Within Christianity it’s easy to criticize. Here are some of the most common scapegoats:
1) Conservative Fundamentalists
Christianity’s negative public image is — sometimes rightfully — blamed on these people. Perceived as being exclusive, resistant to change, addicted to power, and very aggressive, they’re characterized as anti-women, anti-science, anti-abortion, anti-homosexuality, and anti-evolution.
Ten years ago the top scapegoat would’ve belonged to ‘Progressive Liberals,’ but what a difference a few years make. Despite the dramatic change, we can often be guilty of blaming fundamentalists just as easily and unfairly as they used to blame others.
A Convenient target, we often use them as a punching bag. Many theologians, bloggers, pastors, and leaders have become obsessed with fighting and arguing against fundamentalists, and it ultimately becomes a distraction. It’s so easy to focus on those we disagree with that our entire faith becomes a set of reactions to our opponents instead of a life lived promoting the Gospel of Christ.
2) The Emergent Church
This is the antithesis of Fundamentalism, and many Christians think the Emergent movement is a “spineless faith” that doesn’t believe in absolute truth and accepts every type of theology and cultural change that conflicts with “real” Christianity.
Instead of relying on the pillars of tradition and church doctrine that has guided Christians for thousands of years, they are considered to be superficial postmodern relativists — the ultimate sin. Anyone who has new, challenging, or different ideas is derogatorily labeled as being ‘Emergent’ — even if their beliefs are wholly centered on Christ.
Televangelists embody the image of thieving hucksters who swindle naive people out of their life savings by using cheap sales gimmicks and cheesy late-night cable fundraising shows.
They use hyperbole to spout crazy theories and philosophies, and you can rely on them to make bigoted public statements that cause people to view the Christian faith as fictitious hypocrisy.
In many ways, televangelists represent the dark side of Christian consumerism, where money trumps the message and profits inspire the preacher. When individuals encounter a “Christian” experience poisoned by hidden agendas, the quest for fame, emotional manipulation, exploitation, and financial motives, they quickly become cynical. Televangelists are the manifestation of these horrific qualities.
Blamed for the downfall of Christianity, today’s youth are often seen as lazy spoiled brats addicted to technology, reality TV, fast food, and sex. America has entered the apocalyptic stage of becoming post-Christian, where the Christian faith is witnessing its own fast decline because youth pastors were too busy having pizza parties, sleepovers, and superficial teachings based on entertainment instead of Scripture.
Morals have slipped, biblical knowledge has disappeared, and young people are leaving the church in droves. Therefore, a lot of Christianity’s misfortunes are blamed on them. Their generation supposedly is literally "going to hell.”
In reality, everyone seems to think his or her generation is holier than everyone else’s. And many view today’s young believers as being more authentically focused on following Christ’s example than ever before.
5) Contemporary Christian Music
It’s almost a spiritual right of passage for Christians to peg “CCM” as one of the worst forms of art ever created. For years, believers have complained about Contemporary Christian Music. CCM isn’t just about familiar bands repackaging overused clichés and performing standard songs at megachurches, Bible colleges, and the usual circuit of evangelical music festivals — it embodies the subpar quality of Christian art.
CCM represents the lack of good faith-based music, movies, television, radio, and various other forms of media. Contemporary Christian Music is the unfortunate target that Christians use to rage against mediocrity. Compared with secular society, with a larger marketplace and a wider variety of choices, Christians are frustrated by subpar products meant to glorify an indescribably magnificent God.
In the end, whether we like it or not, ‘Christianity’ is a corporate label with a corporate reputation, and although it’s easy to blame others for our many shortcomings, we should all do our best to emulate the life of Jesus by selflessly serving, sacrificing, and loving the world around us.
Stephen Mattson has written for Relevant, Red Letter Christians and The Burnside Writer's Collective. He graduated from the Moody Bible Institute and is currently on staff at University of Northwestern – St. Paul, Minn. Follow him on Twitter @mikta.
Image: Scapegoat illustration, durantelallera / Shutterstock.com