Always Submit to the Church Administration

Here’s a little video from the Church of Christ (Not That One) recently highlighted by Christian Nightmares and many others:

This achieves that rare feat of being simultaneously charming and creepy as hell. The kids are adorable, gamely attempting to lip-synch along to the ghastly lyrics, which aren’t really in kid-friendly language and thus, one hopes, strike those poor kids as incomprehensible strings of syllables.

Some thoughts:

1. The first thing I thought of watching that video was this:

z1cgz

2. The “Church of Christ” here is not the same as the Churches of Christ — the “restorationist” Protestant denomination known for its a capella singing and for Richard Beck. And it’s not the same as the International Church of Christ, known for its “flirt to convert” outreach efforts and for its insistence that it is not a cult, not at all, definitely not that.

This Church of Christ is the Iglesia ni Cristo — a charismatic denomination that began in the American colony of the Philippines in the early 20th century. Its doctrinal language and statements about the authority of the Bible read much like that of any other white evangelical/fundamentalist group on the charismatic/Pentecostal side of the family. But, as the lyrics of that song reveal, scratch a little deeper and you’ll find some far-out, freaky stuff that it’s hard to refer to as anything other than heresy:

Always submit to the church administration
For they were placed by Lord God to lead his nation
If we obey then we will receive salvation
Sing along with me

So, then, a big scoop of dominionism paired with the belief that salvation depends on unquestioning obedience to authoritarian church administrators, rather than on Jesus Christ. Phew.

3. Of course, the bonkers authoritarian cult stuff and the tomorrow-belongs-to-me dominionism really don’t distinguish this group from many other charismatic/Pentecostal evangelical groups here in the U.S. Just go have a look-see at Charismanews.com and you’ll find endless variations of this same stuff all over their site. List a bunch of statements from the ICC along with a bunch of statements from, say, the International House of Prayer and you’d have a hard time telling them apart. Heck, people from ICC and IHOP would have a hard time telling them apart.

This theology may be wacky, incoherent, anti-biblical, and heretical, but hey — it won in Iowa and came in second in New Hampshire.

4. Given the authoritarian streak in the ICC, would anyone want to bet against the likelihood that some sort of hideous, horrifying sex-abuse scandal is eventually going to blow up in this outfit?

5. The ICC is another example of why the conservative/liberal framework distorts more than it clarifies when we talk about religion and theology. Groups like this get placed on the “conservative” end of that theological spectrum — somewhere out near Bob Jones and Al Mohler and Ken Ham and Michele Bachmann. You’ll find a lot of ideas out there, but you’d have a hard time explaining why any of them should be regarded as theologically conservative.

6. The Iglesia ni Cristo is an example of the kind of two-thirds world Christianity that is often cited as evidence that evangelicalism is a global phenomenon rather than a peculiarly white American invention. That misrepresents what we see in churches like this one. What we see here is simply colonial white evangelical theology reflected back from the colonized.

7. I would very much like to hear a hard-core punk version of this song. And also maybe a K-Pop rendition. Or maybe just Regina Spektor transposing it into a minor key.

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