Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Like Christian Pornography?

No, I am not advocating for a Christian version of porn or even suggesting that something like that is possible.  I am wondering, however, if we do not already have a version of Christian pornography.  The realms of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM), entertainment worship, piety rooted and fed by desire, and the health and wealth gospels and their purveyors have provided us with a false idea of what Christianity is -- just as false and addictive as pornography is in relationship to sex within the context of love, marriage, and children. Just as pornography is without love or real intimacy, so does this Christian "pornography" provide neither the divine love of the Word and Sacraments nor the real intimacy of water that washes the heart clean or of bread upon the lips and wine drunk down with the flesh and blood of Christ Himself.

Absent a real Jesus who is touched and tasted in objective forms or means, pop Christianity with its teary sentiment and doctrinal ambiguity offers Christ merely as an idea for the mind to comprehend or a feeling for the heart or a tool to be used in the practical pursuit of the desires of the flesh (no matter how noble sounding they might be).

This kind of a Christian "pornography" is as solitary as ear buds that stream in love songs purportedly to Jesus but sufficiently sensual to arouse desire and sufficiently similar to personal preference as to glorify me, myself, and I -- as much as Jesus.  Christian "pornography" is as individual as one set of eyes and sees what it wants to see and experiences the Gospel filtered through preference, subjective truth, and personal esteem -- and one that seems so blatantly selfish as to be the means to getting the marriage, children, job, happiness, and fulfillment I want.

Christian "pornography is a guilty pleasure for those who tell themselves the same lies as those who are addicted to the explicit portal of sexual images -- I can quit when I want to quit and I do not need these things.  Christian pornography has become the guilty pleasure of Lutheran and other liturgical Christians who know that this is not what Sunday morning is about but who have surrounded themselves with evangelical music, preaching, teaching, and piety Monday through Saturday.  Though we tell ourselves we can quite whenever we want, it is clear that many of us do not want to quit (or, could it be that we cannot?).

Sure, we know better, but though the spirit may be willing, the flesh is weak and we find it hard to wean ourselves from the soundtrack of love ballads to Jesus, of preachers who focus on getting what we want in the here and now more than eternity, and of doctrinal ambiguity that allows us to tailor a faith to fit us (more than we are transformed into the faith).  We have learned well to silence the conscience -- at least when it comes to CCM, entertainment worship, pop celebrity preachers and teachers, and a piety rooted in achieving the desires of our hearts.  From the personal playlist that blares into our ears from our phones, we hear the real soundtrack of our lives (no matter how hard we protest).  We are bi -- as rooted and planted in CCM and its evangelical identity as we are into Lutheran doctrinal and liturgical identity. We love our CCM, evangelical seeker worship, and our generic Christianity as much as we love being Lutheran (perhaps even more).

I have come to the unmistakable conclusion that it is impossible to be Lutheran in doctrine and practice and identity and still listen to the pop music of the generic Christian station,, listen to the pop purveyors of the health and wealth gospels, and believe that this represents "intimacy" with Jesus more than the water the kills and makes alive, the voice of absolution that speaks and sins fall away, and the bread and wine that feed us Christ's flesh and blood.  You cannot have it both ways.  Either you will love one and end up despising the other or you will end up lost and confused -- caught between a reality that is not real and a reality that must be approached by faith alone.  I have friends who insist that though they listen to the pop Christian soundtrack all week long and read all the popular books by the celebrity Christian authors, they still go to a Lutheran Divine Service and this is who they really are. I wish I could believe them.  For a while I believed this same lie.  I was wrong.  It has the same effect as pornography except that we grant it a legitimacy that porn never had. 


Ted Badje said...

CCM can cloud up the spiritual mind, but to equate it with porn? Can the rhetoric be toned down a bit? I am thinking Phil 1:18 applies somewhat to this. There's all this division in the Synod, and we have to tackle with a more secular and hostile world. Are there things we can work to agree on? I am not calling for syncretism with other denominations. I'm putting questions for debate.

Lutheran Lurker said...

CCM is not porn but the effect he was writing about is the same. When we live with both the real of Word and Sacrament against the CCM, contemporary Christian authors, and pop teachers and their emphasis upon feelings, we live in a contradiction. One is the uncertain foundation of feelings and the other is the real solid ground of God's promise attached to His Word and the sacramental elements.