Pop theology goes viral

If you spend any time on social media, you’ll be familiar with the BuzzFeed brand: Lists, quizzes, videos, cute animal pictures, all woven into a steady stream of pop culture, pop psychology, pop politics and pop pretty-much-anything-else. So perhaps it was inevitable that religion should eventually get the BuzzFeed treatment.

To that end, the folks at BuzzFeed concocted a two-minute video called “I’m Christian, But I’m Not . . .” in which six trendy millennials, all claiming to be believers, rattle off a list of what Christianity means to them, and what it doesn’t.

What it means, apparently, is little more than to accept everyone without criticizing their beliefs or practices. What it does not mean, it would seem, is to embrace any of the beliefs or practices that have marked the Christian Church from the beginning.

Naturally, this facile distortion of the faith has not stopped the video from going viral. Quite the contrary, it has most likely guaranteed its success.

So then, in the spirit of BuzzFeed (and with a hat tip to Molly Hemingway for her incisive critique of the video) here’s a list of six serious problems, one per the number of participants, with “I’m Christian, But I’m Not . . .”

1. No mention of Jesus

Jesus Christ is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, our Lord and our God. He’s the creator of all things and the founder of His Church, the author and finisher of our faith who made us and saved us by His blood.

Consequently one might expect that those who claim to be His people would acknowledge Him. But there’s none of that here, not even one of those vague professions of wanting to be like Jesus without defining what that actually means. No, there’s not a single word uttered about the Word who is with God, and who is God.

2. No mention of anything Jesus taught

Just as there’s no mention of Jesus, there’s likewise no mention of anything He taught, or in fact of any core doctrine of the Scriptures. There’s no Gospel here, no recognition of Christ dying for our sins and rising again, no talk of repentance or faith in Him. There’s no insistence on seeking to obey God and pursue holiness, on abhorring what is evil and holding fast to what is good.

Instead, this group of five young women and one young man seem far more intent on identifying themselves as liberal or gay or feminist. They want to be clear that they support monogamy – but not necessarily marriage – before sex. For them, Christianity boils down to one principle: acceptance without judgment, which apparently trumps anything else Jesus had to say.

3. Slanderous caricature of other Christians

However, this principle of acceptance doesn’t apply to Christians who don’t share the group’s progressivist beliefs. Indeed, the six take great pains to point out that they’re not uneducated, homophobic, judgmental, closed-minded, conservative bigots – like all those other Christians.

The degree of false humility and self-justification on display here is rather quite astounding. In contradiction of Scripture’s command to esteem the members of Christ’s body, the individuals in this video appear devoid of any respect or affection for more traditional Christians. They display no hint of recognition that believers who disagree with them are still fellow sinners saved by grace.

4. Ironic self-contradiction

With smiling earnestness, the interviewees repeatedly stress that they’re not like those hypocritical Christians who put themselves on a pedestal – which is precisely what they’ve been doing the entire time. They protest that unlike those ignorant, self-righteous hypocrites, they love and accept everyone – well, everyone except for those ignorant, self-righteous hypocrites.

The irony would be hilarious if it wasn’t so tragic. It’s also uncomfortably reminiscent of the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable, who humblebragged to God that he wasn’t a sinner like other people, but did all sorts of nice religious things with which God should be impressed (Luke 18:9-14).

5. Distancing the Church and embracing the world

The overall impression these six young people seem eager to convey is that they’re no different from the surrounding culture. They share its currently fashionable moral and social attitudes, particularly when it comes to expressions of sexuality.

At the same time, they try very hard to distance themselves from any part of the Church that doesn’t share those attitudes. They characterize such believers as crazy, hypocritical, “really terrible people” who are “ruining Christianity.” Contrary to the Bible’s injunctions to love the Church but not the world, they appear determined to follow exactly the opposite path.

6. A hollow redefinition of love

The participants in this video sum up their position with the statement, “love is the most important thing.” But as discussed, their definition of love boils down to accepting everyone’s beliefs and lifestyles uncritically. While this may be in lockstep with our cultural zeitgeist, it’s also an empty, eviscerated definition that shares little in common with the Biblical picture of love.

Jesus, unsurprisingly, had much to say on the subject. He taught that the greatest commandment was to love God with all the heart, soul, strength and mind, and one’s neighbour as oneself (Mark 12:28-31). He defined the greatest love as one who lays down his life for his friends (John 15:12). He also specified how His people were to express their love for Him:

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. . . . Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. . . . If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me (John 14:15,21,23-24).

The warning – and the promise – is for everyone, young or old, millennial or boomer, progressive or traditionalist. Those who truly love the Lord will seek to obey Him. And those who do so will enjoy the intimate, loving fellowship of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

At its best, BuzzFeed is a breezy purveyor of social media entertainment. I admit it, I enjoy their quizzes that tell me which Star Trek character I am, or which city I should live in. I’m captivated by their quick-and-easy cooking tips for stuff like grilled cheese pizza sandwiches.

However, in the interests of playing to one’s strengths, BuzzFeed should avoid any similar future forays into pop theology.

As an accurate representation of the faith once delivered to the saints, “I’m Christian, But I’m Not . . .” has to be marked down as an epic fail.

Sources and further reading

Blair, Leonardo, “BuzzFeed gets blowback for controversial ‘I am a Christian but I’m not . . .’ video featuring gay, feminist Christian millennials,” Christian Post, September 9, 2015.

Burk, Denny, “I am a Christian, but I don’t follow Christ,” author’s blog, September 8, 2015.

Dalfonzo, Gina, “21st-Century Pharisees,” BreakPoint, September 9, 2015.

Hemingway, Mollie, “5 most cringeworthy problems with BuzzFeed’s viral ‘I’m Christian, but I’m not’ video,” The Federalist, September 8, 2015.

Jones, Kelsey, “Things Christians want you to know: ‘Love is the most important thing’,” BuzzFeed, September 7, 2015.

© 2015 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

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