So, it’s March and that means that Zack Hunt is hosting his annual American Jesus Madness event at his blog. It’s a fun exercise in reviewing the weirdness of American Christianity from the previous year, and some of the matchups are genuinely hilarious.
Given that, I’ve actually filled out a bracket for this year, and I am eagerly awaiting the results. Below I’ll give my projections for the first round of voting. Keep in mind that this is supposed to be a little silly, although I can’t help taking an optimistic “this thing is objectively better than that thing” approach.
Pope Francis vs. Joel Osteen
In a face off between a guy who understands serving the poor and a guy whose smile engulfs small children, I go with the guy who gets the poor every time. Francis fails to understand a lot of things that I care about (particularly women), but in this first round, he’s the no contest winner against Smilin’ Joel.
Pat Robertson vs. The Third Eagle of the Apocalypse
I find both contenders distasteful, so this comes down to a judgment based on pure entertainment value. Robertson is often boring in his absurd pronouncements, but the Third Eagle puts together some pretty sweet Youtube vids. My vote goes to the guy who has the gumption to spread his insanity through the DIY world of Youtube instead of giving in to establishment pressures that come with running a legacy fringe outfit like the 700 Club.
Ken Ham vs. Christians Against Dinosaurs
There’s only one important difference between Ken Ham and these other people I’ve never heard of. Ham’s a charlatan, but at least he’s cool with dinosaurs. Anyone who is cool with dinosaurs, even if they get all of their facts about them totally wrong, is better than anyone who is not cool with dinosaurs. Round goes to Ham.
Saving Christmas vs. God’s Not Dead
There are no real winners in this contest, but if I have to pick one to not lose as bad, I’m going to go with God’s Not Dead. Because Kirk Cameron is an argument against himself.
Yoga pants vs. Christian Men Everywhere
As has been pointed out pretty much everywhere by Christian progressives, evangelical Christianity is obsessed with controlling women’s sexuality. This and the next match demonstrate that explicitly, and it’s tiresome. I choose yoga pants because women shouldn’t have to base their fashion choices on the male gaze (and I hear they’re quite comfy).
Fifty Shades of Grey vs. Christian Women Everywhere
Where the last match was about objectifying women, this one is about shaming women who express any kind of sexual agency. Fifty Shades, from what I understand, kind of fails to uphold women’s right to their own sexuality too, since it’s a story about an abusive relationship more than a story about exploring kink in a safe manner. I’m picking Christian Women Everywhere, because they deserve better.
Jesus Feminists vs. Council on Biblical Manhood And Womanhood
You just can’t get away from women’s issues when it comes to evangelical Christianity in America, because evangelicals are terrible to women. Jesus feminists win, hands down.
Christians On The Internet vs. Christians In Real Life
I honestly don’t know which I would say win in a face off here, just because it’s become more and more apparent over the last few years that cyberspace matters just as much as meatspace in our lives. Since I have to make a call, I’m going with Christians on the Internet, not because I think this group is particularly better or worse than the other, but because I observe most Christians on the internet these days, and that’s where my opinion of the group as a whole is primarily being shaped.
Dave Ramsey vs. Mark 10:21
Jesus said to sell all your possessions and give away your riches in service to the poor. Dave Ramsey says you deserve to be poor if you don’t follow his advice. I like Jesus a lot better than Dave Ramsey.
Chaplain Randy Beckum vs. Christian Patriotism
Beckum made the news recently when he gave a sermon at the university where he works critiquing American Christianity’s preoccupation with warfare and militarism and then was subsequently demoted. For this match, I want to go with Beckum, simply because he echoes something that I’ve always thought was important about maintaining a Christian identity: you can’t let it be subsumed into your national identity. Being Christian is not about being American, and equating the two is only harmful.
Franklin Graham vs. Billy Graham’s Legacy
Franklin Graham wins this round because Billy Graham’s legacy is not as impressive as everyone says it is. He failed to stand up for Civil Rights at the height of his influence, which should be a huge blow against the elder Graham’s reputation. True, he wasn’t actively opposed to the movement in the same way that contemporary evangelicals oppose LGBT and women’s rights, but remaining neutral on an issue of justice is the same as supporting injustice. Franklin Graham is a more vitriolic version of his father, but he isn’t substantially different.
Fox News Christians vs. Liberals, Immigrants, Muslims, The Poor, & The Entire LGBT Community
This one’s a simple case of one of these (sets of) groups is being actively victimized by the other, and the first rule of acting out grace is that you do your best to figure out who the victim is and you stand with them. I go with the Liberal, Immigrant, Muslim, Poor, and LGBT communities.
The Gospel Coalition vs. The Gospel
This one’s just not fair. If you identify as a Christian, then logic dictates that you’ll prioritize the gospel over anything else. Because I believe the gospel is fundamentally liberal in its vision, I think that the Gospel Coalition is wrong, and should fail outright.
Matt Walsh’s Blog Posts vs. John Piper’s Tweets
Walsh’s posts are longer, and therefore contain exponentially more hatred and stupidity. Best to avoid both of these, but for the sake of filling the bracket, Walsh will advance.
Forgiving Mark Driscoll vs. Hating Rob Bell
Forgiveness is hard work, while everyone loves to bring up Rob Bell and how he’s an evangelical apostate because he affirmed Christian universalism in that one book. As much fun as it is for Christians to say that they have forgiven someone like Driscoll, I think the pull of hating on Rob Bell is stronger. I’m also really hoping that Driscoll will fade into obscurity. Hating Rob Bell is the gift that keeps on giving.
Albert Mohler vs. Shane Claiborne
Al Mohler wrote an op-ed last year where he said yea to the death penalty as part of his vision of good Christian governance. Shane Claiborne pushed back, pointing out that violence of any kind, particularly violence that mirrors the unjust punishment that Jesus received on the cross, is counter to the gospel. In a decision between a guy who wants to kill people “responsibly” and a guy who doesn’t want to kill people at all, I have to go with the second guy.