“But That’s Boring, Mr. Kowalski!” — A Critique of Pop Christianity

By David Kowalski

Bored StudentLong, long ago, when I taught high school students, I heard the refrain in the title more times than I care to remember. Students seemed to judge classroom activity primarily by how fun it was. My stock response was, “I’m not here to entertain you. I’m here to help you.”

It was not always easy to make such essential things as subject-verb agreement seem exciting. One can never judge something’s value by how delightful and enthralling it is. I have never found owner’s manuals fun to read but they are still very important reading. Comic strips are fun but not important.

Mass media has brought many advantages to us but it has also weakened us in some ways. Pop culture has only a little room for the discipline of thinking. If political pundits want a large audience they learn to blend their thoughts with entertainment (consider Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Rush Limbaugh).

The quick-paced world of the internet tends to bring out the sophomore in us all. News stories should be readable in a minute or less. What gets the most attention is gossip and idle chit-chat. Pop culture feeds on intellectual candy but won’t eat its broccoli.

Christians are largely products of their environment. The kind of lengthy, thoughtful sermons one would hear in the 18th and 19th centuries would find no audience in the 21st. Real preaching is on the decline in our day. Discernment no longer involves the boring process of hard thinking.

We tend to judge teachings by how good they make us feel. We agree with the song that says (in a different context), “It can’t be wrong when it feels so right.” The question becomes for us not whether we agree with a teaching so much as whether or not we like it. Sermons are evaluated by how much we enjoy them.

It is amazing how frequently things that are called disagreements prove, upon examination, to be simple dislike. “I don’t agree with you” often means nothing more than “I don’t like what you say.”…People either like things or they don’t like them and would rather avoid the real labor of thinking. The have had so little practice in it that they are quite unable to distinguish between reason and personal preference. – Elisabeth Elliot

As a Pentecostal, I would hasten to add that real Christianity often feels good because it is a delight to have a real relationship with the Lord. Still, God gave us intellect as surely as He gave us emotions, and emotions are notoriously unreliable sources of truth. In this postmodern era we need more than ever to become freshly acquainted with the notion of objective truth — truth that is true regardless of how we feel about it.

Feelings are great but truth is even better. It is like honey to those who understand.

How sweet are Your words to my taste!
Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
From Your precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way. (Psalm 119:103-104 NASB)

It is not feeling blessed that sets us free, it is knowing the truth:

And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. (John 8:32 NASB)

Pop Christianity is in sore need of maturity.

As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ. (Ephesians 4:14-15 NASB)

Sadly, I still hear the refrain from my days as a teacher, only now it is worse, “But that’s boring, Mr. Jesus!”

© Copyright 2013, David Kowalski. All rights reserved. Links to this post are encouraged. Do not repost or republish without permission.

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This post was last updated: Feb. 7, 2013