In the 1993 film “The Sandlot”, a kid named Ham Porter continually gets frustrated with the immaturity of another kid named Scotty Smalls. When Ham’s frustration overcame him he would blurt out, “You’re killin’ me Smalls!” Now this phrase is commonly used in American slang to express discontent or frustration towards another person or event. Often times, I feel like Ham Porter when I observe American Christianity. In fact, I think that there are four toxic brands of American Christianity that often lead me to say, “You’re killin’ me Smalls!”
1) “Cool Christianity” – This is typically a brand of Christianity that re-imagines the church as a fraternity/sorority. The operative question is not “How can the church function as a hospital for the sick?” but “How can the church function as a social event for the pretty people?” Cool Christianity is usually bred in high school youth groups when Christianized church kids try to prove that they aren’t dorky. It continues to develop in the university where particular college ministries compete to “out-cool” the Greek scene. It then matures into full blown Cool Christian Churches that wear t-shirts that say something like, “My Church is Cooler than Yours.”
You’re killin’ me Smalls.
2) “Fearful Alarmist Christianity” – This is a brand of Christianity that re-imagines the church as a German Pillbox, with machine guns loaded, pointing down on Omaha Beach. Fearful Alarmist Christianity feeds on fear and sees everyone as an enemy. The operative question is not “How can I be used of Christ to bring the blessing of the gospel to those who are in darkness?” but “How can I hunker down and keep out those who would threaten me and my family?” Fear mongering pastors and pundits capitalize on this brand of fearful Christianity by creating big charts with devils, blood moons, re-built temples, and photos of political figures dressed as the anti-christ.
You are absolutely killin’ me.
3) “Unitarian Universalist Christianity” – This a brand of Christianity that re-imagines the church as Disney’s Epcot Theme Park that says, “There really are no differences between any of us other than window dressing.” Truth is relative, Christ is an ideal, sin is a myth, everyone goes to heaven, there is no hell, heaven is a self-created psychological utopian extension of ourselves, and god is whatever we wish him or her to be. The operative question is not “What is truth?” but “Why can’t we all just get along?” For reasons that should be apparent, Islamic extremists really love this brand of Christianity.
Have I mentioned that you’re killin’ me?
4) “Intellectualized Legalistic Christianity” – This brand of Christianity re-imagines the church as a Geeky High school Math Club where members gather in a circle and play a game of “What’s the square root of 144,000?” This game is supplemented by “Is it OK to sing hymns, take communion by intinction (dipping bread in wine), or wear a seersucker suit before Easter?” This brand of Christianity becomes so stringent that Sunday Morning worship becomes a corporate experience of collective, paralyzed, performance anxiety. The operative question is not “How does grace free and empower us to live by faith in obedience to Christ?” but “How should the law constrict us and paralyze us in the pursuit of perfectionism?” Intellectualized Legalistic Christianity was perfected by the Pharisees in the New Testament and has re-emerged over and again throughout church history.
You’re just killin’ me Smalls.
May Christ defeat these brands of Christianity – along with the ever prevalent and destructive “Tim Melton Brand of Christianity” that reigns in my idolatrous soul. May the Holy Spirit renew the glorious Gospel of Christ that exalts the Triune God. And may He renew the basic truth of the Gospel that is beautifully articulated in the Bible and succinctly outlined in the Apostle’s Creed.
At the end of the day, I am absolutely confident that the Grace of Christ will overcome these and other brands of perverted Christianity. Christ will prevail and call the Beloved church safely to His side. In the mean time, I take comfort that… “All we like sheep have gone astray; every one of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has laid on Christ the iniquity of us all.” – Isaiah 53:6