This is the third entry to my current blog series “Survey Of American Christianity” that I am going through. I hope that as we come to the table for thoughts, discussions, and debate, we can come with open minds, loving hearts, and respect for one another. My thoughts are my thoughts and do not represent any church, ministry, or organization I may be affiliated with.
If you feel that you misunderstand anything I have said, please ask me!
The other day I was reading my wife some tweets and facebook posts about how christians were condemning a movie for not being literally accurate to the Bible in every detail and were basically bashing this movie for taking their own stance on how they imagined certain events occurred. I then realized something somewhat profound.
The thought I had that I had never considered before, but once I realized it, everything made sense was this: What if Christians are the reason Christian culture is void of creativity?
Seriously, have you thought about it? I’m sure I’m not the first. I’m probably even behind the times on this. But once I realized this, it made so much sense, and made me very troubled at the same time. Christians spend a lot of time caring about a lot of the wrong things, and not a lot of time caring about stuff that really matters.
Christians these days seem to be known for their boycotting of Biblical movies, their condemnation of homosexuals, and their intense criticism of anyone who disagree with them. If you google Christian criticism of the movie Noah, or the movie Exodus: Gods and Kings, for example, you will see a lot of intense bashing and boycotting that happened in these movies. What was the criticism concerning? Literal accuracy of the Bible. Ok, so maybe there may have been a better way to depict the those angels than rock creatures in Noah, but I still applaud them for using their imaginations. But Christians everywhere condemned this movie because none of that is in the Bible and therefore it must not have happened. But are we really going to say that every detail of every event that happened was recorded in the Bible? Do you have a better explanation for how Noah and his family built a huge Ark out of massive trees without construction equipment to lift, move, cut, and lay all the pieces in the right place? The Bible doesn’t tell us. So unless you use your imagination, you can’t explain it either. We criticize and condemn writers and directors for being creative and attempting to read between the lines to breathe new life into some of these epic stories to reach a new generation of people.
Hillsong came out with a new album a few weeks ago. On this album there is a song that has the line “Even when it hurts like hell, I’ll praise You.” The things I have seen Christians saying on social media about this one line is staggeringly ridiculous. “How dare they use profanity to worship God! MY God would never be ok with that!” Really? You sure about that? Is this even really considered profanity? What makes profanity bad exactly? That’s for another blog post. But for now I’ll focus on the fact that people seem to be quick to jump to defend whatever it is they think they are defending without first examining the thing they are tearing down. The writers have defended the line, and even Hillsong’s pastor Robert Fergusson has defended the line. According to them, all they meant by the line is an honest and raw expression of lament in a time of great pain. They explain that even though through Christ we have victory and have overcome in this life, it doesn’t stop the pain a lot of times, and sometimes it feels like hell has broken into our lives in a great way. They chose to follow suit with the Psalms writers of being unfiltered and honest in their lament, and for that I commend them.
So we jump right into a serious problem in the Christian community that is causing it’s culture to lose touch with the world around them. We all know people like this. Chances are, you probably have been one of these people! So here are some ways in which this happens, and how we can begin to repair the damage caused by our closed-mindedness to change.
We Need To Appreciate Art
We’ve lost what it means to appreciate art. To appreciate art means to allow for someone’s interpretation of something, and acknowledge that we don’t all see something the same way, but appreciating that person’s perspective even if we don’t agree with it. Now, I’m not suggesting we start posting paintings that are inappropriate all throughout your church building, but I’m just saying that maybe we examine what we consider “inappropriate” and make sure it’s a line worth drawing in the sand.
There are plenty of ways we discourage artistic people from being involved in the Church, though. So many churches don’t have a media department. Media allows artistic people that love media to give of their time, resources, and creativity to making any particular church community or message more applicable or relatable to the masses. Sometimes a sermon isn’t enough when communicating a message. In a visually driven culture, we have to concede to the reality that maybe there are other ways of communicating with people than merely speaking.
We often discourage the arts and tell artistic people to get involved in other ways of serving that isn’t their passion, thus burning them out of serving in the Church all together, causing us to lose creative people and become very sterile feeling, like a hospital or a nursing home. But we can change this! Many church communities have already begun to change this, but we still have a ways to go.
Stop Being The One Who Hates Everything
Any time a movie comes out, christians come out saying they hate it and are boycotting it. When anything cultural comes out that challenges or threatens their way of comfort or challenges their own self-righteousness, they come out all guns blazing in a last stand against The Man and try to bring down the world with their misled and misplaced passionate distaste. WE HAVE TO STOP THIS NOW!
When was the last time someone shoved their beliefs, standards, and opinions down your throat and condemned you for disagreeing with them? Probably not very many instances, if never. Yet, this is what Christians do to people all the time. It’s not only NOT an effective way of reaching people with the Gospel, but it’s doing exactly the opposite. We have become that crazy guy on the street screaming obscenities at everyone who walks by.
You don’t have to change your opinion of something. I’m not saying you should just agree with everything and be ok with everything. I’m saying that more often than not, if you don’t have something nice to say, keep it to yourself. We are becoming the religion of hate, and we love and serve the God of Love. Do you see the misconnection?
We Are Alienating Ourselves
No successful organization alienates themselves from everyone else in the world, and yet Christian churches are doing just that. It’s becoming increasingly more embarrassing and demeaning to associate with Christianity in America, and I don’t think that is an accident, or “persecution”, or whatever else you would call it. No, I think more often than not, the problem is us. We started saying certain types of behavior were unacceptable in the Church, and that led to whole people groups being unacceptable in the Church, and now it’s most people groups that are unacceptable.
We will accept you if you play your cards right, make all the right hand movements in worship, dress the right way, speak the right way, and hide just enough of yourself that you seem to have it all together, then just maybe we’ll let you in. If you get really good at this, we might stick you on a leadership team of some sort so you can be an example of how to be fake to everyone else in the hope of everyone else getting on board. Because there’s nothing more authentic and genuine in relationships than being fake and lying to one another about who we are.
I know I’m being somewhat facetious, but do we not do this? All these arbitrary rules and regulations we impose on people. We sound a lot like the people Jesus disagreed with and debated more than we sound like Jesus. And therein lies the problem.
“Cutting our nose off in spite of our face” is the phrase that comes to mind.
So we have to overcome this ever-growing problem of filtering out all the people that threaten our comfortable belief system. Those people are almost always creative people. Creative people LIVE outside the box. They think differently, act differently, dress differently, speak differently, and hate conformity. Creative people can’t stand arbitrary rules. They are repulsed by fake people doing things they don’t believe in. Creative people see beauty in the details and choose to live for them.
The fact is that the church could learn a great deal from creative people and should be accepting them with open arms, as we should with all people. Because we were never called to keep the carpet clean. We were called to love the dirtiest of the people and make them welcome in our house. When we aren’t doing that, we are missing the point of our existence in this world. It’s a harder calling for sure. More expensive even! But it’s really hard because it causes us to die to ourselves and get out of the way so Jesus can continue to love the least of us.
Maybe by getting out of the way and allowing Jesus to use us to love those we have deemed unlovable, we just might be lucky enough to find that we are also on that list. And Jesus loves us too.
This seems like a nice transition into next week’s post. We will be looking at the church adopting many pagan practices and claiming them as their own. It’s good to know where our traditions come from, and you might be surprised to learn where they come from!
Until next Monday…