Letter from the Editor: Tugging on False Gospel Threads

Possibly the most iconic scene in the 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada is when powerful—and highly intimidating—fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) schools her style-challenged assistant Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) about the industry’s influence on every one of us:

“Oh, ok. I see, you think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select out, oh I don’t know, that lumpy blue sweater, for instance, because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise, it’s not lapis, it’s actually cerulean.

“You’re also blindly unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves St Laurent, wasn’t it, who showed cerulean military jackets? And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic “casual corner” where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and so it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room. From a pile of stuff.”

And what Andy was blind to in matters of fashion, we can be blind to in matters of faith. The things we believe, the theories we hold, the causes we cheer for—those ideas did not start with you or me. Centuries of debate, thought, experience, and practice have shaped how faith is expressed in 2016. Add to that our personal preferences, blind spots, personality bent, and background, and you begin to see that in many ways, the sweater of faith we are wearing has been knit together by many hands.

It is good, therefore, to see the big picture and consider how our faith might have been woven with some threads of heresy.

It is good, therefore, to see the big picture and consider how our faith might have been woven with some threads of heresy. This issue of Christ and Pop Culture Magazine takes a look at a few of these false gospels that shape our notions of prosperity, security, end times, citizenship, finding love, pursuing happiness, and the like.

In “False Promises of the Security Gospel,” Arianne Benedetto shares her struggle to find the most truthful way of consoling her daughter’s fear of ISIS without presenting a false promise of safety:

“At the forefront of my misgivings were these questions: Were we teaching our daughter to hope in the right things? Were we giving her solid ground to stand on? We were essentially telling her she doesn’t need to worry about terrorists because she lives in the United States and loves Jesus. But were either of these assertions patently accurate? And did they overlook other important aspects of the issue worth considering?

“After all, reassurances of ironclad safety don’t square up neatly with real life. U.S. Christians, like all people, experience cancer, auto accidents, and homegrown violence. Neither our U.S. citizenship nor our Christian faith stops that. And what about our Christian brothers and sisters throughout the world who experience heavy persecution and even death, not despite their faith, but because of it?”

Security is a base desire for humans—and all creatures, really. Without the pull, we would place ourselves needlessly in dangerous situations. But security must not be our primary aim; it must not be the deciding factor when other virtues are of greater import. This is, of course, why we must walk by the Spirit, aware of His leading that may take us away from what’s safe because something greater is required.

Our fears play a huge role in how our beliefs work out in our daily lives. This may be why apocalyptical stories have swamped our culture in recent decades. In “The Life and End Times of the Apocalypse,” Dylan Lemert compares the messages of The Leftovers (HBO series), Left Behind (books and films), and the predictions of the late Harold Camping (radio minister with several failed end-of-the-world predictions):

“Both The Leftovers and Left Behind may be mere entertainment, but they nonetheless expertly play into the fears of what a less-populated world would entail. And though each may approach the topic from a different end of the ideological spectrum, there’s a remarkably similar truth which seeks to align both narratives: there’s still hope to be found in the midst of apocalypse. This assurance is especially profound given we live in an era that so often feels as if the end of the world is at our doorstep, that we’re already living in a raptured world, abandoned to face our tribulations alone. What else could explain the misplaced sense of fear constantly being conjured up during this season of political uncertainty? Or the near-daily acts of senseless violence, the weekly outbursts of nationalized racial tension?“

As our world continues to creak and groan under the weight of sin, we can either give in to fear or look ahead to the promise of redemption. Come what may, we know that one day, all that is wrong will be made right. Living in light of that truth, the unbalanced pursuit of security or wealth or patriotism pales. We trust this issue of the magazine will tug on those false gospel threads in ways that purify your faith, come what may.