More Cowbell VII!


Gene, give that sucker a whack for me, eh?Cerulean Sanctum’s More Cowbell Award,  given to the most ridiculous aspects of “Christian” practice, has not been handed out since October 2007, and since “time may be running out,” I better bestow another while I still can.

I start this seventh award by asking, Has there ever been a more bloodthirsty, demon-driven culture than the Maya?

The Maya of Mesoamerica practiced ritualized slayings of enemies and willing victims as part of a large number of religious festivals. These sacrificial victims often had their hearts carved out of their chests while still alive. The Mayan gods were animistic demons to whom the Maya offered perverted blood sacrifices, a complete corruption of the one genuine blood sacrifice that truly mattered, that of Jesus.

Oh, and then there’s that wacky Mayan calendar. You know, the one famously set to run out of time at the end of 2012.

So how is this a Cerulean Sanctum post, you ask.

Well, if you’re like me, you’ve received spam from supposedly Christian sources attempting to link the lack of a 2013 in the Mayan calendar with the Second Coming of Christ. Yes, indeed, June 2009 marks 3½ years before the end of that calendar. And we all know how the numbers 3½ and 7 figure into speculation about Christ’s return.

Jesus, however, said this:

“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. ”
—Mark 13:32-33

You know, I take that as pretty authoritative, as it comes from the mouth of Jesus. Yet there are “Christians” out there who are willing to state that the heart-extracting, demon-worshipping Mayans have got one up on the Lord of All. With all apologies to the original lyricist of the classic children’s song, those folks seem to be singing, “Jesus may not truly know, but the Maya tell us so.”

Good grief.

But before we set to stoning the New Age syncretists behind this “Mayan Calendar Predicts Jesus’ Return” garbage, need I remind anyone of a couple sets of dates:


Rosh Hashanah,  September 1988

The first was the “magic number” trotted out by a bunch of charismaniacs. We all know from the Bible that 7 is a blessed number, so let’s all go crazy and predict that Jesus will come back on a day filled with that number. All I can say in response is that the Rapture must’ve been really, really small, and not too many of us passed muster, apparently.

Now I’m generally a contrarian, but even I was struck by how many sane Christians  decided to spend the entire day of July 7, 2007, praying. A fine endeavor on its own, yes, but let’s get real about why they were doing it. And if they were doing it for that reason, they were doing it wrong.

As to the second date, I was working in a Christian bookstore when the infamous 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be  in 1988 came out. I urged the owners of the store to send the book back to the distributor. They didn’t listen. I didn’t last too long at that store afterwards.

That summer of 1988, I worked at a Christian camp. Everyone was talking about the book. A lot of the young, Evangelical staff wondered if they would be raptured as virgins, thus missing out on the be all and end all of life. Evidently, the senior class of Cedarville Bible College (not too far away from where I live) thought the same thing, but they remedied their fear the old fashioned way: by marrying in droves before that second week in September. (I’ve always wondered how many of those couples are still together.)

I know people may not remember this, but earnest believers, especially in the Bible Belt, sold their houses, stock, and all manner of goods just so they could be unencumbered when that decisive week in September 1988 rolled around.  Some went so far as to euthanize their pets  so that Muffin and Bowser—who, being soulless beasts, would not be raptured—didn’t wind up as  animal sacrifices atop the altars of millions of Satanists who would be left behind.

You may laugh, but I’m not joking. I have no doubts that a few folks reading this are saying to themselves, Yeah, I was one of those fruitcakes.

I’d blame the false prophets behind this kind of stuff ordinarily, but they only pander to the crowd.

So this More Cowbell Award instead goes to

People who listen to lying prophets about the date for the Rapture.

I mean, this is a no brainer, folks. This doesn’t require any major spiritual discernment when Mark 13:32-33 exists in every Bible I’ve ever read.

Why not try this instead: Live every day as if Jesus was coming back tomorrow.

Sound good?

Word of warning: If no posts show up here after today, you’ll know I was done in by a shadowy cabal of book publishers who make a bazillion dollars off Christians by marketing  according to the old adage There’s a sucker born every minute.

Or I was raptured.


More Cowbell VI!


A few months ago, I realized I hadn’t done a More Cowbell Award in a year. For those who don’t remember “The Award No One Wants to Win,” I instituted it a few years back to poke fun at some of the outright lunacy and kitsch that shows up from time to time in the American Church.

I’ve not awarded a More Cowbell in ages because some parody sites like Lark News have cropped up in recent years, I've got a fever...stealing the thunder.

So, it comes as a surprise that I stumbled across a New York Times article that could’ve doubled for a Lark New posting. The more I read, the more I had to keep pinching myself to see if I was dreaming. This. Could. Not. Be. True.

Or could it?

Long ago, churches used to concern themselves with ensuring a young man wins a halo and takes his place among the ranks of saints.

Today, churches concern themselves with ensuring a young man wins at Halo 3 and takes his place among the ranks of survivors.

And here’s the intro from the Grey Lady’s article “Thou Shalt Not Kill, Except in a Popular Videogame at Church

First the percussive sounds of sniper fire and the thrill of the kill. Then the gospel of peace.

Across the country, hundreds of ministers and pastors desperate to reach young congregants have drawn concern and criticism through their use of an unusual recruiting tool: the immersive and violent videogame Halo.

The latest iteration of the immensely popular space epic, Halo 3, was released nearly two weeks ago by Microsoft and has already passed $300 million in sales.

Those buying it must be 17 years old, given it is rated M for mature audiences. But that has not prevented leaders at churches and youth centers across Protestant denominations, including evangelical churches that have cautioned against violent entertainment, from holding heavily attended Halo nights and stocking their centers with multiple game consoles so dozens of teenagers can flock around big-screen televisions and shoot it out.

The alliance of popular culture and evangelism is challenging churches much as bingo games did in the 1960s. And the question fits into a rich debate about how far churches should go to reach young people.

Far from being defensive, church leaders who support Halo — despite its “thou shalt kill credo — celebrate it as a modern and sometimes singularly effective tool. It is crucial, they say, to reach the elusive audience of boys and young men.

There you have it: the natural outcome of “Wild at Heart”-style men’s ministry.

Honestly, I’m speechless. Read the whole article and I think you will be, too.

Doesn’t that read like a Lark News or The Onion article? Seriously. We Christians don’t need the parodies anymore, we ARE the parodies! I usually yuck it up on a More Cowbell post, but heck, I’m finding it hard to be funny right now.

Why did I want to go to youth group when I was a teen? Because I wanted to know more about Jesus. And even if there were a few kids in the youth group who didn’t give two hoots about Jesus, they at least showed up to be with their friends.

Now, it seems that not only is Jesus not all that attractive on His own, but today’s teens aren’t all that interested in hanging out with their friends, either—unless their friends can offer up some Rated M videogame. (The point of the game being, eerily enough, to kill “invaders” from a religious group called “The Covenant.” Hmmm…)

So now you’ve got youth ministers saying, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

You know, for once, I’m speechless. Nothing I can say from here on will add to the conversation.

So I award this More Cowbell to

Ministries That Think Anything Goes

As Long As That Anything Puts Butts in Seats.

I’m just waiting till some men’s ministry hires strippers to dance on poles on either side of the altar. That’ll draw ’em in like flies!

Actually, I won’t be waiting. I’ll be down in my fallout shelter, checking the supplies…

More Cowbell Award V


More Cowbell!I don’t normally begin a week with a More Cowbell Award, but I spent most of last week ruminating on the topic, then spoke to someone who totally agreed with the need to give out an award for this. So the award that no one wants to win returns to smiting duties.

For those following the scorecard, the More Cowbell Award is Cerulean Sanctum’s virtual stoning of stupid, vacuous, and over-the-top trends in modern American Christianity. Previous More Cowbell Awards have gone to the Church Growth Movement, children’s choirs in adult CCM, Christian conspiracy theorists, and Christian adware.

What makes this fifth edition of the More Cowbell Award so unusual is that I have nothing funny to say about the award recipients. Truth is, I’m continually appalled by them. Worse yet, I don’t read a lot of Godbloggers blogging about this issue. And unlike some other More Cowbell Awards, I have professional training and experience that may actually qualify me (GASP!) to speak on the subject.

And what would that subject be?

Well, this More Cowbell Award is given to that sound and fury that signifies nothing, yet is remarkably prevalent in our churches on Sunday, and well known throughout the summer. In other words, the fifth installment of the More Cowbell Award is presented to

Children’s Christian Education Programs
(including Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and Summer Camp)

Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Let’s face it: most Christian education programs for kids are little more than babysitting functions wrapped in a Christianized veneer ultimately devoid of the Gospel message.

I don’t know the people designing the curricula used to teach kids about Christ, but all I can say is those folks are doing a horrendous disservice to the parents of those kids and the kids themselves. I used to design curricula for camps and was routinely horrified at the assumptions the curricula designers made about a child’s eternal state.

Somehow we’ve created this sheen about kids that says that all of them are flesh-and-blood Precious Moments figurines. That bedrock assumption fuels almost all learning materials aimed at little kids. But here’s the truth: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Unless someone is born again, they have no relationship with God. Yet all of the Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and Summer Camp curricula I’ve ever come across overlooked that truth and naturally assumed that somehow every kid got magically saved by little fairy evangelists that hovered around their pillows for ten years and whispered the Gospel in their ears.

Is there anything more tragic than a kid who’s heard every “Bible story” in the world, but never once got a real Gospel presentation aimed at their age group? By the time they’re teens, I suspect most kids can recite the stories of David & Goliath, Moses & The Burning Bush, Joseph & His Coat of Many Colors, and any other “X & Y” story we can give them each Sunday, but they don’t know the Lord and they have no idea how to be saved.

Some reading this will yell, “Well, where are the parents?” and that’s a great point. But on the other hand, the parents are assuming their child is getting a “Christian Education” from “Christian Educators,” only to find out too late that this education never went beyond the crayoned picture their child brought home captioned with the message, “God made a rainbow!” God made a hell, too, and we certainly don’t want anyone to end up there.

Too harsh? I think we parents need to get more harsh. Yes, a child may get the Gospel message at home, but until it sinks in and makes a difference in his or her life, I don’t think we should encourage Christian educators to waste time on “Jesus wants me to be good” stuff that has no effect on an unregenerate soul.

When I worked in Christian Camping I automatically tossed all the curricula the camp gave me and went back to a clear presentation of our sin nature, our separation from God, our eternal destiny, Christ’s atoning work, and our need to die at the cross in order to be born again. Anything else was gravy, but at least the kids got the basis of the Gospel.

While we’re at it, let’s also clarify that “Ashley, did you ask Jesus into your heart?” coupled with little Ashley’s head nod does not equate to knowing that Ashley is born again. In fact, what’s the deal in so many churches with cajoling kids into asking Jesus into their hearts? My Bible doesn’t list that as being the mechanism for salvation. We know what the Bible says about leading a little one astray, don’t we? Well, evidently not.

Is it any wonder that 85% of kids drift away from church between the ages of thirteen and sixteen? They’ve been David & Goliath’ed and Noah’s Ark’ed to death, but they never heard about their own need to die at the cross and be born again. Again, am I being too harsh? Well, I double-dog dare you to find any presentation of the Gospel in this popular VBS program. Evidently, asking teens how they feel about Ashton Kutcher is more important than being saved and growing in knowledge of Jesus Christ.

I’m disgusted by the throwaway junk I see kids coming home with from Sunday School. Makes me sick to see the content of the typical VBS program. And don’t get me going on the stuff they teach kids at camp.

Am I the only one that feels this way? I guess I am, because I see little uproar from parents over the vapid Christian education their kids are getting outside the home.