I’m a Christian, and proud to be one. I believe the gospel is the most powerful, life-changing message there is.
But sometimes I don’t want to admit to people that I’m a Christian.
Am I ashamed of the gospel? Ashamed of Jesus? Not at all. I just don’t want to be associated with some of the terrible attitudes and behaviors that pass for Christianity in our culture. I’m sure you can think of plenty of examples. If you can’t, your non-Christian friends certainly can.
Frustratingly, if I talk too much about these problems in the church, I’m afraid I’ll unintentionally contribute to the idea that these things actually represent Christianity.
But they don’t represent Christianity! They represent something else entirely, something that only masquerades as Christianity.
I call it Trendianity.
Trendianity isn’t the Christianity of the Bible. It’s what Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren call “culture-controlled” Christianity. It’s Fool’s Gold Christianity. The cubic zirconia of the Good News.
Trendianity is the Gospel According to My Social Circles.
At its head is I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Jesus, the God made in our image who never challenges our preconceptions and always shares our political and cultural biases.
When I call it Trendianity, I’m not referring to fashion or technology trends. If your church is preaching the gospel, I don’t care if you’re reading from papyrus scrolls or broadcasting over a JumboTron. No, I’m talking about when we allow culture-bound ideas and priorities to take over Christ’s place of supremacy at the core of the faith.
See, at the heart of Trendianity is an obsession with the things most important to me. Trendianity says that my priorities are also God’s priorities. It says that the most pressing issues for the faith are the trending hot-button political and social issues of my own time and culture. If I disapprove of Elvis’s hips, then so does Trendianity. If I have a strong opinion about my country’s economic policy, Trendianity is there to back me up. And if, in fighting for my political beliefs, I talk down to people or treat them poorly, Trendianity makes me feel justified. After all, surely the Golden Rule isn’t meant to apply to situations where I’m fighting for the Really Important Stuff. Right?
The thing is, followers of Trendianity consider themselves Christians. They’d say they’re among Jesus’ most devout followers. And sometimes they are! Even those of us who actively criticize Trendianity don’t always avoid its seductive draw. We’re following Jesus faithfully when something shiny catches our gaze, and before we know it, we’ve gotten sidetracked following a false Christ who promises to save us from the People We Don’t Like Very Much. It may look like Jesus from a distance, but that’s not Jesus.
The Biblical Jesus was famously countercultural. He defied the sexism and racism of his day. He befriended the outcasts and ate with the sinners. When the religious leaders in his culture were focused on legalistic rules, he broke them. When his contemporaries were focusing on political controversies with Rome, he ignored them to feed and heal people. Jesus was not the Messiah his culture expected. The faith he demonstrated was one of overwhelming grace beyond all cultural boundaries.
By contrast, Trendianity is hopelessly tied to the culture. We laugh or cringe at the silly things its followers said and did in generations past, but we’re sure that no one will think that about us. No, Trendianity assures us, our issues really are the most important ones. We’ve finally gotten it right. God really is more concerned with passing this piece of legislation than with all that humility stuff. It says so in the Bible.
Well, maybe not in the Bible, but it was in a trendy religious magazine I read, and that’s almost as good.
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