Christian culture is so desperate for a champion. So desperate. From Tebow-mania, to Courageous, to even Rick Santorum (yes, Rick freakin' Santorum), it becomes evident that Christian culture doesn't really even need Christ to flourish. It just needs someone, or something, to champion its culture. So much addiction that it isn't funny.
I'm pretty sure Jesus is supposed to be the champion of the Christian faith - but don't let me go interrupting the cultural wars or anything.
All it does is give Christianity an equal amount of depth as being a sports fan, placing the stars of your team on a pedestal, and investing all of your emotion into pulling for a win against the hated arch-rival. Really, modern Christianity, whether neo-conservative fundamentalist or mainstream, is no deeper than that. No deeper at all. Truth is, the people who are most vocal about certain issues have nothing more than the emotional investment of a sports fan in Christian culture and conservative politics. The rabid pro-life crowd? They don't care about the "babies being murdered", they just want their side to win - often at the expense of honesty and ethics. The anti-gay marriage crowd? Same deal. If the government allowing two gay people to marry threatens the "sanctity" of your straight marriage, your marriage is and was a joke to begin with. A housefly could pose a "threat" to it. You just want your side of the culture war to win - and any other rationalization is simply you lying to yourself and to anyone else listening.
As I've watched, listened, and participated in conversations where backlash over Cindy Kunsman's excellent review of Courageous has been going on, with so many people tying knots in their rear-ends trying to deny ANY possible link between the Sherwood/Kendrick folk and Vision Forum (despite a link within the review itself literally showing a Kendrick as an invited speaker at a VF film conference), one thing has become overwhelmingly clear to me...
Most Christians care more about their religious culture, the maintenance, nurturing, and protection of it, the safety and comfort it provides, than they do about truth or about Christ.
What happened where Courageous is concerned is that people became invested in this film because it fit within the parameters of their religious culture. Extremely invested. Good grief, my Facebook news feed nearly had a spiritual orgasm the week the movie came out. Whole churches have rented out theaters, men everywhere have signed resolutions (which frankly, make them something less than the men they should be - paper champions), purity rings and pledges (as I throw up in my mouth)...and we've found a vehicle to champion our culture...until someone comes along and shines a light on the fact that this is all Vision Forum stuff. "Impossible!", we say, because there's just no way we could be duped. Right? I mean, there's no way. [SA]
People have been threatened by Cindy's review and breakdown of the VF theology the movie promotes because, in reality, while they think they're "out", they're still eaten alive with religious addictions and they've never really left the religious culture crafted by Vision Forum - or by Gothard and any of the other Christian homeschooling movement and dominionist folk. They'd like to think they're different, but the religious addictions and allegiance to the culture mean little meaningful or lasting spiritual change.
To genuinely move beyond religious addiction, you have to forsake the culture that feeds it. It's like the people that outwardly thumb their noses at the"legalism" of the VF or Gothard crowd, yet continue in the Christian homeschooling movement, or continue in QF beliefs. You can't really separate those things. They're all part of ONE culture: the dominionist culture. If you stay in the culture, the next wave or fad or formula will suck you in and dupe you just like the last one did - the one you now think is so destructive and wrong. So many people try to keep one foot in legalism, thinking they can "fix it" if they do things slightly different than "the crazies". That's kinda like quitting a job down at McDonald's, but continuing to show up in your uniform and being offended when someone tries to order a Big Mac. It's a culture that you're either in or out of. You can't be both and be in any way healthy. It's also like trying to break a drug habit by hanging around a crack house.
Why? Usually, it's because the external mechanisms and manifestations of the culture appeal to our need for something more than a simple faith in Christ. The same way Courageous appeals to the religious addict, i.e., it isn't good enough to do the right thing simply because it's the right thing, but instead, we need a ceremony and we need to sign a resolution to do the right thing? What shallow and useless faith. Totally useless. Dear God, do we need to turn our brains on and grow up.
Maybe THE most compelling part of Cindy's review seems to have done a fly-by in the exchanges I've seen...
In real life, these formulaic practices tend to degrade into extremes of legalism which compete with balanced Christian living over time. As Vyckie Garrison notes, because the father-centered ideology redefines balance as sinful mediocrity and compromise to be resisted at all costs under most all circumstances, her family “did NOT want to be balanced.” This is a core symptom of dysfunction found in families affected by addiction, a pattern of behavior that Vision Forum teaches as God's ordained plan for godly living.
That's it in a nutshell, people. When is a simple faith, a simple gospel, enough? For religious addicts, for people devoted to religious culture, the answer is never. Jesus isn't enough of a fix, despite whatever lip-service they pay otherwise.
But NO! We've got to be better, more godly, more better, and more better godly, and we have to wear it too! I mean, people need to see all the "Christian" bells and whistles, all the symbolic gestures! I mean, Jesus obviously isn't enough, right?!
I know why mainstream Christianity latches on to its champions, even when those champions come from the fringe - because no one discerns, no one thinks, and mainstream Christianity is completely naive to the loaded language of cults. You'd hope that people coming out of movements like VF, Gothard, and Christian homeschooling would catch on, knowing much of the language, but like I wrote in Halfway Houses, the people who leave these movements still determined to be Christian leave with lots of vulnerability, baggage, and religious addictions. Lots. It's why many of them migrate over toward teachers like Piper, Driscoll, et cetera, and movements like Sovereign Grace - the differences are minimal (even though they think they're enormous - they aren't - at all - it's just a milder form of legalism and religious addiction), and what they're looking for, in reality, is a certain level of comfort, not of truth. This is why I wrote The Outhouse, because ultimately, you have to decide if you're in or out of that religious culture, and if you want to deal with your religious addictions, you have to get out. Entirely. You have to wipe the slate clean, find a simple foundation, and start over. A simple, personal faith in Christ is enough. Until that's enough for you, you're still addicted. You can't remain in the culture and hope to fix its problems. The culture IS the problem.
I've had three different people directly communicate to me some form of "I don't care who was behind it - I support its message". Blind. It's the only word I know that fits. What's worse is that they seem to be content to be blind. "A little leaven" means nothing to people committed to a religious culture rather than to truth. Nothing at all. I've tried to challenge people here to continually examine themselves to see if their allegiance is to a particular (usually conservative) religious culture, or if their allegiance is to Christ - because those are drastically different things, and knowing the answer DOES make a difference. A person committed to religious culture only accepts truth which doesn't interrupt the culture, truth which can be made to feed the addiction. I've discovered a lot of people who put culture first over the last few days (years, really). Truth is truth, regardless of whether you or I agree with it. We should be fluid to revealed truths, never expecting it to become fluid to our culture, because then our culture is nothing more than one big lie wrapped up in religious packaging and championed by the commandments of men.
If the knowledge that Vision Forum was involved in Courageous threatens you, that says more about you than it does about anything or anyone else. It should serve as a wake-up call.
A simple faith shouldn't be added to to meet our own needs and addictions, or to fit within our culture of choice. Stick to a simple faith in Christ. Love God. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Do the right thing because it's the right thing. Tell the truth because it's the truth. Seek the truth and accept and adapt to it as you find it. Stop needing it to be more complicated than it is.
Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross. Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?
How many "I will"s are there in the Courageous resolution?