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.