Dear Christian Nation,
So we’ve come to the conclusion that we don’t have a Christian nation, at least at the present. Not as we’d like it to be, anyway. We can’t seem to force everyone to say “under God” or pray every day, and we’re resigned to the fact that the Blue Laws are probably gone for good. So, what do we do? Obviously, we create a Christian Ghetto!
The term “Christian Ghetto” refers to a pseudo-Christian pop subculture that has been constructed for two main purposes, that I can see. One such purpose (I’m not sure if this is the primary or secondary purpose) is to be able to market “Christian” books, music, clothing and other kitsch to the middle-class western evangelical Christian population. The other reason is to both insulate and isolate Christians from the contamination of “the world.” This latter reason probably comes from a mis-translation of the John chapter 17 where Jesus prays that the church be “in the world but not impacting the world.” (Yes, that’s sarcasm.) The evidence of this Christian Ghetto includes Christian bookstores, Christian radio and TV networks, “Christian” music, “Christian” movies, “Christian” novels, and the list goes on. Much of this isn’t for evangelism or education (which I don’t have a problem with). I’m guessing that most of it in terms of dollars is simply “safe” entertainment for Christians.
But now we have a new frontier, one which has frightened the Christian Ghetto for a few years now: the internet. It’s wild, it’s woolly, and we’re not sure how to deal with it. We’ve got online communities growing like fungi in places like MySpace and YouTube, and blogs off all kinds. What’s the Christian going to do with the Net? Why, create an online Christian Ghetto, of course!
My friend Mike pointed out on his blog a couple of months ago the obvious and embarrassing habit conservative Christians have (it is, really, only the conservatives…) of copying the cool worldly trends that they don’t approve of. I don’t spend much time in the “ghetto” (it creeps me out, to be honest) so I wasn’t aware of these things. Leave it to an atheist to discover embarrassing things about Christians. So, here, for your further embarrassment, are some cheap Christian-ghetto rip-offs:
GodTube: Here, your family can watch safe videos, some even with a Christian message (caution: not all Christian videos are theologically sound). There actually are some that are hilarious, including the series parodying the Mac man vs the PC man. This series is very well-done. Note that I’m not against the videos, per se. I’m just grossed out by the “ghetto” mentality of the whole GodTube thing.
Conservapedia: This one goes over the edge, in my opinion. They even have a patriotic flag-thingy at the top. Obviously they found wikipedia too liberal for Christian use. According to the site, they feature “over 11,950 educational, clean, and concise entries” Now, the question is, can you trust anything with such an ultra-right spin? Well, according to their front page today, “The LA Times praised our entries on the tuba, Claude Monet, the nation of Latvia, Robin Hood, polygons, and The Renaissance.” Whoa!
Today I received an e-mail plug for a WordPress plug-in at a site called MyChurch. Well, I started poking around MyChurch (never did get around to checking out the plugin) and guess what? You guessed it, it’s a “Christian” MySpace! Granted this site may have some cool features, as it allows churches to set up their own networks; it’s probably nice for churches who don’t have a tech team to build and support a stand-alone website. But, the thing is just to myspacey for my taste, and it does plug itself as “a Christian social network” and says “Join MyChurch to stay connected with your church and friends!” As much as I like the internet, I think if you need something like MyChurch to stay connected with your church, there are some problems.
Again, I don’t have a problem with Christians making little video things and I don’t have a problem with social networking. What I see as problems are the rather obvious ripoffs of non-Christian (and oft-criticized) ideas, and the fact that they exist to propagate the Christian Ghetto mentality. This can be likened to the concept of “parallel play” in toddlers: children 2 or 3 years old will sit and play blocks, and appear to be playing together. But, they are not necessarily interacting, they are just playing by themselves next to someone else. It’s not the same thing.
As Christians, we are supposed to be “in the world” not “alongside and not interacting with the world.” The Christian Ghetto fails to accomplish the mission of the church by establishing at best a parallel culture (and often an Amish-like encapsulated culture) rather than being present to impact the world. You see, it’s possible to be a Christian on YouTube, or MySpace, and I tend to like Wikipedia a lot…
So, once again, my challenge to the Christians in this nation is be find out what it really means to be a Christian in this nation.