Archive for August 30th, 2007

ya know, when I first started interacting with the ODMs I really could understand their logic behind what they were doing. It’s the basic idea that certain key leaders (ie. Bell, McManus, McLaren) were leading large groups of people astray and so they felt they needed to publicly address the epidemic on a large and international scale. I understood their logic, but obviously completely disagreed with what they believed or how they did it. Well, now I am reading more and more articles that have nothing to do with key leaders in the church, but small hometown churches that they disagree with. These websites are turning from a pharasee supreme court to a full blown witch hunt. Sometimes I wonder how many websites they have to go thru in order to make their headline quota for the day. It doesn’t matter how small or uninfluential the ministry or minister is. If they can comb through the web and find it, they are their next Christian human sacrifice on the web. And then when they are called on the carpet by a big name publication like Christianity Today, they write article after article in an attempt to defend their ways.

So I suggest two things:

  1. pray for these small churches that are doing innovative things with the timeless message of Jesus Christ. Pray that they would find their success and identity in Jesus Christ and that attempts to stop their ministry would be hindered
  2. write these pastors. These ODMs usually post the websites of these churches to make an example of them. Turn a wrong into a right and email the staff an encouraging thought. I cannot tell you how many times I have done this and started meaningful relationships with pastors all over the world
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OK, over at Pyro a commentor mused about writing a top ten list about when you know your pastor isn’t called. You know, just to lighten up for a minute. None of you know this but my mother was a stand up comedienne. So sometimes I just can’t help it. 

10. He doesn’t agree with you
9. He cheats at golf
8. He thinks “Pyromaniacs” is a disco group
7. He thinks Thomas Nelson wrote the Bible
6. She doesn’t wear enough makeup
5. He wears too much makeup
4. He thinks Plato is the original Greek
3. He has “applause” lights on the front of the pulpit
2. He thinks the movie “The Godfather” denied the Trinity
1. He insists on including eunuchs in his altar calls.

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A Funny Watchdawggie!When I need to find out the news beyond the headline story of the day, I have found that one of the best places to go to get a pulse of what’s news and what news is actually interesting for discussion, I often go to FARK.  (Warning: If you go there, you’re best bet is to avoid the comment threads on the RH side, which can be vulgar.  Additionally, some actual discernment is needed when selecting the stories to read, so it’s not something I recommend to children or immature adults, either).

Imagine my surprise last summer when I checked out the list of stories and found this one:

(Some Tomato) ”Christian” website declares war on the Veggie Tales. What will QWERTY say about this?

[NOTE: The link is dead, but you can see the source being linked to.]

After reading the story and the sad comment thread beneath it, I braced myself and decided to read the FARK comment thread about the article.  It was truly sad to see how the outside world viewed this intra-church sniping and foolishness.  (mild examples: Wow. Someone there disses “Adventures in Oddysey” by Focus on the Family. THAT is hardcore. or It’s gotta be tough to write for Landover Baptist when the real sites are this unintentionally satirical. )

Well, it’s not uncommon to expect such foolishness to repeat itself, and so it has… and I have to say that I’m still a bit perplexed on a number of items:

Cartoons and Artistic Adaptation

This article takes issue with the upcoming Veggie Tales adaptation of The Prodigal Son, set against a Wizard of Oz meme.

The producers of these Veggie Tales movies desecrate Holy Scripture by perverting it into upbeat do-good stories completely absent the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Read that sentence again. Holy Scripture. That’s what we teach our children that the Bible is. Holy. Untouchable. Sacred. Must not be tampered with. But we are considered freaks in a world where nothing is sacred. Nothing is holy. Nothing is untouchable, particularly if there is cash to be made. These people are getting wealthy off the mistreatment of the Word of God.

First off, I’m failing to see where such hysteria is warranted.  It is not as if Phil Vischer (producer of VT) is claiming that Veggie Tales is scripture, or a tool aimed at evangelizing children with a full outlay of the plan of salvation.  Rather, it is, and always has been, a modern method of relaying some scriptural stories and parables to children, typically pre-school and lower elementary school aged.  Additionally, enough (clean) pop-culture and catchy music is woven in so that adults aren’t bored to tears, but will be conversant and interested enough that good discussion might arise between parent and child on the topics presented.  There is no ‘mistreatment of the Word of God’, despite the screeching hyperbole to the contrary.

This goes without saying, though, that if a child’s sole (or primary or secondary) exposure to scripture is to Veggie Tales, he or she is sorely lacking in biblical instruction.  No argument here.  However, in a marketplace of mindless, violent or vulgar media choices, I can’t think of many better children’s ‘entertainment’ for this particular age group than Veggie Tales and Adventures in Odyssey, both of which adapt biblical texts and stories into a format for children (though AiO is aimed at an older contingent).

So the question becomes: Is it acceptable for artistic works, be they for children or adults, to adapt parts of scripture in non-literal renderings which may include humorous devices?  Assuming that scripture is not mis-interpreted or treated as irrelevant or mocked, I see no scriptural basis for arguing the contrary. 

The Use of Humor

The mindset accompanying this blog article also has consistently posited that Jesus had no sense of humor and that comedy has no place in a Christian lexionary.  I would severely disagree, and the primary key to my disagreement is acknowledged and lauded in the opening paragraph of this particular article:

When Dr. John MacArthur was here in Milwaukee for one of our VCY America rallies earlier this year, his message was on the powerful Bible story of the Prodigal Son. He didn’t skim over the surface as so many preachers do and hit all the obvious points. He went deep into the Middle Eastern context of the story which enabled us to understand even more just how amazing the response of the father in the story actually was. Each detail of the Bible’s account took on new significance as we were taught about the social rules of the day and what the father’s condescension because of love for His son really meant. There is so much depth to this story as you carefully study it.

That is the key to understanding Jesus’ humor – the context!  (Side note: Ironically, I have heard JMac’s sermon on the Prodigal Son and on the Good Samaritan, both of which drew their first century details from the a source like Brad Young’s The Parables, an excellent resource I highly recommend, and were almost verbatim as taught by Rob Bell and Ray VanderLaan…)

In narrative, the two primary thematic directions are drama and comedy.  Drama is seated in the emotion and easily translates across cultures, because of the similarity of the human experience.  Comedy, on the other hand, is seated in the intellect, and is highly contextual.  Apart from slapstick (considered the lowest form of comedy), it does not translate well across cultures, because of its contextuality.  So, the key to Jesus’ humor is in knowing the culture.

One example lies in the story of the Good Samaritan.

A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.

This is pretty funny, don’t you think?  No?  How about I add this detail: Jesus places this story on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho.  This “road” is about 2 – 3 feet wide, with a steep wall on one side of it and a steep, 100+ foot drop off on the other side.  It still exists today, and people still die falling off of it today.  In Jesus story, the priest and the Levite to “pass by on the other side”.  There is no ‘other side’!  So now, imagine what these two figures had to do to avoid dealing with the half-dead man in the road.  This mental picture is very similar to other humor found in other contemporary Jewish works.

There are numerous other examples, particularly laced in Jesus’ parables, which have been identified as humorous elements in his stories and in his life.  Additionally, some of the chief commands of the Old Testament dealt with the seven Jewish festivals, five of which were to be joyous occasions, not solemn remembrences.

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon teaches that everything, when taken apart from God, is meaningless.  In it, though, he notes:

There is a time for everything,
       and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,
       a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,
       a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,
       a time to mourn and a time to dance,

And this is true – there is a time for everything, including humor and laughter - especially when it is used to glorify its creator, rather than denigrate Him or to tear down those made in His own image.

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Monday Morning Insights brings to you this conversation. My favorite bit:

Pastor: “The label ‘emerging church’ is used to describe a lot of different things, and I know some emerging church leaders are pushing the envelope with their theology, but I don’t think Erwin McManus is one of them. To tell you the truth, I’ve never really considered McManus part of that movement. I think his books are just packaged and marketed to that crowd. I don’t think you have to worry about his theology. Have you ever read one of his books?”

Church member: “No, but I don’t have to. I listen to Chuck Colson on the radio and he says the emerging church is dangerous. It’s not something we should be messing around with, and the fact that you’d quote an emerging church pastor in your sermon is very alarming.”

What is it with criticizing what you haven’t read?

Here’s a bit more from the author, separate from the conversation:

I’ve had my share of confrontations with Christians that adhere to radio-orthodoxy. I recognize they measure every sermon I preach against what is beamed through the airwaves. But I have yet to discover a pastoral way of handling their unquestioning faith in the disembodied voices they hear on the commute to work everyday.

I’m not calling for a revolt against Christian radio stations (although I don’t listen to them personally). I recognize that many people are blessed and encouraged by the programming offered through the radio. However, the voices coming through the speakers seem to be monotone. Without multiple perspectives and thoughtful dialogue around important issues facing the church (social, political, missional, or familial) listeners are left to believe the Christian position is cut and dry, black and white. And those who dare to question this perspective, as I did with my disturbed church member, are given a verbal lashing that ends with “thus saith the radio!”

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