“Well, I may be poor, but at least I ain’t black!”
Deep down inside, white American evangelical Christians -- and even a lot of white Americans who weren’t Christian -- saw the survival of their church as key to their dominance of the land and the non-white people who lived on it.
And as long as the church of power -- American evangelical Christianity branch -- held sway, there was no problem.
But as they say in the song, “How ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm, after they’ve seen Paree?”
And while black American evangelical Christianity could be identified by what it stood for, white American evangelical Christianity was marked by what it stood against.
And for survival, it had to stand against everything in the modern world.
Okay, the offshoot to that is you can’t attract people to a negative.
Christianity grew slowly but surely in the first three centuries of the modern era because it could offer a way of life that brought peace and joy to those followers capable of maintaining the discipline of the faith.
Not everybody was going to get it!
But those who did, they could live among the world and not be part of it, living righteously, living with serenity, neither fearing nor caring if they were saved or going to heaven.
Look at Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats.
The righteous are bumfuzzled: “Jesus, when did we see you suffering or ill or in want?”
They had show charity and compassion and mercy without regard to how it might benefit them.
(The unrighteous, by counter point, make a similar but different statement: “We never saw you suffering, Jesus” followed by the unspoken “…because if we had we would have surely tried to curry favor with you so we could go to heaven when we die.”)
Therein lies the problem with American evangelical Christianity, and why modern Christian pop culture frequently sucks wet farts out of dead pigeons.
It’s not about living in righteous harmony, it’s about stacking up brownies points to go to heaven.
© Buzz Dixon