PhonyFaith.com: Takin’ ’em down from the inside?

Yesterday afternoon I was part of a six-legged beast traipsing past a middle school driveway when one of our two heads noticed a real-estate-style sign that looed very much like this:

phonyfaith.com

Naturally I was curious. Would the site turn out to be run by proponents of one religion ripping into another? Godless sorts mocking belief in general? Something not related to religion at all?
In fact, as I discovered when visiting the page, all three qualities apply to some extent. This is a new site created locally to promote something called the Next Level Church; the “church” itself is actually a Regal Cinemas located about ten miles from where live, and the people who run the site maintain a physical office about a mile from where I saw the sign.
If you watch the video, you’ll see a young man explaining in genial terms that most people who call themselves Christians are actually full of shit and that their personal baggage leads them to behave toward others in ways that Jesus Christ himself would have found wanting. From the front page:

Do you feel like Christians are hypocrites? Has the way that Christians have acted around you caused you to distrust God? If so, we don’t blame you! But we have good news for you: the actions of Christians do not define God.
Next Level Church invites you to join us as we remove the phony from “phony faith” and celebrate the real & secure life that Jesus Christ intends each of us to live.

I’m not curious enough to go see the film presentation in two weeks, but the manifest irreverence of the people behind NLC got me thinking that the whole colossal atheist-fundagelical Christian culture war is just a red herring thrown into play by Satan, who enjoys a worldwide, drawn-out pissing contest almost as much as his former employer, and that the end of Christianity as it exists today–a too-influential and often mind-squashing cult-beast–might be brought about not by noisy godless people and science proponenent, but by increasing numbers of younger people who perhaps fornicate, masturbate, cohabitate, accept evolution, are openly gay, are pro-choice, and otherwise sin with aplomb, but call themselves followers of Christ. (I hasten to say that I don’t know that the Next Level Church folks do any of these things, of course; it’s just a thought.)
If “Christianity” undergoes a large-scale internal redefinition as evil dinosaurs like James Dobson and Pat Robertson die off and their replacements lose their influence, and more and more people happy to call themselves Christians are just as amused and put off by the wackanutty hysterical propaganda flung around by groups and outlets like WorldNet Daily and the AFA, Christianity might someday in the reasonably near future be something of an indulgence for joiner types looking to socialize rather than carve out a rigid identity and agitate against progress.

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  1. #1 by Martin on March 31, 2009 - 3:00 pm

    The website indicates that Next Level Church is affiliated with the Association of Related Churches (ARC). ARC appears to exist solely to create churches that appeal to younger people and people who are disenchanted with more traditional worship practices.
    NLC’s statement of faith, which is identical to ARC’s, indicates that their core beliefs include Biblical inerrancy, Christianity (their version) as the only source of grace and/or salvation, and the damnation of all unbelievers. On both the NLC’s site and ARC’s website, I saw no sign of women in leadership positions.
    From here, it just looks like a glitzy repackaging of standard-issue conservative evangelical fundamentalism.

  2. #2 by J-Dog on March 31, 2009 - 3:24 pm

    Martin -Thanks for doing the research. Based on your report, it seems that what they are really all about is geting the credulous to send money to them, not “those other guys”. They should know that The One True Faith(TM) is The First Church Of J-Dog, and if they want E-ternal Sal-Vation(TM) they need to send all their money to The First Church Of J-Dog. ASAP

  3. #3 by kster on March 31, 2009 - 6:26 pm

    Hm…I saw this sign in my travels the other day as well, looked it up and drew the same conclusions as you. The “services” at the cinema is also about 10 miles from where I live…could it be that we are neighbors?

  4. #4 by Julie on March 31, 2009 - 6:45 pm

    I know more than one fornicating, masturbating, gay supporting, etc. Christian. Unfortunately, they’re not the noisy ones. But there are lots of them out there and, even though I privately think they’re nuts for believing in an invisible man who lives in a magical castle in the sky, they’re generally good people.
    I dock the Next Level Church five points for improper use of the ampersand.

  5. #5 by Jim Fiore on March 31, 2009 - 7:30 pm

    The One True Faith(TM) is The First Church Of J-Dog
    More importantly, the First Church of The One True Snack (TM) is headed by yours truly. You can read all about it here:
    http://www.vdrums.com/forum/showthread.php?t=47258

  6. #6 by Crudely Wrott on March 31, 2009 - 11:08 pm

    Another plain example that evolution is not limited to biology.
    Point of fact, humans are capable of morphing their stated positions faster than E. coli can morph to resist the latest antibiotic.
    This new church is not surprising. They follow a well beaten path.
    Self aggrandizement in the guise of piety, or compassion, or revelation.
    ‘Course, by now, I don’t throw up any more when idiots proclaim such silly shit.

  7. #7 by Dunc on April 3, 2009 - 7:58 am

    hey should know that The One True Faith(TM) is The First Church Of J-Dog, and if they want E-ternal Sal-Vation(TM) they need to send all their money to The First Church Of J-Dog.

    But do you promise eternal salvation or TRIPLE your money back?
    I’m sticking with Bob, thanks.
    On a more serious note, “Christianity” has pretty much always been undergoing multiple simultaneous internal large-scale redefinitions. That’s how we got to where we are now, and I don’t see a continuation of that resulting in dramatically different outcomes.

  8. #8 by R Ripley on April 9, 2009 - 9:40 pm

    Next Level Church takes fresh, bold steps to bring the news of salvation through Jesus Christ to an imperfect world.
    If not for the “beaten path” that Jesus laid down,from his birth in Bethlehem to his death on the cross at Calvary, all would be condemned. More souls should trod this beaten path.
    NLC offers a non-threatening, non-judgemental way for everyone to hear God’s word and receive salvation.
    I invite you all to come to Next Level Church Easter Sunday and experience it for yourselves. You may even become a follower of the One that cleared the path for you.

  9. #9 by Kevin Beck on April 9, 2009 - 10:49 pm

    R Ripley,
    That all sounds great except for the fact that it makes no sense to me whatsoever. I guess that’s my flaw for not believing in the divinity of a largely ahistorical character. I’m beaten from the get-go.
    It’s Easter this weekend? Shit, it was bad enough that I was unaware of Opening Day.

  10. #10 by Jim Fiore on April 10, 2009 - 9:17 am

    Path clearing? Don’t tell me about path clearing. I cleared a half mile path through the woods around my house last year.
    It’s a pretty nice path, complete with three bridges over the creek, but it’s not particularly “beaten”. It’s also non-judgmental and non-threatening (unless you happen to have a fear of ferns or maples), but I don’t make outlandish claims for it regarding “salvation”. It seems to me that there’s nothing quite so lucrative as selling a product you don’t actually have to deliver. In contrast, I imagine that a regular application of speedy loops around my path would be good for your aerobic and muscular-skeletal systems, and that’s something you can bank on.

  11. #11 by Rev. BigDumbChimp on April 10, 2009 - 1:57 pm

    You may even become a follower of the One that cleared the path for you.

    The Incredible Hulk?

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