Friday, January 25, 2008

Disney Christianity . . . Land of Fiberglass Rocks and Plastic Flowers.

With the weather too cold to spend much time in my wood-working shed, I came into the warmth of our roaring fire last night. With some time on my hands, I spent an hour or so exploring the electronic world of Christian Blogging. Cruising the electronic rivers of 1's and 0's for about an hour and I made some pleasant . . . and not so pleasant discoveries.

First of all, the Internet is so vast that you can find Blogs on everything imaginable . . . and a few things that I had never imagined before. People really do barbecue aardvarks? The same is true in the Christian world. The majority of Blogs, of course, reflect the majority of Christian sentiments. But you can find Christian Blogs on the edge, pastors declaring themselves to be the new Messiah, Taliban-type Christians and Christians against Wal-Mart (which is, according to them, the kingdom of Satan).
But I do bump into some like-minded folks, but most of these like-minded folks, unfortunately, are of the separatists mentality rather than the reformers. What I mean by separatists are the Donald Miller-types. Don’t take me wrong. I am a great fan of Donald Miller and his books. I plan on doing a posting just about him and his following. But I feel a little sad that he, and his generation X and millennium generation people feel that they are anti-franchised church people. In other words, I share the same observations and gut feelings as they do . . . but I just wish that the church could adapt to their rightful concerns so they have other options than becoming isolated. That is one Biblical mandate that I do accept . . . that we are not to be isolated, freelance, Christians but part of a community.

This view is not about guilt manipulation. I’m not saying that I’m better than the anti-franchisers. I’m not even saying that their problem (not being involved with any Church) is sin. I’m just saying that I think they are going to miss a meaningful part of the Christian experience here on earth.

With that said, and I will come back to that later, I wanted to focus on the things that the Donald Miller group and I do agree with, and that is the “mainstream” Blogs out there. Again, I think that these Blogs mirror the American Christian society . . . where the majority of Evangelicals would feel very comfortable with them . . . while they make me want to throw up.

In the virtual world, there are Blog malls, where many Blogs put up their “storefronts.” I was even thinking about staking out space in one of those. But as I walked down these, the nausea in the pit of my stomach intensified. I couldn’t find the words to express what I was feeling or thinking, but I do know if Donald Miller, or maybe the majority of young Christian people were to walk with me, they would have felt the same.

First of all were the “rules” of the mall. All Bloggers had been sanctified by the “mall security” before they were allowed to post there. One electronic mall proudly claimed, “We are family friendly.” In the fine print, that you would have to sign on to before you posted on any of the Blogs, is that you: 1) Agree with a long and precise Biblical doctrine; 2) That you would not post anything “unbiblical.” Since I believe that the Bible is true, then none of the truth that I would post would be unbiblical . . . but I knew what they meant. They meant that no one would post anything that was in disagreement with their precise interpretation of the Bible in 2008, in their American -Evangelical, Republican subculture; 3) That the poster would not use any “inappropriate words” and that also was open to their definition; 4) That no one would post any angry words; 5) That all posts would be “uplifting.” Making the reader feel good. I could go on and on, but I think you get my drift.

I admit that the majority of Evangelicals would see nothing wrong with this “sanctified” space for “Christian Blogging.” But many of us do. And it reminds me of a story.

After college, a friend of mine got a job at Disney World in Florida. Having a degree in some kind of interior design (and he wasn’t gay either) this job was a dream job. But after two years, living and working on the Disney World “campus,” a strange psychological phenomena began to over-take him. He lived in a fake world made up of fiberglass castles and rocks, silk and plastic flowers and where all the humans were fictional characters behind masks. Some of these people, say Peter Pan for example, found it difficult to come out of character even after their shift was done. It was surreal, somewhat like the experience that people have when they spend hours gaming online in virtual worlds.

My friend had to quit his dream job, go visit some real, stone castles in Europe . . . smell some real flowers in the field and meet real people again . . . or he felt like he was about to go insane.

When I look down one of these Christian Blogging Malls, to me it is looking into a surreal—but fictional—world. I heard about a Thomas Kinkade (the mass-producing artist that my sister, the real artist, hates) village in California. They were reproducing a village based on Kinkade paintings. These paintings are idealized American life, small towns where clean white churches and everyone smiling. I saw a program on 60 minutes about this Kincade village and guess who was moving in to these surreal homes? It was “born again Christians,” by the fiberglass buggy full.

This feeling of nausea was best expressed in an old (and hard to find) book by Franky Schaeffer, titled Sham Pearls Before Real Swine ( Wolgemuth & Hyatt; Brentwood:1990). The real issue, in my opinion, is the desire and the belief that we can live in a perfect world. Again, I think it is the mis-understanding of sanctification and not understanding the depths of the Fall of Adam (where there is no-escaping the Fall). Also, the issue of Platonic
Dualism, where there is an Idealized spiritual world that is better than the real world.

More later.

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