Don't Be Religulous!
By Jesse Carey
CBN.com Interactive Media Producer
- In the controversial new documentary Religulous (you can read our review of the film next week), talk show host-turned filmmaker Bill Maher attempts to debunk organized religion and has Christianity set in the middle of his crosshairs. Through a series of interviews, Maher tries to show that religion is actually detrimental to society and its leaders are leading the masses astray. But one of the primary criticisms of the docu-comedy has been that some religious viewers felt that the people being interviewed weren’t fully representative of the Church. According to Maher’s own admission, the producers were at times purposefully deceptive to the interview subjects.
Here’s a list of six leaders that should have been interviewed for a film that questions faith. These modern leaders in Christianity are thoughtful, articulate and represent a view of faith that incorporates not only a lifestyle according to scripture, but also one that is oriented to service and reaching others—ideas that are anything but "religulous".
Author, blogger, editor and speaker Mark Galli isn’t your typical evangelical, and he’s not afraid to speak against conventional, mainstream Church trends. His latest book has drawn attention for examining how “mean and wild” Jesus was (you can read my interview with him about the book here). He’s also not afraid to express his concern toward gender roles and spirituality and other discussion-garnering topics on his blog. But unlike some headline-grabbing Christian thinkers, Galli isn’t controversial for the sake of controversy. His ideas are rooted in finding discrepancies in what is biblical and what is accepted, even if that defies modern ideas about the nature of God and the Church.
Also unlike some of his evangelical counterparts, Galli is never combative—instead of locking horns with ideas he disagrees with in pseudo-civil articles about why other people are wrong, Galli engages the ideas and looks at why people think the way they do and examines what the Bible is actually telling us in gracious, never demeaning, prose.
Lauren Winner has the ability to tackle topics that are often seen as taboo in modern culture, while thoughtfully explaining why God’s principles are still relevant. Whether she’s discussing purity and chastity or spiritual searching and the importance of a traditional Sabbath, Winner’s intellectual approach to scripture is written in a way that is both articulate and practical.
And though her academic pedigree is decorated (teaching at Duke Divinity School, with degrees from Columbia and Cambridge), Lauren’s down-to-earth demeanor and writing style expresses deep insights into Christianity while still remaining applicable to everyday faith.
Before you make any judgments on what you may have heard about America’s hipster pastor, watch this clip. Then watch this one. There’s a reason why Rob Bell has been heralded by The Chicago Sun Times as “the next Billy Graham” and has drawn the attention of major news outlets like CNN. He’s deeply engaging, and to hear him talk about faith and scripture is not only challenging, its also deeply compelling.
His video teaching series Nooma has drawn enthusiastic praise from a generation of Christians that have connected with a fresh voice. But Bell has also drawn some criticism for his non-traditional teaching style that welcomes questions and seeks to apply Biblical truth in a modern context. Regardless of his critics (which have somewhat falsely labeled him an “emerging” teacher), Bell has become an influential pastor and represents a scholarly approaching to living a Christian life.
This author, pastor and theologian is best known for his organization Desiring God, which creates free online resources, and those familiar with his writings know why he has become so popular. Piper is able to combine a relatively strict Reformed theological perspective with understandable language and impassioned sermons.
On his volumes of podcasts available on his site DesiringGod.org, you can hear Piper deliver hard-hitting messages that recall early revivalist and Great Awakening preachers. And even though he maintains conservative views on many evangelical issues, Piper’s compassionate demeanor, well thought-out teachings, and his ability to exude confidence without coming across as arrogant, have made him one of the most well-regarded preachers among prominent leaders and average Christians alike.
Though he first rose to prominence after penning the gazillion-selling devotional The Purpose Driven Life, this pastor of Saddleback mega-church in California has become one of the most prominent leaders in evangelicalism. But more than just a popular writer and teacher, Warren has take a proactive role in showing how the Church can make a difference around the world.
Leveraging his prominent name, Warren has led trips to Rwanda where he preaches the gospel, meets with government officials and organizes outreaches to locals suffering from the AIDS crisis.
This election season, Warren also moderated a “Faith Forum” which allowed Christian voters to hear from this year's presidential candidates as to where they stand on issues that matter to them. Warren has been a modern example of how a pastor can not only be an effective teacher, but also a humanitarian and a voice that shapes America's political conversation.
He’s a sought after speaker, and his ideas about urban youth ministry and outreach are ones of profound insight that dissect youth culture, the values of racial diversity and how the Church can meet the needs of the upcoming generation.
His radio show and books show how the Bible not only mandates reaching today’s urban culture, but how it also wants to equip young believers get involved. Efrem Smith’s self-described “hip-hop church” meets young people where they are at, while his service-oriented ministry philosophy seeks to actively plug Christians into projects that serve the communities they are involved in. By understanding the lifestyles—and the challenges—of living in today’s popular cultural, Smith’s ministry represents a unique way of reaching teens, while showing them how can God can make a difference in their lives and their communities.
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Jesse Carey is the Interactive Media Producer for CBN.com. With a background in entertainment and pop-culture writing, he offers his insight on music, movies, TV, trends and current events from a unique perspective that examines what implications the latest news has on Christians.
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