I found this glossy flier while going through my pile of mail this week. It came from the Timberlake church in Redmond…
“No weird stuff”?
That a church would place such a comment at the top of their advertisement is telling about the public perception of religion in America.
A couple of decades ago, Christians were just…Christians. But this changed with the rise of televangelism. A relatively small segment of the fundamentalist Christian right proclaimed themselves the “moral majority” and openly pushed a political agenda. To the majority of Americans this unholy commingling of religion and politics was uncomfortable at best, bordering on weird.
Over the last couple of decades the weirdness has accelerated to the point that it seems everything we hear about “religion” in the mainstream media now comes off as weird. If there isn’t something criminal being discussed then there’s probably politics involved. The “revolutionary suicides” of Jonestown and the Branch Davidians showdown were specular specimens in their day.
Today the weirdness has become a lot more normalized, so that “weirdness” seems to underly most of the media’s coverage of religion. We learn about the Westboro Baptist Church’s “God hates fags” protests, Sarah Palin receiving a blessing of protection against witchcraft, Rev. Hagee’s holocaust comments, Rev. Wright’s damnation of America, Rev. Rick Warren’s anti-gay crusade, Pastor Ted Haggard’s male prostitute problem, almost everything coming out of William Donohue’s mouth (like the evils of a Chocolate Jesus last year). The list goes on and on. Locally, we’ve even had our own special strain of weird in a homophobic Rev. Ken Hutcherson and his “Prayer Warrior” communiqués.
So we get “no weird stuff” from a church apparently trying to distance itself from the contemporary stereotype of American religion. And some Christians are becoming sensitive about how they are labeled.
I don’t think the labels are the real problem. Rather it’s the commingling of religion and politics that has nudged the image of religion out of the mainstream.