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The North American Christian Pop-Culture’s Idol – Sensationalism

March 29, 2009

jesus-its-just-that-easy

Sensationalism – subject matter, language, or style producing or designed to produce startling or thrilling impressions.

An epiphany hit me today while I was driving and listening to the Christian radio station-which I hate listening to. I decided to listen for a moment just to see if its cliche lyrical content was still in tact, which it was of course. So there I was, listening to those sexy, overtly inspirational, making out with “God”, Disney Channel style songs when all of a sudden it dawned on me… the North American evangelical Christian sub-culture suffers greatly from worshiping the idol of sensationalism.

In other words, the climax of the gospel for us is that we no longer have any emotional or life problems. If we do admit to having emotional or life problems, however, then we wright them off with our convenient “Jesus” anesthesia. He numbs our pain so that we can be walking have-it-togethers. Somehow the best news of the good news is that we become PHP’s (perpetually happy people). We don’t hurt inside anymore. No, we are happy-go-lucky because we chose Jesus!

Within the amazing Christian pop-culture, “getting saved” means Jesus gives you an extra spring in your step. It’s not what Rom 5:9 says in that Jesus ultimately saves us from God’s eternal wrath for being lawless. No! Forget the Bible. Instead, embrace the Christian pop-culture where “getting saved” means that Jesus gives you an extra spring in your step that you didn’t have before!

And do we brag about this new spring in our step that “Jesus” gives us?

Of course we do! That’s what makes a screwed-up world so attracted to the Christian pop-culture! Our bumper stickers, t-shirts, slogans, music, and believers are high on “God”. We hold the market on sensationalism. It’s not until they also experience Disney Channel style Christianity that they’ll be truly happy. But you on the other hand already have your self-help, medicated, ego-stroking, therapeutic, God messaging, behavior modifying, flattering, motivational, self-esteem gospel!

Walk into any Christian book store today. What do you immediately get toppled with? A self-help section so large it could fuel a fire for centuries, which it should. The only good book in these stores is the Bible – at least once you get past the retarded paraphrased versions for people who just want to be spoon fed someone’s watered-down interpretation, rather then taking the time to study more in depth themselves.

Or if you go into most churches today or turn to a Christian TV station what do you get? More sermons wrought with self-help messages which falsely make you convince yourself that you’ve achieved the level of 100% self-confidence! The idol rears its mesmerizing yet strange head once again.

Let’s finish our journey by turning to the typical Christian radio station. Here you will find countless bands who all sound the same. But don’t be fooled! The lyrical content is virtually the same too! What do Christians sing about today? Do they sing about Christ and how we get to be saved from Him, saved by Him, saved to become like Him, and saved to know and experience Him forever? No? Well surely they sing about sin and struggling with real temptation. What?! No again? Alright, then they must sing about everyday life because modern evangelical Christians have a solid understanding of how the gospel relates to all of life. Still No?! What’s going on here? OK, then what do they sing about?

That’s right! You guessed it! Sensationalism! Because they pressed the big red Jesus button that was right in front of them, they get to now sing songs which inadvertently hint that everyone else is screwed up but them! They play these overly dramatic riffs coupled with whiny vocals declaring how they picked up the phone and let Jesus help them, and all the supposedly emotionally unstable people in the world should too. Their music tugs at your heart strings and plays them like a harp so that you’ll cry your way into Christianity without really knowing why. And even though the music is tasteless it’s OK. There is official business taking place, namely, having to play dorky music for the gospel’s sake.

But don’t worry because Christ is mentioned too. Not how He saves us from His own wrath (for not loving Him and failing to love others), that we can become like Him, and that we can know and experience Him forever, but how He is our springboard to being perpetually happy! Have you waxed your car today? Well you better also wax your emotions with Jesus! He’ll polish you right up so that you’ll look sexy and sparkle when you stand next to a confused and depressed soul who hasn’t yet pressed the big red button like you have. You sexy Christian you!

So join the band-wagon of the North American Christian pop-culture and shine for Jesus because you are special! You are amazing! You are incredible! “God” day dreams about you so much that you may need to get a restraining order against him. Your testimony isn’t that you used to hate God and deserved His wrath apart from Christ, but that God saved you from your icky emotional instability which wasn’t the sexy Dolce & Gabanna spirit

You used to be sad and feel empty inside, but not anymore now that you prayed the sinner’s prayer mantra and got “saved”! Jesus took away your sadness and emptiness! You have that spring in your step now that you once were missing! You’re now a member of the Christian pop-culture! Even though no one can relate to you, they’re secretly jealous of you! God’s giving you a high-five because he’s been needing someone like you to make Christianity cooler! Even all the other sexy Christians pale in comparison to your greater sexiness! You’re so freaking cool!

Conclusion: Booooooom!!! May the stupid idol of sensationalism explode. In other words, let’s end prideful and phony emotional stability for the sake of emotional stability. We have bought into the lie that the gospel is that Jesus fills the void in our life, and that successful modern evangelism is to be primarily a message of self-esteem and self-confidence before it’s a message of self-hatred for sin. We must not think this is somehow the power of God unto salvation. Our moral dilemma is that our lawlessness separates us from a holy God, not our sadness. Our sadness is only a consequence of our sin. Christ is not our cosmic flirt. He is our Lord (Boss) and Savior. These lines should never be blurred.

Let’s learn the real gospel and remind ourselves of it daily. Let’s be willing to be honest about our daily sins and temptations. Let’s no longer be phony. Let’s make much of Christ in our Bible reading, church services, books, music, and everything else we do. Grace to you!

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8 comments

  1. I like this christian way of looking the world! That Sub-culture is terrible…


  2. Thanks, are you a Christian?


  3. This is a good article about modern day evangelicalism although I don’t think all modern day ministries should be tarred with the same brush. I think there’s this false impression that people in the spot light are somehow suppose to be strong for the rest of us spiritual weaklings. It is sad that these big time ministries think that there immune from the trials that believers face. I think that the church needs reformation but let it begin with me.

    PS The total fault can’t be with Arminians or even the youth culture but with the world’s way of thinking chocking the word in peoples individuals lives.

    Grace and peace to you
    In Christ,

    James R. (From Panama City Beach, Florida)


  4. Thanks for the reply James. I certainly don’t intend to paint with one big braod brush. I’m talking about this mainstream Christianity which is so half-true, watered-down, and man-centered. Jesus is pounding on the doors of these “churches” and “ministries” wanting to be let in, Rev 3:20. I like your comment that people in the spot light think they have to be strong for the rest of us. This is so silly. It shows they don’t really trust in the power of the Christ-centered gospel to crystalize people’s faith, but it’s their job to be the Holy Spirit for everyone.

    I agree reformation begins with changing ourselves, but also by the church which is faithful to God’s word (fruit of the Spirit) contending for the full truth of God’s word, and holding other believers accountable to that standard. If we don’t do it, the atheists sure wont!


  5. This is a well spoken article and you seem passionate about the state of “North American Christianity”. My question regarding your statement is what is the proper manner to combat this cultural “sensationalism?” You seem to not agree with the message more than having the best solution to this problem.


  6. I believe I do explain what the solution is. In fact, I believe I have it inter-woven throughout the article. Many of the things I say this culture ISN’T doing also implicitly suggests what it SHOULD do. Namely, be gospel-centered. If this were to happen there’d be profoundly more truth, humility, and discernment in the church.


  7. A few years later for my reply, go figure, ha. Something in our nature keeps messing up what God intends for us and our churches. Humility and discernment are vital as well as a fear of the Lord.


  8. I agree James. I get personally mad at this because I came out of this background. I don’t have anything against anyone personally and could talk all day politely about the subject. But it’s the culture and paradigm that I take issue with. Much of our problems come from how we compartmentalize things and hinder ourselves from the robust life we were intended for. Our American sensationalist culture is just one way we have compartmentalized ourselves for the worse. It’s having many ill effects on our youth once they get out of high school. Then they have to rediscover everything. In turn, it means we’ve failed our communities. How do we fix the problem? A start would be to literally do some gardening. Pull up some weeds and try to plant some trees and see them grow over time. Understand how this relates to life, and how there is an order to how things work. This is spiritual. This is from God’s hand. A music video on JCTV which makes no sense, and tells no story, is a waste of energy.



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