Why is it that Evangelical Christians are often depicted as being close-minded, ignorant and prone to herd mentality? Perhaps it is because it is true... broadly speaking that is.
I just read, yet again, the Jack Chick tract "Dark Dungeons" - an evangelistic comic written in 1984 that exposes the great evil inherent in satanic games like Dungeons and Dragons and ends with a gospel invitation.
I'll start off with the positive. Chick's presentation of the Gospel in the final page is spot on. Although it is obvious that the guy is a KJV-only-er, anyone who reads that presentation of the gospel and who prays that prayer will be converted. As an evangelical myself I concur with everything that Chick says on the final page of the tract.
That's the good news. Now the bad.
The basic thrust of "Dark Dungeons" is that Dungeons and Dragons is part of a satanic conspiracy. Players are unwittingly involving themselves in witchcraft and pagan rituals to try to get them "further up" into a hidden world of evil people trying to win the world for the devil. The books, dice and other items are actually real magical items and deserve to be burned (Acts 19.19).
My problem with this is obvious - none of it is true.
Not 6 feet away from me is a box containing al my D & D stuff from high school. I still have the Players Handbook, the Monster Manual, the Dungeon Master's Guide, Deities and Demigods, Unearthed Arcana and others (all 1st edition). Even back in the early 1980s when I was playing it, I knew that there was nothing terribly anti-Christian about it. Sure, there were certain temptations (I would've loved for my characters to meet a Sylph), but there was nothing satanic in it at all.
I'm saying all this because I've just read a commentary of the Chick tract (profanity warning) from a non-Christian who has played enough D & D to know. Chick's dedication to a completely off-the-wall understanding of D & D has not been a good witness to say the least.
But Chick's tract is merely a part of a wider problem within Evanglical Christianity - the propensity to embrace urban myths, rumours, innuendo and even outright lies as fact is a recurring problem. Consider the following examples:
1. There are hidden covens of Satan worshippers who are sacrificing and sexually abusing children and praying against churches.
2. A Christian picks up a hitch-hiker in his car who sits in the back. After a rather strange conversation the man says "Jesus is coming soon" and disappears. The Christian then realises that he has "entertained an angel".
3. J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books, publically states that she wrote the books to spread witchcraft and satanism around the world.
Evangelicals have probably heard these three examples in their church life. Certainly I have been told by earnest, wide-eyed Christians of the first two. The problem? None of them are true. They are just rumours (1), urban myths (2) and deliberate satire (3).
Between 1990 and 2001, Americans who stated that they had "no religion" on their census forms rose from 8.4% to 15.0%. Contrary to the claims of triumphalist Evangelicals who rein in thousands to their megachurches and millions of dollars to their ministries, America is turning against God and Christian belief. American evangelicals are willing to place the blame anywhere - the ACLU, the Democratic Party, Hilary Clinton, Hollywood, even Soy Beans. Instead, the blame should be placed firmly amongst evangelicals themselves.
How many times can the sexual and financial sins of evangelical leaders continue before unbelievers take notice? Think back to the 1980s when Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggert were put through the public wringer. Now Ted Haggard has gone through it. These public spectacles damage the credibility of the church and give the impression that evangelicals are quite good at telling the rest of the world what to do but are themselves unable to do it. Did I say "give the impression"? Sorry, I meant to say "show beyond reasonable doubt".
In the early church, Christians were called atheists and baby killers by the Roman pagans. Of course such accusations were wrong. These days Christians are more likely to be labeled as "ignorant hypocrites" - and there is much truth in this statement.
Evangelicals should stop blaming everyone else and realise that they themselves are the cause of the problem. Moreover, they should take time to realise that God himself is communicating this to them by the criticisms from the world.
As an evangelical myself I am fairly ambivalent towards the ungodly behaviour exhibited by "unbelievers." I spent five months teaching in country NSW recently and was exposed to all sorts of drunken revelry, marriage breakdowns and vicious gossip exhibited by non-Christian teachers. Am I concerned about this behaviour? Yes of course, but I know that these people are unbelievers - they are only doing what comes naturally to them. Moreover, I know that any attempt by me to confront or change their behaviour will be met with incredulity and resistance. As an evangelical, I know that it is only by the Spirit of God that a person can change their thinking and behaviour to become more in line with that of God - and that this process can only occur with a clear and unambigious communication of the Gospel of Christ. Rather than lecturing these people on their sins, we should tell them about Jesus.
Yet if those in my church exhibited the same sinful behaviour, my reaction would be much harsher. The church is the place in which Christians are able to regulate, model and promote godly behaviour. Sin, especially major sins like sexual immorality, violence or greed, should be addressed where possible in the church. Although I don't expect perfection, I do expect Christians to at least fight against their sins and work hard against them - as opposed to keeping these sins hidden away somewhere and putting on a mask of godliness (like Ted Haggard and Jimmy Swaggert did).
Unbelievers see our lives. If we are hypocritical and ignorant, they will easily dismiss Christianity as worse than useless. Any cursory reading of the Bible will show that ignorance and hypocrisy are not virtues that should be embraced.
From the Theosalient Department
© 2006 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
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