You’re Killing Me Smalls: Four Toxic Brands of American Christianity

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 11.39.03 PMIn 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 peopleCool Christianity?” 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 oScreen Shot 2015-10-31 at 9.33.26 PMn 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, “ThScreen Shot 2015-10-31 at 9.37.35 PMere 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 Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 10.44.20 PMwhere 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 Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 10.48.15 PMcorporate 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

Tangled Up With Me – a poem

Tangled Up With MeThe Total Inability (or Total Depravity) of graceless human nature should not be difficult for us to grasp.  One glance at the nightly news plainly reveals that all human beings – from Hollywood to Afghanistan – struggle unsuccessfully to find spiritual meaning and satisfaction.  As the Preacher in Ecclesiastes makes clear, the heart of every person is filled with a desire for “eternity” (Ecc 3:11) and yet, if God should leave us in our graceless condition, then we will strain all of our lives, with no success, to fill the ache in our souls.  As a result, the bible says that our hearts are diseased with the “madness” (Ecc 9:3) of drinking emptiness, climbing nothingness, and striving violently after wind (Ecc 1:14).  Several years ago, I wrote the following poem that illustrates the desperation and hopelessness of “self” salvation.  Thanks be to God, when I had no desire for Christ,  when I was unable to see or understand the gospel, when I didn’t even know my true need, when I had no ability to identify Christ or call out his name – my Risen Love showed me mercy – and by his grace he untangled  me.

Tangled Up with Me

I Climbed and Climbed and Pulled and Grabbed
I did my best to Rescue me.
But the more I Worked and Clawed and Scratched
The more I Tangled up with me

And so it was in Desperation,
I yearned and reached for Liberation
Fighting for a Foothold
Stretching for a Stronghold
Scraping, Tearing, Clutching to get Free
And yet the more I Tried
The more I Tangled up with me

There was Nothing to take hold of,
Nothing there to Clasp
Every single solid handle
was just beyond my Grasp
Trying for a Toehold
Crying for a Hand to Hold
Calling, Shouting, Wailing to be Free
And yet the more I Cried
The more I Tangled up with me

With no more Strength to Struggle Onward,
with no Resolve to move me Forward,
I primed my Weary Soul for Death
And I let go of my Last Breath…
Then, Rising, Winging, Soaring,
Someone Ancient set me Free!
And so it was that when I Died
My Risen Love Untangled me

Union with Christ in our Suffering

Gospel ThoughtWhen we suffer, our hearts put God on trial.  Like a prosecuting attorney, we level our questions against his character.  “How could you be good and allow this? If you could put an end to this, why don’t you? What have I done to deserve this?

Yet, for the Christian, God does not answer our questions with a logical defense of His sovereignty v. our suffering, but rather he answers us the way a mother comforts her crying child – with his presence.  With his gospel song, Christ offers us the experiential affirmation of his union with us – reminding us that he loves us, and that he is here with us, and that he is bound to us in our pain.   Continue reading Union with Christ in our Suffering

The Hypocritical NFL Concussion Debate

1380735124000-nfl-concussionsLast weekend, before the annual Hall of Fame Game in Canton Ohio, there was a big flap over Junior Seau’s posthumous induction into the NFL Hall of Fame.  Seau, a middle linebacker for the SanDiego Chargers, took his life on May 2, 2012 amid speculation that he was troubled by brain damage due to CTE, a condition traced to concussion-related brain damage with depression as a symptom.  After submitting Seau’s brain for study, the family sued the NFL over the brain injuries suffered over his career, claiming that NFL does not provide enough information and protection for its players.
Continue reading The Hypocritical NFL Concussion Debate

Top 10 Superbowl Football Moments

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 10.20.34 AMSo, for the NFL football fans out there, what is your Top 10 Superbowl Football Moments.  By “Moments”, I mean those seconds in time that are etched in our national sports consciousness and still remembered today.  By “Football”, I mean those moments that are directly related to the game, not the media or entertainment related events.  I’ll post a Top 10 on that at a later date.  At any rate, these are my Top 10 Superbowl Football Moments.
____________________ Continue reading Top 10 Superbowl Football Moments

Jesus, Help me to do no Harm

DO NO HARMOn June 21, 2015, after admitting to an extra-marital sexual relationship, Rev. Tullian Tchividjian announced his resignation as senior pastor of Coral Ridge PCA in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  This was devastating news for me.  Over a number of years, Tullian’s teaching, along with Paul Tripp, Ray Cortese, John Frame, J.D. Greear, Matt Chandler, Joe Novenson, Tim Keller, John Piper, Scotty Smith, Nancy Guthrie, and Elyse Fitzpatrick, have all been refreshing gospel voices for my soul.  Continue reading Jesus, Help me to do no Harm

My Beautiful Attractive God, Valley of Vision

Valley-of-Vision ReduxMy God, Your grace is like a magnet – drawing me to all that is truly attractive. And what I find truly attractive is most beautiful in you

  • I am attracted to honor and rejoicing – I find these things most beautiful in you
  • I am attracted to glory and virtue – I find these things most beautiful in you
  • I am attracted to seeing the hand of Deity in the created world – I find these things most beautiful in you as I see you speaking, acting, filling, and shining forth in all that you have made.

I find nothing good, unless you make it so
I stand near to nothing good, unless I stand near to you Continue reading My Beautiful Attractive God, Valley of Vision

a blog by Tim Melton…


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