Q:You may not need to read Nietzsche to know that few people (in your experience) are saying "God is Dead" but you should read Nietzsche (and other philosophy) before you choose to insult an *entire* discipline and philosopher. That was the point of my message to you.
Aha. Thanks for clarifying. I didn’t mean to insult an entire discipline (no tweed?), and I’m not sure how I insulted Nietzsche. I’ll see if I can clean up the post a bit. Thanks!
Simple Rules for Christian Public Discourse
Christians must never be smug. Even when we are right. No, especially when we are right.
Preachers must stay on the passage. If they jump to something unrelated to the text, their congregation will connect the bunny trail and the passage and then claim that the bunny trail is biblical.
When in a debate, we can never play with words. We must respect our fellow debater, even when they do not respect us. If our debate is about science, we must provide better science, not simply make broad strokes. Otherwise, we shall find someone else who can better provide the necessary information.
When talking with friends it is okay to say, “I don’t know” and then look it up later.
Above all, shake hands with those who disagree with you. Stay silent if they mock you. Pray for those who curse you.
Godspeed. He is risen indeed.
God’s Not Dead - Is Anyone Having That Argument?
There is a Christian movie out now titled “God’s Not Dead”. First of all, kudos to the the marketing team. I have 100% confidence that most of the success of the movie is due to the title.
Set that aside for a second. I have not seen the movie, and it probably won’t come within 2 hours of my small town. This is not a critique of the content of the movie because I don’t have access to it.
What I do take issue with is that it is causing people to engage in a non-issue when we could be engaging them in something more pressing.
The title of the movie is a quote from Nietzsche where a mad man rushes into town and claims that people have killed god.
I doubt anybody is having the argument today. Not any large percentage, anyhow. In two decades of sharing my faith I have never once had that conversation. Not in college, not in the working world, nowhere. I have talked to people who believe in Native American spirituality, Americanized Buddhism, and even people who honestly believe we live in the Matrix.
But not ONCE have I met anyone who made Nietzsche’s argument.
It is just not a widely used slogan to advertise atheism. Yet we are spending precious time talking as if it is an epidemic. Flip into any Ravi Zacharias book, or Christian non-fiction that talks about philosophy and there is discussion of “God is dead”. But it is simply, in my experience, not a top priority.
Which brings me to my point: modern Christianity is profoundly distracted. We are on the wrong track, barking up the wrong trees. The average Christian I meet doesn’t know a lick about their Bibles, but they can tell you that Harry Potter encourages witchcraft or that Obama is a Muslim. I have watched maybe a third of my godly friends walk away from their faith at the first sign of adversity because it totally did not fit their lovey-dovey view of God that they got by skipping to stories that they liked in the Bible.
Instead of chasing our tails or preparing for intellectual arguments that nobody is having, we need to crack our Bibles open and read the whole thing cover to cover. When I first did that in college I was shocked at how different the God of the Bible was from the god I had been taught about.
I sat awake many a night trying to reconcile it in my brain. Who was this god who caused (not allowed) so many lousy things to happen to His people? We try to pretend that He was just “like that in the Old Testament”, as if He suddenly got fuzzier two thousand years ago. But then I read all of the tough stuff that happens in the New Testament too:
The disciples turning from Jesus
Jesus telling off the Pharisees
Jesus telling people to leave father and mother and follow Him
Paul in jail, getting beaten, shipwrecked
The entire book of a Revelation
Not to mention the greatest act of God’s wrath in the Bible: Jesus’ crucifixion.
All in the New Testament. All of it.
We are losing people in our churches because they (like me fifteen years ago) are not prepared for the God of the Bible.
The reason we aren’t sharing our faith more is that we have ceased to see why anyone would want it in the first place. Our God is a loving god. Does it really matter what you believe so long as you are a nice person?
But the Bible does not fit that line of thought. It just doesn’t. Not everyone goes to heaven. Romans says that none of us are good. None. Not me, not you grandma, nobody. We need God because we are lost in our sin and have no way to get out on our own.
I am glad people are still making Christian films, books, and music. But we have to wake up and see that our job is not to get people hot and bothered, or offended, or protesting congress. We need to be out there sharing the truth about God. Not the god we have created who loves everyone and promises me a good life (so long as I live in the United States, tithe 10%, am white, and choose to block out the world). No, we need to share about the God who chased folks from His temple, the one who sought out uncool people because they knew they needed Him.
Instead of using up pages in books and hours of classroom time on Nietzsche, let’s get folks back into the Word.
And that is my challenge to the Christian media industrial complex. Let’s get out there and enable people to see reality and face it.
And let’s let the non-arguments finally stop. Please.
God is not dead. But Nietzsche is. Let’s stop trying to resurrect him.
*** PS - I know that some people would argue that we are in a society where science has disproved the existence of God. That is a different argument for a different post. It is not the same as Nietzsche’s argument. I simply don’t see anyone using Nietzsche, yet it gets brought up in evangelistic literature. We would be much better off using that space to talk about how religions are not all the same, or that God is different than what we often preach. Okay. Now I am going to bed. Hope that clarifies the rant.
We Can’t Have a Double Standard with Mark Driscoll
We have a problem, church.
Maybe you have heard about the “scandal” (what news story isn’t a scandal these days?) about pastor Mark Driscoll. Now, in full disclosure, I do not follow any popular pastors out there. I have never read any of Driscoll’s stuff. But I read articles about his publishing debacle and I think it is time for someone to stand up for him.
You see, Mister Driscoll and his church made an arrangement wherein the church bought thousands of copies of his book in order to get him on the New York Times best seller list. Instead of simply selling a bunch to fans, they stacked the deck so the sales numbers would be high enough to break the list. They played the system.
People are aghast, spouting their fury across Facebook. How could a pastor and a church set out to deceive the people?
Well, before you go and point fingers and Mr. Driscoll and his church, it is worth noting that they were only doing something that is common in the marketplace. It is not a rare occurrence for a book to hit the charts because a marketing company buys a ton of them as soon as they hit the shelves. In fact, it is downright common.
But why? Why bother gaming the system? There are several good answers. Allow me to play devil’s advocate.
First of all, you only need to buy a few thousand to do it. Second, if you make the list, you are almost guaranteed better sales, more speaking engagements, and a much easier time convincing a publisher to pick up the next book.
In the Christian world, it also means more people are hearing the gospel. Don’t just write that off. It’s not easy to get noticed in a world of noise. Christian books and movies can’t just be relegated to Christian stores and churches. If we’re going to make an impact, we have to have a physical presence in the marketplace. Getting on the NY Times list is a big deal and can legitimize your message.
To make matters worse, Christian retailers often do not submit their sales to be counted in metrics like the NY Times best seller list. That means that only secular sales (like Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club) get counted. Christian authors have to sell more copies to be on the same list as secular authors. The metric is already flawed because it doesn’t count a great percentage of any Christian book’s sales.
Finally, many marketing companies do this to boost sales. If you don’t, you are automatically at a disadvantage.
So what do we say, then? Since the market is not fair, is it okay to game the system to boost sales? I’m not sure. But what I do know is that it is hypocritical to get angry at Mark Driscoll when we’re not willing to get angry at other authors. Either we protest all of the violations, or we protest none. The most fair thing to do is to ignore the list completely.
Easier said than done.
It is also worth noting that a great many of the ways that we judge “success” in the marketplace can be gamed. Anyone can buy followers on Facebook and Twitter, yet publishers look at author’s following before offering a contract. Is it wrong then for an author to buy followers if it means getting signed?
I’m not saying that what Mark Driscoll and company did was right. I’m just saying that we need to be fair. What do you think?
We Are Waiting for our Moment
I believe that the Christian world is waiting for its voice. We have been waiting for someone to speak intelligently, to reveal to us that the God of the Bible is different than what we always preach. He is more challenging, more difficult, and more wonderful than we have dared to imagine.
We currently have no good answers when people question how a “God of love” did x, y, or z. They exist in the Bible, but we don’t dare share them. But the time will come when we will admit that He is more than just love. Oh, yes, He is love, but that ain’t all.
We are waiting for truth to put talking points down, to clean our minds of every “family-friendly” message that creates noise in the marketplace.
When the time comes to embrace the new voice that speaks the old Words, will we be ready to get shaken up? To go back to the Book and check for ourselves? To close our doors and drop to our knees? Will we put aside political parties, church property borders, building projects, and our own guilt to listen to God Himself?
We, as the consumers of Christian media, books, politicians, are feeding the machine, keeping it from changing to the message that needs to be articulated. We must demand more, better.
Q:Hey, love your post about the party. I don't usually reblog because my audience is mixed and I'm don't want to "oversalt" them. But they know I'm a Christian and pastor's wife. But my followers are from all sorts of walks of life. Many non-believers. Anyway, just wanted you to know I agree with you about the party. Sometimes Christians don't use wisdom in witness. And there is such a need for a message of grace, isn't there? I wouldn't want to be a Christian if someone was condemning me.
Thanks for the message. Yes, we do need to be considerate in our witnessing, don’t we? But, boy, it is a fine line. It is so easy to offend someone, especially when we walk in cold. But we still share the gospel, don’t we? Godspeed!
Like many people in the film industry, my mind this week has been on Sarah Jones. Sarah was a second assistant camera (the person who transports cameras and lenses, helps the focus puller take measurements to get the focus right and slates the take, among other things) who was killed by a…
I used to work in the film industry, and I would like to say that this is true. We were often told by directors and producers that it was okay to shoot on streets we did not close down, or to hold traffic that we were not allowed to stop. I was the First AD on a film where the cinematographer told a grip to climb supports on a bridge to secure a piece of equipment. He didn’t have any security harnesses or anything, and when I called them out on it, everyone thought I was nuts to insist he not climb up there.
I also worked 14 hour days for free as an intern, six days a week. Three or four of those weeks were night shoots, which meant my one day off per week was an overnight when it was difficult to even find an open laundry facility and a decent meal. Under those circumstances, crews get lonely, exhausted, and mistakes are made.
I don’t think it means we have for regulate it better, though it could come to that. I want to encourage my friends who are still in the industry to stand up for themselves and for safety, even if it means getting fired. Or, do what I did and leave the industry to join the land of the living.
Eye of the Needle
Doing ministry in our small town is difficult. People here are in great shape, and a lot of them have serious money. How do you walk up to someone and say, “don’t you think you need Jesus in your life?” to someone who has millions and got there by believing in themselves?
Here’s the thing: Luke 18:25 says that it’s easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. Now, a lot of pastors will brush that off and say that it’s referring to a specific time and place, or a particular people group in Jesus’ time.
But what if it means what it says?
I think that’s a valid question we should ask every time we come to a passage that people try to explain away. What if the passage means exactly what it says and I’m just trying to break it down a little bit to fit my comfort level? In doing so, we take a lot of the bite out of passages to make them more agreeable.
It has been on my heart a lot lately that we’re all slaves to something. For those of us who are Christ followers, we are His humble servants. At the same time, if you’re like me, you’re also battling to keep other things from becoming your master. It’s hard to fight back against temptation when it’s so enticing to let your morals slide a little bit. I keep calling my old sins on the phone like bad exes, wanting just a little taste of what we used to have together.
If you’re not a believer in Christ (yet!), you may be fully committed to something. You may not even know it! Acquaintances of mine argue for the legalization of marijuana, but deny that they are addicted to it. Of course, the question always becomes, “can you give it up? If you can’t give it up, then don’t you think you’ve got an addiction?”.
I don’t smoke marijuana because it’s illegal, but also because I don’t want a substance becoming my master. Some say that pot isn’t addictive, but tell that to two of my friends who tell me that they thirst for it every time they get stressed. What about them? It could be alcohol, or chocolate, attention, or drama. Some folks can’t stay without a boyfriend or girlfriend for a week without getting antsy.
Now, back to the money issue.
Some of us love our money. I know that it’s something I struggle with, especially when the plate gets passed at church or I’m asked to cover the gas on a long trip by myself. I know it’s draw and it’s calling. I remember the tug on my heart.
Jesus didn’t want us to be mastered by anything other than Him. The eye of the needle thing is important because it’s really really true. We often choose money over the work of God. In the case of people in my small town, they see their money as an example of their ability to provide. They don’t need a god, because they “can take care of themselves”. It’s an outward sign of an inward problem.
If you’re like me and you live and work in America, chances are you are in the top 2% of the world’s richest people. The top 2%! People working at KMart make more than I do, and yet I’m still in the top of all the world’s people. Think about that.
What does it say about us as a nation?
I think it says that we, as a people, get stuck on this issue. We struggle with this one a lot.
Many, many people aren’t going to make it through the eye of that needle. We’re slaves to our money. It causes us to work such long hours that we never see our kids. We work jobs during church hours to make ends meet, even though it hurts our faith. We (and by “we” I mean “I”) give very little money to worthy causes because we assume someone is going to rip us off rather than do the work of the Lord.
We Americans build walls of money to protect us from the rest of the world. We assume that if other countries don’t have our wealth then they must be lazy. We build massive homes full of decorations, while our neighbors struggle to get by. We pay the workers in our companies minimum wage and expect them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, rather than give them the tools to do so.
Jesus told the rich man to sell all of his things and follow Him. He wasn’t being cute, He was telling the man to walk away from the master that stole his heart in order to be free.
What are you selling your soul for? Where does the devil have a foothold in your live? What things have you made your master, and are you willing to give them to the Lord?
Not All Christians are Crazy
I was at a party this week where a bunch of Christians were invited to mix with a group of non-Christians. It was a nice opportunity for us to get to meet some people outside of our usual circle.
Mind you, the non-believers did not know that a bunch of Christians were invited. That is an important nugget of information. That being the case, they were not expecting a religious conversation. Our hope was just to be there, to exist in the same space, and, if the conversation could come up, we would nurture it to do so.
Yet one of my compadres went in all guns blazing. It happened to be right at the same time a nice young woman was telling me about how she was not impressed with Christians in general. She cited some of the areas where we really do deserve criticism. My brother in Christ didn’t hear this conversation and started throwing out some churchy terms that even I, as a believer of 21 years, didn’t know the relevance of.
His heart was in the right place, but he didn’t do his listening first. He didn’t gage the audience before he hurled a message into the void. We’ve all been there. Let’s be honest. The trouble is that he diffused a useful discussion about correcting the wrongs of the past with gobbledegook.
I would argue that that is what is going on in the Christian market right now.
There are a lot of important conversations we need to be having with the secular world. But they can’t break through because we’re so busy trying to re-create Touched By An Angel, or pushing through legislation that the Bible doesn’t comment on at all, and calling it the work of God.
I went into Christian filmmaking for a number of reasons back in the day, some of them pure, and some of them not. But one of the pure reasons we made Bringing up Bobby was as a flag, a symbol to raise above the noise to say, “hey, someone over here isn’t crazy.” We wanted to demonstrate, especially to young people, that some Christians are not fire-breathing hate machines. Some of us at least try to think about what we are going to say. Some of us read the Bible to inform our theology, not to impose our theology onto the Bible.
What I am calling for is more people to raise their flags. The message of the gospel is getting drowned out in the marketplace because we’ve paired it with our utopian ideas. We’ve drawn allegiances with untrustworthy bedfellows. We want to believe that making people act like us will save their souls, when it won’t.
There are young minds out there, many of them, who have nobody to turn to. They think that nobody is listening at the party. We are listening. We’re just getting drowned out by what sells.
So, to all of the creators, artists, and journalists out there, let’s stop hiding. Let’s do our listening before we butt in on a party conversation. Let’s do work that shows others that God’s people are not crazy. And let’s be willing to admit when we’re wrong.
Godspeed, my friends.