In my previous post I referenced “The Door” magazine – a liberating piece of journalism for many of us trapped in the “ins and outs” of evangelical Christianity in the 70’s and 80’s. One of the magazine’s features was a section called “Truth is Stranger than Fiction.” It featured snippets of bulletins, ads or promotional pieces that the editors found to be, well, in our venacular, evidence of pretty Stupid Church People behavior.
We used to laugh at all the stupid things those “other” churches were doing, yet were so blind to our own “strangeness”. I remember thinking and hoping that I never would print an ad or promote an event that “The Door” might mock someday, and as a result, I begin to view everything through that lens.
While serving at a church as youth pastor sometime around the mid-eighties, you can imagine my surprise when I opened up the pages of my favorite magazine and found my beloved home church, Sagemont Baptist, the focus of my favorite section, “Truth is Stranger than Fiction”. (Click on picture above for a better look) Here it was, the church of my youth being laughed at by readers all across the world. Although I was no longer attending there or even living in the same town, the shock of seeing my church in print in this section where I had laughed at others so often was sobering.
I liken the feeling to the “J Geils Band” song “Centerfold”:
My blood runs cold
My memory has just been sold
My angel is the centerfold
Angel is the centerfold
No longer sweet, innocent and pure… my angel, my home church was now a laughingstock.
OK, OK… I know it wasn’t that big of a deal. And I am sure if my pastor saw the magazine and the way his event was mocked, he might even have gotten a chuckle out of it. But it goes to the point of why the “Truth is Stranger than Fiction” existed. Here’s how “The Door” explained this section of their magazine:
…we were amazed at what has been printed, produced, written, or marketed in the name of Christianity. The lengths Christians have gone to get people into church, or to “spiritualize” their lives, or to enhance their Christian experience is almost beyond belief!
And that’s what makes each entry so funny.
This is not presented to demean or belittle those included here, but perhaps Christians should consider the impression these ads, articles, and stories give to the non-Christian world.
When I look back at past issues of “The Door” and see all the crap the church has been involved in peddling over the past 30-40 years, I too am amazed. What’s even more astounding is how the church still peddles crap, creates gimmicks, works the angles, and utilizes manipulation to get people into it’s doors or “win” people to Jesus. If there is ever an argument against evolution, the church certainly makes the strongest case… because it’s not really doing anything differently than it did 30 years ago.
No the church is pretty much the same. Sure, most of the “hipper” evangelical churches have removed the denominations from their names. The most radical don’t even have “church” in the name, but instead use names like “The Gate” or “Crossroads” or “Mosaic”. Nothing else has really changed. Lets face it, the real reason we go to church is for the “upfront” people anyway…. we like the music or we like the way the pastor preaches. That’s the way its always been and thats the way it always will be. We go to church because it (or they – the leaders and services) make us feel good.
We like the social events the church provides. We like the hokie tie-ins to blockbuster movies. We enjoy the “Outdoor Extravaganzas” of our time. We like our church just the way it is.
And what’s wrong with that you say? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I just think we should be honest about it. At least I should.