Thursday, March 1, 2012
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
In our most recent discussions, my Bible Study group talked about the relative value of consumable art and how to weigh its redemptive value. There was some disagreement on the subject of satire, which is understandable, because the primary purpose of the genre is to ruffle feathers. Now, I am still not quite sure the matter is settled in my mind, so I will try to explore and explain as best as I can to get a better understanding. Bear in mind that the goal is to get closer to God and live a life pleasing to Him, not to justify the way I already live so I don't have to change.
The question stems mostly from the relative difficulty in distinguishing the difference between a piece of art whose purpose is to expose for rebuke aspects of something (in this case, a method of worship) and one whose purpose is to put down for derision. (Or its negative, one that raises up something preposterous for the sake of looking silly and the ignorance of those who think they are doing right.) I submit two topics whose sources we can only speculate their motive.
On the Genesis album We Can't Dance, there is a track named Jesus He Knows Me. It's a fun tune that is rather irreverent towards televangelists. I don't think that the members of Genesis are Christians, even though their band is named after a book of the Bible. It came in an era of where televangelists, despite whatever good they might have done, earned some irreverent tweaking. Preachers, whether on television or not, definitely depend on requesting money in pursuit of divinely inspired goals, and sometimes they explicitly ask for it. Giving, especially to the church, is a form of worship, so this song is a satire of a fundamental Christian behavior.
Now, looking at something quite different, consider this weekend's Big Game. It seems spiritually innocuous enough; there is nothing sinful about football (thank goodness). Players even pray on field and point towards heaven when they score sometimes. The Super Bowl also represents an unifying American television event that we all share in, even more so than the State of the Union which just occurred last week, so there's a shared experience aspect of this too, sort of leading to an endorsement by societal acceptance. So this event is a rather mainstream and benign happening.
Here's my question -- is there a reason to reject the song? Or sanction the Super Bowl? I think that exposing hypocrisies, failures and inefficiencies in the way we worship, whether done by believers or not, is healthy and necessary for spiritual and societal growth as Christian people. And I think there is no shortage of reasons that the Super Bowl doesn't deserve some sort of derision that is frequently heaped on things that are critical towards Christianity -- the television event itself is an orgy of consumerism, celebration of ego and elevation of storylines that is artificial and self-reinforced: we all accept that this event (and the NFL Season at large) is important because other people thing it is important, and one team will invariably say that nobody respected them. Those complaints, by the way, are not terribly off the mark for outsiders criticizing what we do, either.
On the other hand, you could spin both of those arguments the other way. There are a number of positive messages ingrained in the Super Bowl, from the payoff of hard work, the value of working together, and opportunity to share something exciting with people you care about. Is that sufficient? Does the positive value of the satirical song make up for the clear irreverence intended for people whom, at some level deep down, do have nominally pure motives?
Romans 14:2 is relevant here: "One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on the man who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him." This implies there is some individuality and discretion involved.
It is also important that the valuable message be extracted. Hypocrisy is indeed a problem we face, and Jesus He Knows Me speaks to that. Hearing that song (and by extension, that argument) ought not try to convince us that hope is lost because our leaders are hypocrites. We are all hypocrites. If edification can be seen through the Super Bowl, who am I to say you shouldn't find it?
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Monday, January 17, 2011
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Today's sermon (not up yet but should be soon) kind of talked about the things that get in our way and how we should try to add one thing to our ministry lives, and in my mind, I immediately started making excuses as to why I didn't need to try to do that. "I already do X, Y, and Z with the church, surely that's enough!" Then I immediately felt ridiculous.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
There are a variety of questions these raised, and I will do my best to stay focused. The things with which I am concerned are the issues about Christians presenting themselves to the world and the targeted importance of homosexuality.
I will go in reverse order, as I frequently do. I think that I must acknowledge that there is rather explicit Scripture to describe homosexuality as less than ideal (Mark 10:5-9, Rom 1:24-27, 1 Cor 6:9), to put it charitably. However, there is no shortage of other behaviors, much more socially acceptable, that are fall into similarly explicit categories. That Mark passage is pretty specific about divorce as well; but that is a touchy subject – I myself am a product of divorce: my mom is my dad's second wife. Being irresponsible with your resources is also very clearly considered sinful (Matt 25). Not taking care of “the least of these” is also a direct command from Christ in that chapter.
I could make this list of issues that come up that are not addressed with the same fervor as homosexuality gets in the media and is also explicitly dealt with in the New Testament. That is not to imply that homosexuality is some sort of lesser sin, rather it is to say that there is no distinction between severities of sin. We are all failures to meet God's expectations; that is why Christ came in the first place. I do not think that we should give homosexuals a pass because of this, but abject condemnation does not help – there is no doubt in the public consciousness that there is a disapproval of homosexual behavior by the church at large. If the church speaks out in an effort to help people – not necessarily to 'reform' them, but to really meet their needs on a personal level, whatever they are – then that is different. Telling someone that they are going to Hell is rarely constructive.
Our messages, at least, those to whom the media pay attention, frequently portray negative messages – Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Jerry Fallwell. At least, those are the messages that get to the public. The totality of their message is almost irrelevant if it does not get out, sadly. (There is, after all, a Biblical Mandate to spread the good news. If the dialogue gets hung up on all the kinds of things that Christians disapprove of, then we sound like stodgy grandparents with arms crossed and brows furrowed looking down our horn-rimmed glasses rather than messengers of an Almighty and loving God with the path to salvation out of a dying world, and our message is ultimately discredited.)
I cannot say that I have a great answer to how we should look at some of these behaviors that are considered sinful. The very nature of the Law was that it pointed out that satisfying it was unachievable, demonstrating our need for God in our lives. We all fall short of it. That does not mean we should not try to pursue a life concordant with God's Will, I do think it means we need to use some perspective on the matter, though.
We also need to be aware of the fact that our actions matter. People are watching us, and if our words say “God is love,” but our actions say, “but not for them,” then we fail. We fail each other, we fail the people who need help, and we fail Christ. As it stands, homosexuals are a marginalized segment of society, and those are the very people to whom we are called to reach out, do not forget.
I did not talk specifically about the issues surrounding the two cases I mentioned at the beginning because I do not want this space to be used for political discussion. I do not believe there is Scriptural support for Christians creating a government that enforces rules making it illegal not to be Christian, and is important not to forget that, too.