Tuesday, April 20, 2004
I don't think I'm going to shop at Christian stores anymore. Let me clarify: I have decided that I don't like those stores whose stock is designed for Christians, especially Evangelicals. Why? Two reasons.
Firstly, most "Christian culture" stuff is, simply, dreck. I can hardly ever bear listening to Christian radio stations, because most of the music is either whiny or preachy. The reason ska and rap are tolerable when done Christian is that they're actually better when they're whining or preaching. DC Talk was successful because they're a boy band, and it's hard to mess up pop music if you've got any talent (that's why it's called "pop"). There are also Christians who make good music in the secular market. However, too often the Christian industry seems to be where second-rate bands go. The same seems to go for Christian fiction. Leaving the eschatology aside, the Left Behind books look to be pretty awful. I skimmed through it, and kept seeing passages like "Dan's eyes blazed with intensity as he looked for a sign, any sign of newly-won conviction in the eyes of his friend Rayford." Besides being heavy-handed beyond belief, why can't they make up believable names? Rayford? It sounds like what my grandparents would name the hero in some '40s B-movie. Do people out West name their kids things like Dirk or Rayford? I'm just asking, because no one here ever seems to. Look, "Turkish" from Snatch was more believable than some of the names Christian writers come up with. As for Christian movies...I've seen Left Behind and The Omega Code, and let's just say that I was somewhat underwhelmed. Now, I'm fully aware of things like VeggieTales, but that seems to be more the exception than anything else. So, by supporting Christian stores, I'm supporting them as they sell this dreck. If no one were to sell it, no one would produce it, and all that talent could go to better uses.
However, the second reason is one that was mentioned by Fran Sciacca at the regional Navigators Fall Conference last year: the point where we lost our influence was when Christianity went from being a counter-culture to being a sub-culture. Instead of looking at products and evaluating them on their merits, we too-often simply look for Jesus-brand stuff. We need to be evaluating things on a "why" basis, rather than "what." I can get a Bible at Border's. Why should I get it at Lifeway? If music is good, then it'll be sold at Best Buy, not just the local Christian bookstore. By having our own industries, we're basically distancing ourselves from the rest of society, making it harder for us to interact. Now, I'm not saying we're to be slaves to the world, but when sojourning in an alien land, it's good to know the local customs and be friendly to the inhabitants. If all you've ever listened to has been Christian radio, all you've watched has been TBN, and you've only played in church leagues, what common ground do you have? When I mention Homer Simpson, Strong Bad, The Offspring, or Die Hard to people my age and get blank stares, I know there's a problem.
We Evangelicals have seriously gotten to the point where we're too-often tempted to hide in our shells. There are times when it's best to walk away or to listen to something more edifying, but when we put ourselves in our own ghetto, how are we ever going to connect with the rest of the world?