Monday, June 29, 2009

Christian comedy only the Devil could laugh at.

Through Itunes, I found a podcast in the category of "Christian comedy." I listened to the first episode I downloaded. The speaker had attended the funeral of an atheist. He pointed to the irony that some Christian songs were played at the non-believing man's funeral. He also pointed out how the selection of songs played at one's funeral has no bearing on one's salvation. Fair enough.

The problem was that it wasn't just ironic, but a source of great offense by the comedian. He even said, "Now don't go do that." I on the other hand can think of three reasons to praise God that songs with evangelistic content would be played at a funeral:
  • The living persons in the room will hear the gospel
  • The deceased may have arranged for it secretly because he was, all along, a believer.
  • The deceased may have arranged for it secretly because he had a late-in-life conversion experience unknown to the comedian.
I might add that I've been to too many funerals in my life, and I don't think I've ever heard pop evangelical songs being played.

But the comedian didn't let it stop there. As part of the "comedy", he rewrote the song that was playing, "I Can Only Imagine". Instead of having some religious meaning the song was now about how boring it was to be a corpse pushing up daisies.

Martin Luther spoke of how there was a conflict in the church between two theologies, a Theology of Glory and a Theology of the Cross. I think that too much of what the TV preachers like Jerry Falwell were about was Theology of Glory. A Theology of the Cross might involve a focus on your sins and Christ's work. Too much of the preaching in a Theology of Glory is about either mocking folks who've chosen the wrong spiritual "football" team, or positing criticisms of the actions of your team as the cross you have to bear. Other folks could call these criticisms "calls to repentance."

Let's imagine the open-minded non-believer, and use male pronouns out of laziness. Last week, he heard the same group of Christians mock the idea that there was anything to repent of in how society treats the poor and planet-- there was only government regulation to fear. This week, he hears this song mocking atheists. What can be had but hardened hearts? The philosophical base starts out with the idea that the elect are to be protected from criticism. Hopefully, non-believers (and believers) reject this.

What would actual evangelistic Christian comedy sound like? Here's my take, and it starts out with C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity
For the trouble is that part of you is on his side and agrees with his disapproval of human greed and trickery and exploitation. You may want him to make an exception in your own case, but you know at bottom that unless the power behind the world really and unalterably detests that sort of behavior he cannot be good.

Is there a way that Jerry Seinfeld could read this chapter, maybe throw in some modern observations from NY City life, and have us all chuckling and tingling with fear and joy at the same time?

You see, the problem is that too many modern evangelicals have taken "greed and trickery and exploitation" off the radar screen of sin. That is what an unbelieving world finds unbelievable.

No comments: