"Christians Rule!"

A month ago I finally watched the 2008 Kids’ Choice Awards from Nickelodeon. Yes, I know… it was on a while ago… why hadn’t I seen it already… Well, it hadn’t been aired in Canada, so it took a while before seeing it. ANYWAY… I watched award after award being accepted. Then Miley Cyrus (a.k.a. Hannah Montana) received the award for Favourite Female Singer and Favourite Female TV Actress. She got up and thanked her “Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ” for her awards. Now, there is nothing wrong with doing that, but I wonder… why make a point of it? It’s almost as if she HAD to say it in order to legitimize her standing in the I’m-a-Christian club.

OK, maybe I’m being harsh. But anyone can say something like that. Anyone can say they are a Christian. What’s even worse than saying something like that when accepting an award is the response by the evangelical community. “Oh look! Hannah Montana is a Christian! It’s OK now to watch the TV show and buy all her CD’s!” We jump up and down and celebrate “yet another Christian shining their light in evil Hollywood.” We celebrate that she is part of the club… That is until she messes up. Then she’s thrown out of the Christian club. “Oh, we don’t let our kids watch that show. Can you believe what she did? <Gasp!> And her father… and he says he’s a Christian. Tsk, tsk, tsk…”

What are we doing?!?

On top of that we have Christian-ized everything from video upload websites to popular video games. You may wonder what’s the harm in doing stuff like that. Don’t we want to have “Christian alternatives” to “what’s out in the world?” I don’t know anymore. We are so busy creating a subculture called evangelical Christianity that we get obsessed with sanitizing everything so that it is acceptable rather than going out and engaging our communities and building relationships with those outside a relationship with God. Then we pass that on to our children.

I still remember the episode of Kid Nation. It was episode 4 entitled “Bless Us and Keep us Safe.” If you never watched Kid Nation, it was a show which aired in the Fall of 2007 that put a group of kids in a New Mexico ghost town to see if they could run a town without the influence of adults. It did have it’s own set of controversy surrounding the conditions there. Anyway, the kids quickly separated into their different belief camps. The most “vocal” kids were the Christian kids. I wish I could say that I was proud of this, but most of what came from those kids were statements like: “Christians Rule!” and “Christians are Better!”

These Christian kids polarized themselves into a group and ostracized the others simply because they had different belief systems. It was completely foreign to these kids to be respectful of other beliefs while holding onto their own. At the end of the episode, many of the Christian kids did finally enter into conversations about faith or lack thereof. The sad thing is… most of those kids became confused about their Christian beliefs.

Many of us would say: Well, the reason those kids got confused is because they weren’t given enough truth. They weren’t taught apologetics. They didn’t know enough Bible stories. They weren’t taught to be deep in their spiritual walk.

I would disagree.

When Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment, he answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

We spend so much time on the first commandment that Jesus talked about. That is great. We should emphasize loving God. We should be teaching children out of the Bible. They should be learning verses. But we miss out on the second commandment Jesus talked about. The extent to which we teach children to “Love your neighbor as yourself” is to make sure we don’t hit and be helpful. We forget to teach children to treat ALL people with respect. We forget to teach children that just because someone else has a different belief system or has made different lifestyle choices doesn’t mean we treat them with contempt or avoid them or treat them as if we will win some cool supernatural prize if we convert them.

I think we do a disservice to the Gospel (which is more than about getting to heaven but has more to do with being a part of the transformational work God wants to do in the lives of people) by perpetuating a subculture of Christianity… a brand of Christianity that tries to insulate itself from the world and at the same time tries to make the world conform to its set of rules.

Instead of spending money on Christian t-shirts (which simply serve to identify you to other Christians as a fellow club member), sponsor a child who is in a marginalized part of the world. Instead of watching hours on end of Christian TV and movies, go outside and meet your neighbours.

A while back, the phrase WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) was popularized. It continues to be another one of those Christian subculture things. If we were to truly seek out the answer to that questions, I think many of us would be surprised and even shocked. Jesus spent his time with unpolished fishermen who probably didn’t use the best of language, embezzlers who threw some wild parties… hey, he even supplied some really good wine at a party where many of the people were already buzzed.

Now, I’m not saying that we should all go out and party it up. What I am saying, though, is that we need to engage our communities… the people in our neighbourhoods. We need to teach our kids not to be afraid of being contaminated. We need to teach our children grace. We need to teach our children how to love the Lord with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength AND how to truly love ALL our neighbours as we love ourselves.

In the end, it’s not about who is right and who is wrong. It is about broken images of God reaching out to other broken images of God and pointing them the one who can make them whole again. We can’t do that from the inside of a clubhouse.

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13 thoughts on “"Christians Rule!"

  1. Desirée Roderick says:

    I definitely agree with your conclusion although not totally on the body of it. As far as the kids on Kid Nation I would say it’s unfortunate that those kids acted in that way, but at the same time, they are just kids. I think every parent has had or will have an experience with their child when they say something completely awful that the parents would never approve of. That is why parents have to continually correct and help shape their children.

    Maybe those kids did come from a home where there wasn’t enough emphasis on the right things. Maybe it was because the PARENTS were the ones who weren’t given enough truth. Most likely those people don’t read the Bible except what they read off of Tomas Kinkade paraphernalia. Who knows?

    Another possibility I see so often is that the parents actually do understand what it means to be transformed by God and are very thankful for it, so much so that they never want to have anything to do with their old sinful lives. They have kids but then don’t actually teach the meaning of it to their kids. They just assume it will sink in through the osmosis of their protected bubble.

    And in another case, I see parents who don’t protect their kids at all. It seems those parents think that their children will just believe because they do. And they will automatically be upright children and turn into upright responsible adults.

    I guess my point is, children are the product of what their parents teach them, AND they are just sinners. Sometimes they don’t do the right thing and sometimes neither do we. God is our Father who corrects us.

    I think it is Psalms where it says that truth and love have come together. They go hand in hand. Just as we shouldn’t eject Miley Cyrus out of the “Christian club”, the Kid Nation kids shouldn’t be ejected either. People should be treated with love And given the truth.

    I agree there shouldn’t be a Christian club based on reciting something about Jesus and then you’re in. However, I do appreciate the brotherhood we share because of Jesus. God also commands us to be separate from the world and our fellow believers are a support to us. It isn’t always easy to resist the desires of this world. We benefit from being together. And for those who have truly been transformed, they should look at their old lives as a call to live out the great commission, saving them, and turning them into disciples.

  2. Desirée Roderick says:

    Admittedly, it would annoy and irritate me to hear those Kid Nation kids but I still think “kids will be kids”, especially when their are no adults around.

  3. Steve Tanner says:

    I hate the subculture, even though I work within it. In college I was a television/radio/journalism major, who thought that he might want to work in Christian media. It wasn’t until I spent some time working at a CBS station for a little while did I realize just how much damage Christians had done to themselves by creating this element of “tiers” that we live in.

    We are unable to relate to the world because of our supposed agenda. We have for too long relied on mediocre, Christianized crap as our standard… and when compared to mainstream production/quality values, never really stood up. Do great work, no matter the medium, and you will get noticed… no matter what culture/subculture you arrive from.

    I find it ironic that an author like Bob Briner pointed this out in his 1993 book “Roaring Lambs”… only to have him pass away and have the Christian world totally market the concept to death with tributes, albums, and follow up franchises to… yes, the subculture.

    We spend far too much time alienating others instead of building relationships with them. But hey, as long as we have our latest fad [insert your choice: WWJD, Left Behind, The Prayer of Jabez, Passion of the Christ, VeggieTales, Christian-knock-off everything], we feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

    Christians Rule, indeed.

  4. henryjz says:

    Thanks Desiree for your comments. I agree with what you are saying about knowing truth AND showing love. What I am saying is that I think sometimes we put so much emphasis on knowing truth and learning truth and do very little in acting out that truth in showing love to the people around us.

    While my post does look at kids… I think it goes deeper than a “kids are just kids” thing. Like you said, kids are a product of their surroundings. I hear things like what was said on Kid Nation from teenagers at youth conventions and adults in everyday conversations. Yes, it is in many of our natures to assume that what we believe is the best… What I am advocating and challenging is that we ditch that superiority complex and the easy tendency to simply stay within the confines of our church club and interact with the world around us. And, yes, we need to do that in community… not as solitary wolves.

    And also, yes there is Matthew 28:19-20 (called the Great Commission), but we can’t just use that verse to sum up all that God calls us to do in this world. We also have to take into account verses like Matthew 25:31-40 which call us to social action and justice issues as well. We have to do both “making disciples” and “doing unto the least of these.”

  5. Desirée says:

    Yes, we definitely need to do both. I do think there is a tendency to lean to one or the other though. What I meant by my last statement was that we need to live out the great commission because of our love for people, and gratitude to Jesus.

    That’s how I dippity do it. Peace!

  6. I agree with most of this, but I do wonder if you don’t give God public appreciation (Like Montana example) or you don’t recognize God publicly as you do great things, how should we introduce people to God and not just ourselves?

    I personally do not wear Christians T’s because I think most are extremely corny, I never did get into wearing the extremely expensive vacuum cleaner belt on my wrist to just have it say WWJD where only a few, those inside, would know what it stood for.

    But I do agree and think we need to engage the culture we live in and find ways to give God the credit in a world that does great and kind things but without God. Maybe for some wearing these things and taking part in these things are their way of doing that and not because they are afraid of their community?

    Why do you have the word “Children’s Ministry” in the title of your blog? Is “Ministry” what the community will Google for if they want to find parenting help, leadership, self help etc.? Just asking my friend.

  7. Very good my friend. Again, good blog post.

  8. henryjz says:

    My concern is the evangelical subculture that exists and the air of superiority and rules and regulations that people feel obligated to follow if they are to remain “good Christians” and how that gets perpetuated to the children we minister to.

    As for the name of the blog… this blog exists mostly to discuss current and emerging trends that are affecting and shaping what children’s ministry looks like.

  9. Keith Johnson says:

    You leave little room for ANY individual claim for their personal pride in their relationship with Jesus Christ. I realize that it might sound a bit awkward to hear someone thank their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It’s can be a cliche. But you can’t begrudge what Miley C. said because you don’t know whether it is sincere or not. We might cringe when someone says this, but why do we? Is it because we have become innoculated from candor? Honesty? If she is sincere then I think what she said was who she is. There’s something about “proclaim me before man” to induce God to “proclaim you before the Father” that makes me less inclined to abuse a speaker for a phrase. I’d much prefere to wail on an idiot for hypocracy or sloppy words that clearly indicate the person is malevolent.

    You have to admit that our faith is a “stumbling block” to those who are closely aligned with our beliefs and “foolishness” to those who are aghast at our “clinging to religion”! You prepare children for spiritual imbecility if you don’t clearly guide them to understand that “in this world they will have” and often cause “trouble.”

  10. Desirée says:

    I think one of the best ways to get rid of the negative parts of the subculture is to be proactive and positive for Jesus, even to those “churchy” people. You can get so wrapped up in being a “churchy hater” that you develop your own subculture. The churchy” ones need to be given the benefit of the doubt too. They are still growing in their walk. I’m finding that people who are Christians can be just as vulnerable as non-Christians when they feel like they are being judged. Though not my style, I don’t think there is anything wrong with have WWJD stuff or any other stuff. And to Steve Tanner…Why would you dog on Bob and Larry? They’re our friends! I personally love the silly songs and can’t wait ’til my kids crank them up and go all out crazy on ’em! My daughter does a great hairbrush song.

  11. Keith Johnson says:

    I just read this online at http://www.theatlantic.com which I think is germain on one level with overt symbols:

    “The metropolitan liberal, in my experience, regards overt religious identity as vulgar, and evangelical Christianity as an infallible marker of mental retardation. Flag-waving patriotism is seen as a joke and an embarrassment.”

    (from “Democrats must learn some respect” by Clive Crook at http://clivecrook.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/09/democrats_must_learn_some_resp.php )

    He makes a great point that upon a soapbox (and I often couch myself upon that wooden throne) we often slide into disdain and contempt, class sneer (Bill Maher).

    In my own rhetorical flourishes I have a whisper in my brain that calmly reminds me, “I have made the foolish things of this world…” and I choke on my own hubris, alighting for the sidelines while proning my knees to the servanthood I staunchly strive for.

  12. henryjz says:

    Keith,

    I do have to admit that this post is me on a soapbox. I wasn’t so much indicting people like Miley Cyrus for thanking Jesus as the response that so many of us in evangelical Christianity have towards those proclamations. We quickly make these people “Christian Celebrities” and then ostracize them when they are human and make a mistake.

    I think that kids need to have solid Biblical teaching and foundations. They also need to be taught to be open in talking about their faith. My problem is that many times that gets translated into sharing faith in very inauthentic ways; we are more worried about getting the words, “Jesus Love You” out and not worry about how they are loving those around them as God does.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  13. Desirée says:

    Yeah, I kind of have to agree with Keith. It’s something I’m being convicted of right now. God is helping me take away my own arrogant attitudes. Those other people may be wrong, but I’m wrong in the way of my attitudes.

    I get what your trying to say though.

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