This means I'm gonna have to watch all season, doesn't it?
One of the contestants on the new season of Survivor (yes, it's still on the air) is a Christian talk radio host. The first episode began with a ceremony at a Buddhist temple, and immediately I said, "there's no way she's gonna do this." Many evangelicals would happily attend such a ceremony without actually worshipping, as a simple sign of respect and politeness, but those are not qualities that get one a job as a talk radio host, and sure enough Leslie walked out after a few minutes.
When Jeff Probst asked her about it, she said, "I'm not a religious person, but I have a relationship with Jesus Christ" totally confounding all the other players, and, no doubt, most of the audience. What you need to know is that evangelicalism today is all about being "not religious." It's a trope that started among the younger, hipper set ("the emerging church," or at least one definition of it) who wanted to distinguish their intense and dynamic personal relationship with Jesus with what they saw as the static and uninspired blandness of "religion" -- that is, mom and dad's church with all its habits and rules and consumer trappings, which had more to do with man than God. The youngsters who first expressed this probably meant it, but by now it's become so entrenched in the language of evangelicals that it's, well, just another habit. If anything, declaring yourself "not religious" is really a way of saying "more religious than you."
The "anti-religion" trope is well illustrated by a series of evangelical parodies of the Mac vs PC ads, which pit a cool "Christ-follower" against a dorky "Christian." The variation embedded here is particularly amusing because it inadvertently reveals how meaningless the trope has become.
It begins with Cool Sweatshirt Guy saying, "Hello, I'm a Christ-follower" and Stuffy Suit Guy saying, "And I'm a Christian." Christian guy then says something about his new "HSHD," to which Christ-Follower dude smirks, "I'm sorry, I don't speak Christianese." It's supposed to be a winning line: Christianese, the evangelical jargon that's pervasive in the church is supposedly anathema to the cool kids. (There's a hilarious glossary in The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right) But it's hard to pull that line off when you've just called yourself a "Christ-follower," which is about as Christianese as it gets. I'm not saying there aren't genuinely cool evangelicals I've met many over the last two years but these ads and Survivor Leslie's calculatedly off-hand description of herself only illustrate that the more some evangelicals think that they can "be cool" in order to "connect" with the rest of us, the more disconnected they sound.