An interesting perspective on things, plus questions for thought, from Dan Kimball. ----------- I had a rather shocking experience a few years ago when I tried to buy a book for a non-Christian friend to help him learn about Christianity in a way that he could understand. I love Christian bookstores and I frequent them often. This time I was shopping with my friend in mind and had an incredible eye-opening experience. I walked into the store and I immediately noticed the wide arrange of Christian T-shirts on display. Many of them had cute and clever slogans on them, but as I tried to picture what my friend would think, I felt uneasy. The wording on the shirts was supposed to be evangelistic, but I ended up feeling many of them would actually be offensive or just plain silly to my friend. I then turned to the CD’s and music section, which featured a whole array of celebrity musicians, all of whom would be completely unknown to my friend. The music styles and the look of the musicians seemed to distinctly mimic certain secular bands down to the hair, dress and even facial expressions as they posed. Christian punk music, Christian heavy metal, Christian country and western, they were all there. Looking around me I saw numerous other products for sale--Christian sweatbands with Christian slogans, Christian tea-bags with verses, Christian candy, even (I am not exaggerating here) Christian golf balls and tees. As I continued to peruse the aisle I found Christian dolls, Christian baseball hats, Christian jewelry and (to me) some pretty ugly Christian art. Then I looked at the Bible table and again pictured my friend becoming confused. I spotted Bibles for leaders, Bibles for women, the “Jesus Bible,” the End Times Bible, the Athlete’s Bible, the African-American Bible, Bibles endorsed by various celebrity preachers and literally dozens of Bibles sub-categorized in niches. I was almost surprised not to see a Bible for left-handed people or for people with red hair. I know these Bible are produced to help people, but something about the fact that we have niche-marketed the Bible to this degree made me feel uneasy. Especially as I thought of trying to explain to my friend why, even with all of these Bibles, most Christians today are still biblically illiterate. In my flustered state, I actually bumped into a life-size cardboard promo cut-out of a famous Christian radio preacher promoting his new book. At this point I was just too “weirded out” by the whole experience so I left the store without purchasing anything at all. I sat in my car in silence for what must have been twenty minutes trying to comprehend what I had just experienced. -- Dan Kimball -------------- We filmed a video on the University of California Santa Cruz campus to show at our worship service. We asked each person we interviewed these same two questions: - What comes to your mind when you hear the name “Jesus”? - What comes to your mind when you hear the word “Christian”? The answers to these questions brought me both joy and optimism, but also extreme sadness. Why? Because at the first question we saw students’ faces light up in smiles. “Jesus was beautiful.” “I want to be like Jesus”. “Jesus was a liberator of women.” “I’m all about Jesus.” “I want to be a follower of Jesus.” “Jesus was enlightened and had higher truth.” What encouraging answers! Here we were on a very post-Christian campus and we were finding students eager to talk about Jesus. I realized they probably weren’t familiar with the whole of Jesus’ teachings, but they held an incredibly high perception of Christ as a positive figure in history. Yet, when the very same students were asked the second question their expressions changed dramatically. Eyes looked downward, smiles turned to frowns and even painful expressions. “Christians have taken the teachings of Jesus and really messed them up.” “I would want to be a Christian, but I have never met one.” “Christians are dogmatic and close-minded.” “Christians are supposed to be loving, but I never met any that are.” “Christians should be taken outside and shot.” We video-interviewed 16 people on the campus, and their answers to the second question were both frightening and extremely heartbreaking. The most discouraging fact of all was that only one person even claimed to actually know a Christian personally. Their conclusions were based on general observations and hearsay. What they knew of Jesus, they liked--but what they knew of Christians, they definitely didn’t. ---------- 1) If you were to go out to your local university and ask the questions “What comes to your mind when you hear the name Jesus?” and then “What comes to your mind when you hear the name Christian?” what do you think you would hear? Why in your local community would they say that? You may want to actually conduct these interviews and then show the video to your church for its teaching impact. 2) What are some other ways the culture is teaching people in your church or community about theology, or who God is? 3) Did you understand the writer’s observations who attended the “Christapalooza” event? Did you ever view something like this through those eyes? Any comments or further thoughts? 4) From the eyes of a post-Christian, how would they view your church? Your logos, your mission statements, the wording in your bulletins etc.? Is there anything that you can change that will carry the same meaning, but done in an appropriate way?