Misuse of the Christian Label

Card games have been preached against for their association with gambling, and pool tables for their association with alcohol. Bowling can be preached against for both. Starting in Middle-Age Europe as a game called ninepins, it made its way to America and became a gambling attraction, so much so that some states banned bowling with nine pins. Bowlers got around that law by adding a tenth pin in the 1840s and that’s now the standard. It also seems to be the standard that bowling alleys serve alcohol. Well, I’d tell Christians not to enter a bowling alley with the atmosphere of a bar, not to play pool in a bar, or to gamble over any activity. Other than that, Christians are at liberty to enjoy card games, pool and bowling. I’m sure the ones who preach against these activities mean well, but they should know where to draw the line. Otherwise they’re teaching Legalism.

I’m not some radical Christian who jumps on the chance to find something wrong with an activity so that I can preach against it. That’s why it really irks me when I’m labeled radical by people who falsely label themselves Christians. They misuse the Christian label, and it shames me that I’ve done the same. I have mentioned before, and will probably mention again, that I used to be a fake Christian. As much as I hate that I used to be a Satanist, I’m far more ashamed of my phony conversion to Christianity that followed. I was fake before prison, and after I got there I felt good about myself for giving up things that were still always available to me (tobacco and pornography are a couple). But I was still doing things I shouldn’t have been, so I think of my own unrighteous past when I think of all the fakes in prison. I was one of them my first few years, and to bring up my post about Music, all of those fakes I mentioned were in prison with me. Not just the one. Having to live with and around these guys, I could see what they were really about. They had clean consciences because they would always find some moral loophole to justify their ungodly behavior.

Most of the fakes I met in prison were really good people by human standards, but to again repeat something I’ve mentioned before, humanism is not the same as Christianity. The fakes may read the Bible and pray; they may sing in church and clap their hands. But they’re like some of the Jews who did “not [hearken] unto [God’s] words, nor to [His] law, but rejected it” (Jer. 6:19). God told them, “To what purpose cometh here to Me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto Me.” (Jer. 6:20) Their worship was as pointless as the worship of fake Christians today. Even prayer is an abomination when it comes from people who reject God’s laws (Prov. 28:9), so I left a prayer group in one prison where most of the group did things they shouldn’t have and made no effort to change. I don’t take part in “Christian” gatherings where members are insincere. I attended services like that my first years in prison, but no longer would if I was still there. I’d like to add that since there are a limited number of services available for inmates, it frustrated me when a lousy service filled a spot that could have been open for one that was decent.

One prison service I attended had a preacher who actually criticized people for not regularly clapping or saying “Amen” as he preached, and when he didn’t get what he wanted, he’d say, “I wish I had a witness in the house!” Then people would make noise because he expected it of them. It was insincere and served the purpose of pleasing the pastor rather than God. On several occasions he also said, “Some of you act like you’re trying to win the ‘Mannequin of the Year’ award.” He said this to people who participated in the worship that preceded sermons. His complaint was they were quiet when he preached. Yes, sometimes people audibly make it known that they agree with a sermon they’re listening to, but it shouldn’t be expected. One night I had finally had enough of this guy’s behavior that grew more disturbing with time. First he criticized the band members for being quiet when he preached, saying maybe they should be replaced with ones who praise God (or praise the preacher?). Then he asked us to clap our hands for God. Some took it upon themselves to stand up, prompting the preacher to accuse the rest of us of being insincere when we clapped. I decided to go back the next week to ask him about the last service, but he dodged my questions and tried to downplay his comments. I never returned.

I was very pleased with a service I attended in another prison. The preacher didn’t judge people, though some claimed he did. Unlike the other preacher I mentioned, this one didn’t accuse anyone of not being right with God for being quiet during his sermons. What he did do was truthfully tell people they couldn’t be right with God while living like the rest of the world. That message comes straight from the Bible. Fake Christians are exposed by their behavior (Luke 6:43, 44), and having knowledge of the way someone in his service behaved outside of the chapel, he asked that person to quit coming. Not mentioning a name, he said the person had been going to the service for “years and years” and knew who he was. To be sure no one got the wrong idea, he said this wasn’t directed at anyone else. There comes a time when certain people must be removed from a church to keep it pure (I Cor. 5). A church’s body has numerous members with various functions (Rom. 12:4-8), and like the liver and kidneys remove the blood’s impurities from the human body, there should be people who will step up to remove impurities from the church body.

I don’t want to be in a church filled with a bunch of fakes; one with people like the former me. After six months of attendance in a church before prison, I feel I had overstayed my welcome. The truth was taught there and the people were real, so if any of them had found out how I behaved outside of church, they would’ve been justified in giving me an ultimatum: make the decision right now to change your ways, or leave the church. I belonged in one of those churches that are more of a social club than anything else. Sometimes I wonder if “hypocrite” is even the right word to describe the members of those churches. They don’t criticize others for doing the same things they do. Instead they claim it’s okay to live in sin and do what’s right in the eyes of their own version of God. It’s almost as if they’re part of an entirely different religion. Their own pastors shamelessly live in sin and some of them openly admit to watching the blood sport called Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), in which half-naked men and women beat each other up. So the way I see it, participating in one of their church services wouldn’t be much better than praying with Muslims in a mosque.

Many fake Christians claim Jesus is the only way to Heaven, yet they believe in a Jesus who permits them to live like the rest of the world. Muslims also believe in Jesus, but their version of Him is different as well. So I again say that joining some churches wouldn’t be much better than joining a mosque. That’s not saying I have anything personal against Muslims. I’ve met many of them who are really nice people and I respected them, but under no circumstances would I pray with them. They have a different religion with a different version of God. It’s pretty much the same with a lot of today’s churchgoers. They create for themselves a fictitious version of God who is more pleasing in their eyes. Now for the ones who know they’re doing things they shouldn’t and feel guilty about it, them I will pray with, because they at least want to change. (See Luke 18:9-14.) For some, church is like rehab. They’re addicted to certain sins and are unclean, but they admit they have a problem and are seeking help. If that’s you and you want help, don’t go to just any church. Find one that will actually help you change.

Prison exposed me to a multitude of fake Christians, and many were cellies of mine. One of them put a magazine in front of my face that showed partially clothed women, thinking I’d want to see it. When I told him it was lusting to look at that sort of thing, a brief debate ensued that ended with him angrily saying, “I don’t like Christians like you who think everything is bad!” Two others were cellies of mine at the same time in a four-man cell at a lower-security prison. Their behavior was virtually identical to that of my other celly who didn’t claim to be a Christian. All three were nice guys who would help a person in need and they didn’t steal, unlike so many other inmates. But all three listened to the same ungodly music and watched the same filth on TV. So if the two proclaimed Christians were what they said they were, the other one was a Christian without even realizing it. That’s precisely my point. You may label yourself a Christian, but is there something that sets you apart from the rest of the world?

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