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Friday 15 August 2014

That Kid Everybody Pushed Around

I was having a conversation recently, and the new Noah movie came up. You know the one with the guy, his family, and a big boat full of animals; kind of like the story out of the Bible, but actually not. One of the people I was speaking to quoted something I know they thought was golden, but actually it scared me, it scared me a lot, but I had to think clearly about why it did, and this post is the sum of my thoughts.

He mentioned that one of the leaders in the church movement he is a part of, and this is a really large and influential church movement, was invited to speak on a panel, and one of the things this leader was asked about, was his ‘influential Christian leader’ (air quotes and phrase mine) opinion on the new Noah movie. The church leader responded with what he thought was a gem, “Well at least it has got people talking about the Bible.”

Now let’s think about this for a second. The recent Noah movie was advertised to look like a Christian movie, but it was anything but. From the beginning it gives a different spin on creation to what the book of Genesis does; it more than implies that Satan is the hero, because every time Noah is wearing the snakeskin relic thing left behind by the serpent of old he is calm and not murderous, and it is his birthright to protect the earth; fallen angels help Noah build the ark, and defend it; Methuselah is a warlock or some other freakish kind of human being; Noah himself seems bent on killing off any chance for human beings to survive the flood, and if that was not bad enough the movie basically implies that aside from all the immorality of human beings, it is their destruction of the environment which is the worst of all their sins (If you have not seen Noah, check out Mennoknight’s review, the link is below). The movie is clearly and obviously shamefully made skin deep to appear like it is based on the Bible, but it is anything but. It mocks clear teachings in the Bible, and makes the most evil being in the universe out to be a positive influence on Noah and his descendants; and an influential Christian leader (and he is not the only one who has said this) can only say, “Well at least it has got people talking about the Bible.”

Now don’t misunderstand me, I don’t expect Hollywood to get any story based on any book reliably accurate, let alone the Bible. But there is a bigger issue here. You know what this Christian leader’s statement reminds me of? It reminds me of the kid who was sort of part of the ‘in’ group in school, but he was only there because they liked to push him around a bit, and he was happy to cop it to be accepted. You remember the one? We all knew a person like this, or two. Sadly, in some, ever growing circles in the Western World, Evangelical Christianity has degenerated into the kid everybody pushed around, but who is happy to cop it because at least he gets to sit at the table.

This is not our calling brothers. If you have a teenager at school who is pushed around by the other kids who say they are his friends, and when you go ask that teenager, “Are you ok?”, and he or she replies, “Yeah, at least they noticed me”, then you know you have a kid there with self-esteem issues and probably other issues as well. At the very least you know things are not ok. When you have an ancient religion, that underpins the foundations of Western society in so many ways, and yet is willing to have its very own religious book dragged through the dirt, used to make money for a person who obviously cares not one wit for the Bible, and those who believe in it, and the religion is just happy people are talking about it, then you know you have a religion with problems, and I am sorry to say this people, but Western Christianity has some serious issues.

Now I could mention if you did this to the Muslims, they would protest, hire lawyers, and maybe even riot at such a disrespect of their religion (note: the Noah movie was banned in some Muslim nations like: Malaysia, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Bahrain, [Lee, 2014]), but I am not going to go down that route. Instead I want to point out that our faith did not start out that way, and it does not need to be, and should not be like that. If somebody disses your wife, you don’t say, “Well at least they are talking about her.” When someone mocks your kids, you don’t say, “Well at least you are a topic of conversation.” No, you look that mocking person in the eye, you stare at them very intensely for a moment, and then you say to them, “That was disrespectful, don’t do that again”, and you look real serious, because you are, and you should be.

Could you imagine John the Baptist giving that weak willed, and obviously pandering to the ‘in group’ response that that highly respected Christian leader gave? Just read up on him in Matthew 3, and give me your opinion. Or what about Jesus? Read his words about the difference between a wise and foolish builder in Matthew 7:24-29, or his very relevant application of the Noah story in Matthew 24:36-51.

The ancient, and believe me some modern Christians, were not afraid to offend (and yes I know John the Baptist was not a Christian, but he still counts). Modern Christians are so afraid to offend; so, so, so, afraid to offend, that when we are offended, and when what we believe and what we know to be true from God’s word is made mockery of, so many of today’s influential leaders want to be seen as in, and hip, and with it, and don’t want to offend the ‘in group’ (secular humanist society), they are more than willing to just make it look like we are ok with being the laughingstock of society; and these people think they help the kingdom of God this way? Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me…for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12), he did not say, “Blessed are you when people make a mockery of the word of God, and you just roll over and say, well that’s ok, at least people mentioned God’s word.”

The Christians in the Bible made waves because they did not fit in comfortably with society around them. Sometimes when they shared the gospel it caused riots, because they shared the gospel with people they knew would riot if they shared it with them, and they did not care because they know God wanted them to be witnesses, even if it meant they lost their life, and those towns went into a few hours of civil unrest. But today we are the exact opposite, we let society dictate to us when we can share, how we can share, and what we can share, and if they make a profit off twisting the word of God we hold dear, well like that kid who got pushed around at school, our leaders cop it, because that means they get to sit at the table, and sitting at the table counts for something (in some people’s view at least).

Why has this situation transpired? How have we degenerated to such a weak willed presence in society? There are perhaps more than a few correct answers to those questions, but I want to give one that I think makes up a big part of it. I have heard so many of the most influential and popular Christian speakers that the evangelical church has to offer today, and their message basically amounts to this: Jesus died on the cross to give your middle class life vision and purpose, God-defined vision and purpose for sure, but still vision and purpose. In other words, God is not so much wanting to save us to radically do some major kingdom surgery on our lives, he has simply presented us with a gospel that helps our middle class life be a little more intentional, and motivated, and purposeful, until we get to heaven.

Jesus on the other hand put it a completely different way and here is one great summary of the emphasis of his message:

23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels (Luke 9:23-27).

Jesus does not call us to him to tack on the Christian, or in the hipster way ‘Jesus follower’, tag on your middle class life, and help it have some purpose and fulfil your middle class dream of success as you view it. He has called us to be radically different in society, even to the point of being persecuted and maligned because we are so different. Whereas today sadly more often than not, being a Christian is often just a sub-branch of an inner city suburban subculture of wannabe hipsters. I know not every Evangelical Christian is like this and for those of you who aren’t I commend you, but there are more of them out there like this than is good for Christianity, and they occupy some of the biggest and most influential churches.

This post is not about the Noah movie per se, but really about a bigger issue. Too often Christians leaders are willing to cop blatant disregard for our Holy Scriptures, and just roll over and be happy that people are just talking about Christian things (even though that movie is not a Christian thing but is based on a twisted reading of Scripture from an ancient pagan heresy; seriously look it up). I am sorry but not all talk is good talk. The kind of leaders we need in the church are the kind that when asked about the Noah movie, or some other travesty of equal proportions, they stand against it for what it is: evil, plain and simple. I mean seriously Noah wears the skin from the snake in Garden of Eden as a relic, which gives him power. Warning bells anyone?

That prominent leader should have said something like this: “What do I think about the Noah movie? Well I for one won’t be seeing it. I do not want to use my money to support blatant Bible twisting, and profiteering. I am not saying other Christians can’t watch stuff like that, that’s up to them. But I will say this: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Gal. 6:7). I will have to account for a lot of things on judgement day, because I am not perfect, but one thing I do not want to be is the guy who twisted God’s work to make a profit. Jesus spoke about these people in Matthew 18:6-9, and what he said there scares me enough to stay away from something like this. But thanks be to God he offers forgiveness to all who want it and ask for it. That’s what I think about the Noah movie.” Or at least they say something similar to this

In other words they should not roll over, but stand up and point out that twisting God’s word, while common and done by many, is not something we should just respond with: “At least it is being talked about.” But considering what Christianity has become in a lot of circles, we should not be surprised at comments like these. Look I am all for reaching out to culture, but the truth is Christianity is in massive decline in the West, the numbers on the NCLS website give us insight to this, and so does the Barna group. Maybe, just maybe, if we had more leaders with back bone, who cared not one wit whether they get to sit at the table with the ‘in group’, but put up their hand when something like this happens and say, “That is not cool,” with a real serious face, (because we should take it seriously), we can stop being like that guy everyone pushed around at school. Sure we may be persecuted and excluded, but hey, it happened to Jesus, Peter, Paul and a few other guys and gals in the history of the church; I think we can take. What do you think?


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