Thursday, January 25, 2007

Hidden Truth

"When people who don't regularly attend church think of Christianity, who do they think of?"

That was the question of the night yesterday in the class I am currently attending entitled "Theology and Culture." An interesting list emerged; those of you who read about class two weeks ago will notice that our group is fond of lists. And really, who isn't? This list included:

Joel Oostein
Jim Bakker
Jerry Fallwell
Al Sharpton
Pat Robertson
Billy Graham
Rick Warren
the Pope

I thought of Mel Gibson, Tony Dungy, and anyone running for President.

This opening question led to a discussion on how the media portrays Christians and Christianity. We agreed that Christianity receives less than "mad props," as the kids are saying these days. Mistakes made by prominent Christian leaders are well-documented. The people who "speak for" Christianity are often brash and ungracious. On many issues, the news paints evangelicals as close-minded and intolerant. Whether all of this is deserved or not is for another time.

When we tried to come up with a likeable Christian character on teleivision or in a movie, silence dominated the room. It seems like coniving Catholics and Ned Flanders dominate these arenas.

The cultural powers that be do not seem to maintain a great deal of respect for the followers of Christ.

Rewind: Two weeks ago in this same class, we discussed Christ figures in cinema - basically characters who possessed qualities similar to those of Jesus. John CoffeY (thanks for the edit, Caesar). William Wallace. The old guy from "Lord of the Rings." These characters were all portrayed as heroes for their Christ-like actions.

What's more, movies about Christ rarely ever cast a cynical shadow about him. "The Passion." "The Nativity Story." Even the creators of Monty Python's "Life of Bryan" admitted they toned done their Jesus satire after gaining a respect for his life during their research of it. Very little is said to discredit of the person of Jesus. This stands in stark contrast to what is said about his followers.

The cultural powers that be seem to like Jesus. Jesus is cool.

I think this is partly true because our society has a skewed view of Christ, that he is simply the best social worker that ever lived and was a victim for standing up for his beliefs.

I think this is also partly true because the Bible tells us there is something uniquely powerful about the actual name "Jesus." Try this out: Next time you find yourself in a conversation about God, don't talk about "God" but talk about "Jesus." Watch everyone start to squirm. That's a name with power. Whether acknowledged or not, our culture recognizes there is something different about this name and doesn't want to mess with it.

What all of this reveals is that our culture understands the foundational truths of the Gospel. People hurt themselves and others around them; people are bad - Christians, with Paul admittedly at their head, being foremost among these sinners. Whether or not the media fairly portrays Christians should pale in comparison to the fact that they portray us accurately, as sinners. And no, I haven't sexually assaulted minors or condemned large groups of people like those guys on television. But let me tell you what goes on inside of me, my thoughts, my motivations, my hidden actions. Let me tell you what I'm capable of given certain circumstances.

Conversely, Jesus is good. He is perfectly holy, without flaw, the best of all that is good. Our culture, so often condemned as secuarl and unfriendly towards Christianity, gets this. At least, that's what our televisions and movie screens seem to convey.

Oh, that we would cease to bemoan our cultural image. The points of the Gospel have been plotted. What energy we would have to lovingly create the line segment, showing people the connection between our brokeness and Christ's holiness.


Nicole said...

I've actually seen bumpter stickers that say "I have no problem with God - it's his fan club I can't stand." Kind of the same idea.

Jeff said...

Awesome thoughts Ben.

Tasha said...

Beautifully put! I couldn't have said it better myself! Thanks again for all the great reflections and insights! You want to teach it next time around? :)

MWK said...

Amen...and,thank you.