If on Tuesday, February 5th  you happened to be at the mall at the same time as my family you would perhaps notice that we are all decked out with shirts and hats from the latest Super Bowl in Glendale, Arizona. Perhaps you might even say to yourself, “Lucky dogs they got to go to the Super Bowl. It must be nice to have that kind of money.”

That’s perception.

Reality? My sister, who lives in Arizona, arrived yesterday for a visit. Her flight from Phoenix to Chicago was rescheduled, so she had a lot of time on her hands. So,my sister, doing what she LOVES to do, shopped the Airport stores looking for gifts for each of us. We all now own a hat or shirt that advertises the Super Bowl game that will take place on February 3rd in Glendale, Arizona. The hats and shirts will be the closest we ever get to a Super Bowl.

As you can see there is a big difference between the perception of the first paragraph and the reality of the second.

In Evangelicalism, perception IS reality. It doesn’t matter what you believe. Truth doesn’t matter. What others perceive your truth to be….that is what matters. It is quite common in Evangelicalism to tar other people with labels like heretic or declare people deniers of the gospel. It doesn’t matter what the truth is. All that matters is what the critic percevies the truth to  be. When challenged about their false perceptions, the critic attempts to sidestep the issue by playing the guilt by association game.

The guilt by association game works like this: “You have a link on your website to Rob Bell, Donald Miller, Brian, McLaren, Billy Graham, etc so you must be ___________________.” (fill in the blank with perceived judgment)  If you drink or smoke or do any of the things perceived as wrong by the morality police then you are jusged as  worldly or even unsaved. If something is perceived to be worldly then it is worldly. Truth doesn’t matter.

For all the blather in many Evangelical circles about truth, I am not convinced truth really matters. It is all about perception. I have been accused several times of denying or compromising the gospel. Never mind the fact that  NO proof for that assertion exists. In fact, I will give someone a 100.00 if they can show one instance where I deny the gospel. I figure that 100.00 is never going to leave my bank account. But, truth doesn’t matter. I defend Rob Bell, and Rob Bell denies the gospel, so I am guilty by association. (and BTW, I do not believe Rob Bell denies the gospel.)

Years ago, I preached in a little Baptist Church in Utica, Ohio. When it came time to collect the offering the pastor put a blank, folded piece of paper in the offering plate. He told me afterward, that it was important for  Church members to “see” (perception) him giving, so when he didn’t have anything to give, he put in a blank piece of paper. Once again, it is all about  perception.

Sometimes, I wonder how much of my Christian life is built on perception rather than reality. As a minister, I learned quickly how to act the part of a super-spiritual Christian.  Reality didn’t matter. All that mattered is that people perceived their minister to be a “man of gawd”.

I wonder if our Churches could really handle reality? Honest, open, confrontational, loving reality.

Your thoughts?

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This entry was posted on Friday, February 1st, 2008 at 12:11 pm and is filed under Church and Society. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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8 Comments(+Add)

1   iggy    http://wordofmouthministries.blogspot.com/
February 1st, 2008 at 12:46 pm

Bruce!

I had to laugh as i read this. I was for almost a year under attacks from people who stated I was not saved or whatever else for having links to Brian Mclaren.

I remember also not having any money to “tithe” and putting in blank envelopes so i would not be embarrassed and having the Pastor actually encourage it.

I see God wants us to be genuine and not fake… to live lives of authenticity and not “cover” things to make us look better.

It is not the easy way at all… but I am more free than when I used to try to “appear” perfect.

iggy

2   Jeff    
February 1st, 2008 at 1:17 pm

If you deny the TULIP “Doctrines of Grace,” you deny the Gospel.

Pay up.

3   Jeff    
February 1st, 2008 at 1:18 pm

I typed on my previous post but it didn’t show up. Just want to be clear.

4   Jeff    
February 1st, 2008 at 1:20 pm

This is weird. Let’s try it a 3rd time…

I am using sarcasm in my first post.

5   Bruce    http://www.gerencser.net
February 1st, 2008 at 1:41 pm

Jeff,

I understood your sarcasm. :)

Now if someone believes calvinism=the gospel then I AM a heretic. But, if we stick the basic gospel declaration of the gospel and Acts………..I am on pretty solid ground.

Jesus Saves.

Bruce

6   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
February 1st, 2008 at 1:48 pm

Welcome, Bruce! Excellent article :)

7   Phil Miller    http://veritasfellowship.blogspot.com
February 1st, 2008 at 2:05 pm

Bruce,
I agree, excellent post.

I have run into these situations as well. One time I got somewhat in trouble for posting a response on my senior pastor’s blog in response to a young earther attacking Hugh Ross. Someone from the congregation saw my response, freaked out, and of course started telling the pastor how much of a heretic I was.

Now the pastor wasn’t mad at or didn’t even disagree with me, but he deleted the comment just to make the issue go away. So in reality, what people thought I believed was more important than what I actually believe. It’s just weird.

This is why I have problems with churches having details statements of faith and “official” positions on every issue. Rather than encourage actual discussion on these issues, it just pushes them below the surface and makes members afraid to show their true selves. They, in essence, do the exact opposite of what they’re supposed to do.

8   Joe C    http://www.joe4gzus.blogspot.com
February 1st, 2008 at 4:32 pm

YOU WENT TO THE SUPER BOWL!!??!?! MANN!!!

DID MY PATRIOTS WIN!?!?