The Worst of ‘Christianity’ In One Instagram Post
When fundamentalism meets social media
As I was scrolling through my Instagram feed the other day I was stopped dead in my tracks by a post from a fairly prominent Christian pastor from Australia. It was entitled: ‘Things that should not be controversial for a Christian.’
“This ought to be interesting,” I thought to myself. And it was — but not in a good way. In fact, I found the post downright infuriating. Before I explain why, I’ll let you have a read of the offending Instagram post for yourself:
First of all, on behalf of Christ, I’d like to apologize to all of you for these comments by my well-meaning but over-zealous and ultimately unhelpful Christian brother. I’ll be praying that later on he comes to a full realization of the polarizing nature of his poorly-worded Instagram post and the damage that it does to the credibility of Christians in general.
You’re probably picking up my vibe. I’m not impressed. In fact, I’m angry.
Well, you see I think that in just a few short lines of text, this pastor unwittingly managed to encapsulate much of what is wrong with modern Christianity and the ‘Christian’ church. Let me explain exactly what I mean.
It Leaves No Room for Doubt
The title of this post alone — ‘Things that should not be controversial for Christians’ — by its very nature implies that if I do find any of the above statements controversial, then I must not be a Christian. Unfortunately, on those grounds, I suppose I am excluded — along with plenty of other people — since I find several of his comments controversial.
Essentially, he is saying, “Unless you believe exactly the same things that I do, then you are not a Christian.” The thing is, none of the four supposedly non-controversial “truths” that he espouses are fundamental to Christian faith. Which brings me to my next point:
It is Extra-Biblical
There are certainly some things that should be non-controversial for Christians. For example, if you wish to call yourself a Christian there are a few key tenets of the faith that you must hold to. These might include things like:
- All people have inherent value because they are loved and created by God
- God set the world in motion. He is the creator and instigator of all things
- Christ came to Earth to restore humanity’s broken relationship to the divine
There may be a few more that I would add to the list, if I were doing an exhaustive overview — not many though. The core beliefs of Christianity are remarkably simple.
One thing I know for sure is that you do not need to believe that abortion is wrong on every level in order to be a Christian. You do not have to believe that homosexuality is evil to be a Christian. These kind of comments are nothing but extra-Biblical bluster by an individual feeding his own fears and prejudices.
There was a particular group of people back in Jesus’s day who loved to burden the Jewish faithful with extra-Biblical commands. They were called the Pharisees. By the time Jesus rocked up in human history, the Pharisees had developed a list of over 600 different laws and laws about laws that were all extra-Biblical. As a result, the Pharisees were living out a heartless, cold and arrogant brand of self-righteousness — the kind that looks down on others and judges others, while simultaneously congratulating oneself on having it all together.
As you can imagine, Jesus wasn’t a fan of the Pharisees.
It Demonizes Homosexuality… again!
Of the four supposedly “non-controversial” things that Christians are supposed to believe, I can agree with one: Child trafficking is wrong.
Can I get an “Amen!” to that?
Simultaneously, the fact that a statement about the wrongness of child trafficking features on the same list as a statement about the apparent wrongness of homosexuality is very telling indeed. You would be hard-pressed to find a rational human being anywhere who actually thinks that child trafficking isn’t wrong. It’s a no-brainer. It’s a non-issue.
That is precisely why it is quite insulting to include homosexuality on the same list. No reasonable person — even those who may be morally opposed to homosexuality — would ever consider child trafficking as a comparable ‘sin.’ Demonstrated here, once again, is the homophobic undercurrent that pervades the church.
A study by the Barna group conducted among 16–29 year-olds, asked non-Christians about their perception of Christians. The study explored twenty specific images related to Christianity, including ten favorable and ten unfavorable perceptions. Among young non-Christians, 9 out of the top ten perceptions were negative. 87% of those surveyed said Christians were judgmental, 85% said Christians were hypocritical and 78% said Christians were out of touch. And today, the most common perception of Christians among non-believers is that Christians are anti-gay with 91% of non-Christians saying they believe that Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards homosexuals, and make homosexuality a bigger sin than anything else.
However, there are many Christians — myself included — who not only sympathize with the LGBTIQ+ community, but want to be supportive. Many churches and pastors — including the one who produced this Instagram post — make comments like, “We love and welcome members of the LGBTIQ+ community,” but when you get down to the details, you’ll find that they aren’t actually welcome to participate fully in the life of the church (in leadership positions for example), and are treated as objects of suspicion and scorn, if not overtly, then just beneath a thin veneer of forced niceness and fake smiles.
It Insults People Who Don’t Believe
“God can turn even the hardest of hearts,” this Christian pastor says with great evangelistic fervor in his Instagram post. However, when viewed in the context of this post, this really means: “God can help you arrive at the same ‘truths’ that I have about the definitive sinfulness of certain things, such as abortion and homosexuality.” In fact, according to this pastor, if you don’t believe abortion and homosexuality are sinful then you must have a ‘hard heart.’ This insult is a favorite of Christians who think that their position is the one, true one and that anyone with divergent views is just plain wrong. Which brings me to my next point:
It Says, “I Have a Monopoly on the Truth”
One of the must repugnant attitudes among Christians is the one that says, “I have the truth. You don’t have the truth. You need what I have. You are lost. I am saved. You are walking around in the dark. I am enlightened. You need to learn from me. You have nothing of value to say to me, but what I have to say to you is of infinite value. My understanding of an ancient Jewish manuscript written in a completely different culture, time and context to my own, is the one true and correct one and I will not be told otherwise.”
This Instagram post exudes this attitude to the nth degree. It reeks of a kind of arrogance that is nothing but repulsive. It makes me cringe.
It is Self-Congratulatory
Furthermore, take a moment to appreciate the self-congratulatory tone of this Instagram post. “I am thankful that the grace of God has changed me,” says the author. This is another way of saying, “I’ve got the truth! Hooray for me!”
As for me, the more I know, the more I know I don’t know. Usually, when I start believing that I have all the answers, life — perhaps God even — has a way of showing me that I am in no position to congratulate myself.
It Oversimplifies Complex Issues
Gender identity and sexuality issues are complex. So is abortion. So, maybe Christians ministers ought to be a little bit more circumspect before spouting their uneducated opinions about such matters both on social media and in front of their own congregations.
Blanket statements are rarely helpful. Broad generalizations do not account for the stories of individuals. Oversimplifying complex issues does nobody any favors.
The kind of thinking that reduces everything down to just two options where one is the right way and one is the wrong way is known as dualism. Dualism is essentially binary, either/or thinking. It knows by comparison, opposition, and differentiation. It uses descriptive words like good/evil, black/white, in/out, not realizing there may be a hundred degrees between the two ends of each spectrum.
Dualistic thinking works well for the sake of simplification and conversation, but not for the sake of truth or the immense subtlety of actual personal experience. Or, to put it simply, this kind of thinking takes no account of the individual person which is exactly the opposite approach to that of Jesus Christ.
It Speaks Only of What ‘Christians’ Are Against
Anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-gender theory, anti-this, anti-that. Christians are renowned for everything they are against. But what are we for?
If you’re trying to sell me a car, you’re probably not going to get me to buy it by telling my everything that is wrong with all the other cars and explaining all the thing your car doesn’t have. Just tell me what’s so good about your car and maybe I’ll think about it.
Yet, once again, here is another Instagram post jumping up and down and madly shouting about what Christians are supposedly against — even though these views don’t represent the views of all Christians.
Wouldn’t it be marvelous if Christians were known for everything they stood for, instead of everything they stood against? Wouldn’t it be great if we were known for our love, generosity and grace instead of our bigotry?
It Fails to See its Own Hypocrisy
“I can’t sit back and watch a generation be discipled by social media any longer,” The pastor states while simultaneously failing to see the irony of using his own Instagram account for that very purpose. I guess what he really means is: “I can’t sit back and watch a generation be discipled by a social media account other than mine.”
This statement alone betrays this pastor’s belief that his version of the truth is the right one, and the matter is not up for debate.
It Silences Dissenting Voices
Okay! I admit it. I saw red, and made a comment on the pastor’s post. I shouldn’t have engaged in this kind of pointless keyboard rage, but I couldn’t help myself!
I went ahead and expressed my whole-hearted disagreement with the pastor’s Instagram post on just about every level (I could agree with the fact that child trafficking is wrong, though!). Perhaps I was expecting to have a reasonable dialogue on these matters, if such a thing were even possible on social media.
However, within the hour, my comment was deleted. It turns out, that his rather insecure Christian leader only wants to hear from people who agree with him. Perhaps he needs his ego propped up, or perhaps his position is so intellectually and spiritually flimsy that he was frightened of the scrutiny.
Either way, the silencing of dissenting voices is, regretfully, a typical response in many churches.
You’re Not Doing Christianity Any Favors
Modern Western Christianity already has an image problem without pastors dressing up in double denim, sporting hipster beards and acting like wannabe Instagram influencers for the purpose of spreading their own version of Christianity which looks and sounds suspiciously like religious fundamentalism.
Dear Instagram-posting, double-denim wearing, hipster beard growing, wannabe-influencer, Christian pastor,
If you want to win people to your Christ, then show people through your actions that he actually has the power to change lives, and spare us all your thoughts on abortion, sexuality and gender identity.