Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Despising the Word, 2

The previous post has drawn more interest than usual, so I thought I'd follow it up with another post on the topic.

In the 1950's movie version of Treasure Island, I remember a scene in which the pirate crew presents Long John Silver -- played by Robert Newton -- with the "black spot". The black spot was a splotch of ink on a piece of paper that served as a sign that a band of brigands was removing its leader.

Long John looked down at the slip of paper in his hand and saw where his crew has obtained their paper for the black spot. His demand was explosive: "Who tore a page out of the Bible?"

The idea was that even crew of murdering cutthroats should have more respect than to desecrate God's Holy Book. Fast forward a half-century where it's not the pirates but the Christians who wipe their hands on the printed Word.

Deolexrex commented that he hates those jokes based on Bible passages. The Bible napkins and the jokes are only the tip of the iceberg.

Next time you're out driving, look at the bulletin boards in front of churches. It looks like a contest to see which church can out-cute or out-smarm all the others.

When you see one of those bulletin boards, put yourself in the shoes of an unbeliever. Do you suppose he thinks, "'God answers knee mail' . . . man, I've not been taking God seriously enough. I need to go that church and find out more about Him"? It's more likely our own trivialization of our message confirms to him that "religion" would be a waste of his time.

As stewards of the most important message in the world, we strain sense and sensibility to trivialize the Gospel in the name of relevance. Go into a Christian bookstore and look around at the evangelical schlock in the form of key chains, refrigerator magnets and other junk that reduces God's grace to some kind of cartoon.

Speaking of cartoons, do you suppose that the Committee of Evangelical Tastelessness got together one afternoon to decide how they could push the envelope in the American churches' imitation of pop culture? I can hear them now.

"We need a new idea. The 'Smile, Jesus Loves You' smiley face is becoming old hat."

"Hey, how about a series of Bible cartoons?"

"Animated drawings of Bible characters? Sounds boring."

"Well, how about we make it relevant to kids. We'll turn the characters of Scripture into cartoon fruits and vegetables and put them into stories taken from God's panorama of redemption."

"Yes! That's it. We'll strive to make this a child's earliest memory of Bible truth. For the rest of his life, when he thinks of Scripture, he'll associate it with animated produce."

Where is Long John Silver when you need him?


dlr said...

If I remember correctly, he retired.

Tim Sleeper said...

Some good points. I'm tired of the church signs as well. It seems we have to dumb down the Scriptures so that everyone can understand it. Hmm...have we forgotten that Jesus told parables so that everyone would NOT be able to understand it?

I also agree with the Veggietales point, but I think Phil Vischer has really gone in a better direction with his new program "Jelly Telly". It tackles a lot of the harder issues minus the paraphrased Bible stories.

For me, I can often treat God's Word as merely a textbook and forget that it's His living Word. It's not stagnant, and we need to have respect for His Word and God Himself. I think we can take a tip from the Jews who deem God's name so holy, that they don't write His whole name out.

The Warrior said...

GREAT post! Good points, and the end portion, with current evangelical Gospel promotion issues and Veggie Tales was great. I couldn't agree more.

I've often thought, "I don't feel home in Christian bookstores, in Christian churches, or anything like that. Almost never! Now what is wrong with that?"