Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Random Thoughts and Readings

I read this off a great blog that I would encourage you all to read. It is Walt Muller’s blog of CPYU (Center for Parent/Youth Understanding).

This morning I've been getting ready for a big trip to Pittsburgh scheduled for next week. I'm working with a couple of churches who have put together a very aggressive schedule of events, most of which are designed to engage the culture-at-large that exists outside the "walls" of our congregations. The folks in Pittsburgh have been diligent in the task of framing, wording, and preparing in ways that are truthful without the "noise" of turnoff. . . . which, by the way. . . tends to typify many of our shameful efforts to engage a watching world in compelling ways.

In an email to one of the event's organizers earlier this morning, I suggested some wording changes in something I was putting my name to so that the message we want to share doesn't get lost in translation.This all got me thinking about a couple of conversations I had last weekend at the Youth Specialties National Youthworkers Convention in Sacramento. The first was about some of the infamous stuff done by the brothers and sisters over the years. Or perhaps I should say, the infamous stuff made by the brothers and sisters in an effort to bring more folks into the fold. A couple of us got to talking about Christian "witnessing tools," you know, that Jesus Junk that we think is more effective than an embodied apologetic for the faith. One of those things that we talked about has been sitting on top of my desk since the day I picked it up - almost 10 years ago - in the exhibit hall at one of the conventions. Actually, and I'm ashamed to admit this, I paid for it. It's a can of root beer. . . Holy Cross Root Beer to be exact.

Never heard of it? Neither had I. I think it's Christian root beer. . . . or at least that's what the guy manning the booth told me. What makes root beer Christian? I still haven't figured that one out. Is it Christian because the can features a cross, a "Jesus Saves," and references to Acts 16:31, John 3:16, and Revelation 20:4-6? Does drinking it draw one closer to God? I can't answer that because I've never popped the top to take a swig. Does that mean that 10 years later what's in my can is actually better than what was in there when I first laid eyes on it? Who knows? All I do know is that if this is the best we can do. . . or even if we think this is an effective tool in our witnessing arsenal. . . . well, then we're nuttier than we think. And I don't mean "nutty" in a nice way.Another weekend conversation was had with some of my favorite new friends who are ministering to kids through First Presbyterian Church in Boulder, Colorado. Kim is one of the female interns who used to be a waitress at Appleby's. She told us how waitressing at the chain on Sunday afternoons was always an embarassment. Why? Because the restaurant would fill up with the brothers and sisters from the after-church crowd who would eat a normal amount of food, then leave an embarrassingly abnormal tip. . . . like a gospel tract sans cash. Do we seriously think that we're leaving a good impression when we share the Gospel of being cheap, cheesy, and uncaring with a piece of paper that winds up provoking anger before flying into the trash? Are we really caring for people when we demand that they wait on us for $2.01 an hour plus tips. . . . and we don't leave anything? Shame on us.

It made me think about this funny little video that's been floating around on YouTube. I watched it and laughed. I watched it and was embarassed. I watched it and thanked God that I'm not like that. . . . or am I (we)?



Manetheren said...

Two thoughts. Firstly, I totally agree with the main article. I despise things like Testamints, WWJD bracelets, and dumb shirts that take recognizable logos and modify them into something with a "Christian" message. Sometimes I'm tempted to contact the copyright holders so that they can sue for infringement. Having said all that, am I doing anything more relevant to expand the Kingdom? No, I still need to work on that a lot.

Second thought: I fail to see how that video is relevant to the article. It looks like a typical example of mid-80s CCM. I didn't laugh, I wasn't embarassed, and I didn't thank God I'm not like that. I'm not sure what Mueller is trying to say with that link. I sure hope it's not yet another stupid diatribe against music by Christian artists. Are we supposed to listen only to artists that are popular in the mainstream culture? The vast majority of the music I listen to is metal by Christian artists, which I listen to for encouragement and edification. Maybe I'm missing the point, but I don't need anyone telling me what kind of music I should be listening to.

Anonymous said...

Is it true that serving staff only make $2.01 an hour plus tips in the States? That's shocking.

ELiZaBeTH said...

We actually discussed this topic at a student church that I am involved in ironically using the same clip. I think that the this clip for the is illustrating the point perfectly. Like so many things in our society that we have created to somehow "prove" our Christianity I think that music is often used in the same way. Do you think that this band is actually using their music to develop their relationship with God? To me, it sure doesn't look like it. For me, music should be used to get closer to God and to personally grow. It does not need to be a performance, like this clip. There doesn't seem to be any meaning to the clip's songs just like there is no meaning to the so called Christian root beer.

novice said...

I was introduced to that clip a few weeks ago. I found it hilarious.

It's funny in the same way as the picture of my old youth pastor with an afro was funny (or would have been, if we could have bribed his wife for a copy). It's funny because it's not current - and we can laugh at it for that but we must not judge it for that.

It's my opinion that a lot of what Christians create is a response to the spirit of the times. If you read up about Sonseed you see that they were an early-80's band formed from a Catholic church. The song itself was supposedly written in 10 minutes and is a fun, somewhat tongue in cheek attempt to portray a "personal relationship with Jesus" before that phrase got so overused.

I'm personally trying to be more careful about how harshly I judge what creations come out of other people's faith. Artists in each time face different challenges.

"I watched it and thanked God that I'm not like that. . . . or am I (we)?" Aren't we really just saying to other believers "Please shut up, you're embarassing me"? Or, "Leave the talking to the cool people"? Perhaps rather than stifling creativity with judgment we could encourage more artistry among believers so our good stuff outweighs our bad. That, along with removing the illusion that labeling something as "Christian" is an unconditional endorsement from God.

That's about artists and their creations - Christian root beer is marketing and I don't think it's ever been relevant or worthwhile and I agree with the blog poster about that much. That said, I'd probably buy a bottle just for a laugh.