Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Finger Wagging and Trite Morality


I've been thinking a lot lately about how Christians interact with culture. Two of my favorite movies are Love Actually, and Saved - both have been hammered by Christians. Why? Because Saved makes fun of the whole "Jesus is my personal savior" shallow, and, ironically, judgmental evangelical culture, while Love Actually is replete with bad language and some nudity. These same people will watch Facing the Giants and tell all their friends to do the same. That's odd because the message of Facing the Giants is unChristian! One Christian review site site this: "I saw absolutely nothing offensive to mention. There is no violence at all, other than normal football play. I saw nothing of concern in that. One player was hurt in a game and helped off the field. There is no profanity, no sexual situations, and no scantily-clad or half-dressed people in the movie. It was a good, clean family film; and I recommend it for viewers of all ages." So, Christian theology holds that if you pray hard God will let your football team win and you'll make more money and everyone will love and respect you? Where? In what gospel? Meanwhile, Love Actually presents a profoundly Christian message about the primacy of love - and the many expressions of love.

So, in this context I found this quote from ethicist Christian Smith: "When it comes to the relatively important things in life – basic values and behaviors concerning power, prestige, justice, peace, security, work – most Christians are indistinguishable from the world. Still, Christians know that they should be different from the world in some way, and so in an effort to establish some kind of Christian distinctiveness, attention is focused on the trivial, which by it’s very nature does not require us to make difficult changes in our lives. In the end, it’s entirely okay to be captive to the idols of mass consumerism, as long as we don’t watch R-rated movies; it’s perfectly acceptable to spend our lives pursuing a cozy affluence, as long as we don’t mow our lawn on a Sunday; it’s just fine to live a life completely indifferent to systematic starvation around the world, as long as we don’t drink a beer. We, like the Pharisees, strain out a gnat, but swallow a camel." I tend to agree. How about you?

10 comments:

E-Mail Direct: bjordan@terrelltribune.com said...

I'll take the easy way out and blame it on something simple and then you can teach me if my theory holds any water ... or not.

It's the word "church's" fault. We grow up hearing the word "church this" and "church that." The truth is we don't know what church means.

Am I right or wrong on this? Where Jesus mentioned "church" while he was telling Peter "upon this rock I will build my church ... we've got that all messed up in our heads thanks to the good king's English.

If you take that statement back to a clean Greek translation doesn't it (the word church) mean, "those called out?"

Thanks to good, 'ol English we think Jesus died for an institution. Peter's confession was the foundation for a "called out from the world people" and it still should be today, except we don't ever test ourselves as "called out of the world people." In most cases the test we give is if we are part of the "right" institution.

How'd you get me started on this rampage? You must have been reading my mind today?

Charles North said...

Bill. Thanks for reading. I agree that the word "church" and its interpretations has led to some inconsistent behavior - I'm trying to be nice. What I'll never understand is how people who claim to be followers of Jesus usually act just like the people who wanted him dead!!!

Jennifer said...

I tend to agree also. Sometimes it seems that Christians try so hard to not be like the "un"Christian that we tend to actually be just like the "un"Christian. I used to be offended when a non-church goer would make a statement such as "I don't need to go to church with a bunch of hypocrites. I can worship my Savior just fine at home." I no longer find that statement offensive because now, as I've grown older (and wiser) I have seen that going to church is sometimes a social club. I'm not saying it always is like that, but why go to a church (ANY church)if all you do is socialize? Gossip? Lie? Hurt the ones that are supposed to be your "Brothers and Sisters in Christ". I like to go to church for solace, not for attention or to start gossip or to try to be in a "sorority". I don't believe it matters what the sign on the church building says. If we are Baptists, Church of Christ, Lutheran, Methodists, or whatever we are all brothers and sisters in Christ!!! I have never met anyone (although I'm sure they are out there) who has told me they are on this earth to go to hell. Everyone I know wants to go to Heaven. Who are we to say who is right about this or that? The Bible does speak clearly about right or wrong...it's just stupid human beings that want to interpret the Bible in their own ways and then tell everyone else how wrong they are. As far as I'm concerned there's going to be a lot of people surprised when they reach Heaven. I think we need to quit being so uptight about making sure we, as members of the CoC, don't drink or dance and focus more on what we can offer other people. We need to remember that the Church is the people and as a church we need to live like the Bible tells to live and not be so judgmental on everyone. WE ARE ALL HUMAN AND JESUS WAS TOO!!!

Sorry, I too got on a soap box.

Ryan said...

That Christian Smith quote is one of the best I have read on the subject of modern, Western Christianity. In my view it explains the uninvolved, ineffective Christians and churches we see today.

Charles North said...

You guys are going to like my next post - "The Tyranny of the Tiny." BTW, did you notice the picture is of Ted Haggard? - winner of the hypocrite of the year award! What do you say Ray?

Mike Holder said...

All of you make great points. I have been on a soap box for a while now regarding how we all to often fall into the trap of spreading the "gospel of the church" not the Gospel of Jesus. By the way the gospel of the church is different for me because my church doesn't agree with your church. If you look like me, think like me, act like me, you can share in my church's gospel. It is difficult for me to get my head around this whole issue sometimes because as you spoke about a couple of weeks ago Charles, we should love the church and I do. There are so many good things about a body of believers who come together as family. It just saddens me that we blur the lines so much between what we teach as truth and what Jesus taught as truth. The saddest part for me though is when we draw our box so small and finite that our gospel becomes exclusionary. That in no way conforms to the Gospel of Jesus as I see it.

Jason h said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ray said...

Sorry Charles, I am on the road in Canada, so I am a bit late on my response.

Yes, you are absolutely right -- I am always surprised when people react in horror to someone practicing Christian liberty (to use your example; enjoying a glass of wine etc.)

American Christianity is generally a politicized, socialized practice, ofttimes devoid of deep, meaningful thought.

I am going through Ronald Sider's book -- 'Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger -- Moving from Affluence to Generosity' with the youth at church.

He really challenges the entire mentality of affluence that has so infected and affected the church. We will wear WWJD bracelets, and glue fish on our car, but our lives are virtually indistinguishable from the world! Sad...

And the saddest part -- it starts in the pulpit -- pastors are as guilty as anyone...

Charles Sean North said...

I have just read the Sider book - it was the hardest thing I've ever read. Really convicting! What got me thinking about all this was something that happened to me last year. I was out bike riding when a woman pulled out in front of me, almost knocking me over. I yelled something, and she gave me the dirtiest look! Then I noticed the Jesus fish and "Bush-Cheney 04" stickers on her car!

Bill Jordan said...

You've got to watch those Bush - Cheney types. They paid for their half of the the highway and it's generally the half you are on.