Monday, 16 April 2012
[This is reposted as part of our Best-Of Revelife Week. It was originally posted on June 6, 2011.]
I used to watch King of the Hill a lot.
There is something quintessentially American about the television show--the perfectly arranged front yards, men grouping together around the beer, the women looking out their kitchen windows over their children with careful eyes. There is something about that show that describes the life of working class family, in a wonderfully stereotyped kind of way that is. Actually, TIME magazine have gone so far as to say that King of the Hill was one of the "most acutely observed, realistic sitcom about regional American life bar none".
Because of this, I watched with interest an episode on Youtube for how it interpreted Christianity. It actually was a slimcast, which condenses the episode into 10 minutes instead of the original 25--which is probably why it was on youtube legally. Anyway, it was illuminating in how they present an image of the Nu-Christianity that has taken over a youth group that Bobby (the son) has joined. In many ways, it is not very much different from the Christianity that is given in churches today.
I had two thoughts from the episode which stood out for me. There are truly a lot of gems to be picked out of the episode, which is hopefully why I hope that you would view the whole episode on youtube, but these two are the ones of which were most provocative to me.
1. My first thought was concerning the bible study that the youth group was having.
I'm not sure if they have the idea of bible study down pat. First, they begin by picking a random verse that jumped out at them, more often than not, seems that this is not as random as you would have it. The text is from 1 Thessalonians 5:21: "Test everything; hold fast what is good." Though where in the Bible, or whether it is in the Bible or not seems to not matter much as the lesson ends up being the same-same anyway. Love God, read your bible, pray everyday--the verse is irrelevant as long as these are truths are taught. With what depth is irrelevant, how to pray, what to pray for, with what frequency are left up to the user to determine. Unsatisfied by the answer, Bobby delves even deeper:
BOBBY: But how do you know what's good?
PASTOR K: It's whatever sticks to your spirit, man, whatever God tattoos on your soul. We're all searching for that eternal ink.
The pastor hasn't really answered his question really. He has made the subject of the testing entirely subjective as according to the human heart, which is coincidentally deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked—no one can know it. It is a surface answer that seems nice on the outside, but ultimately insufficient.
This is especially in the reading of the context, where Paul says of the church in Thessalonica, in the subsequent verses. Paul prays that : “the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (5:24) The subject of what we should test things is through God. This not through the human heart alone, but one that is first sanctified by the Holy Spirit—moreover, this has to be in accordance with what the Scripture have to say as it says in many other verses (Acts 17:11). A simple cross reference would have worked.
2. The second thought was the presentation of Christianity as a fad.
There is an exchange that occurs at the end that illuminates my point:
BOBBY: When I turn 18, I’m going to do whatever I want for the Lord. Tattoos, piercings, you name it.
HANK: Well, I’ll take that chance. Come here, there’s something I want you to see. (Hank takes down a box from the shelf and opens it up) Remember this?
BOBBY: My beanbag buddy? Oh, man, I can’t believe I collected those things. They’re so lame.
HANK: You didn’t think so five years ago. And how about your virtual pet? You used to carry this thing everywhere. Then you got tired of it, forgot to feed it, and it died.
BOBBY (looks at a photo of himself in a Ninja Turtles costume): I look like such a dork.
HANK: I know how you feel. I never thought that “Members Only” jacket would go out of style, but it did. I know you think stuff you’re doing now is cool, but in a few years you’re going to think it’s lame. And I don’t want the Lord to end up in this box.
BOBBY: Hey, what’s this picture? Mom used to have blonde hair?
HANK: Farrah Fawcett was very popular back then.
The show presents a very astute connection between the marketing of the church today with the world. This is almost as Christ becomes a commodity, like a Barbie doll for the girls or a Megaman for the boys--a friend to share a beer with for the fathers, and a listening ear to the housewife. Christ may be some of these, some of these I am less sure of, but the show really aims to illuminate the message that Christ is greater than all of these. Jesus is our friend, our dearest friend, but He is more than just a friend—He is our Savior, He is our Lord, He is our Advocate, He is our Shepherd.
Furthermore, when it comes down to it, Bobby was in the group without a living relationship with Jesus Christ. Quickly after attending the youth group, he is whisked away with euphoria of this new group of friends that he is surrounded by. He is changed, surely. He is born again, but what has he been born again to? Is he truly born again in the Spirit, or is it a cheap substitute that funds the operations of Hollister?
Truthfully, I am learning of what a dangerous thing it is to be content with petty conversation, when eternal destinies are at stake here. I am not going to deny that there is wonderful love between the members of the youth group, and I wish for myself to be as accepting as these, but it is not true love unless it is coupled with Christ. What happened in the episode is that Bobby felt like he belonged with these people, his faith was in his brethren, not in Christ.
Christianity is then reduced to merely a country club where friendship is the end, not faith--a place to take and take from the group instead of giving and encouraging each other up in Christ. I think it is a weakness of the Emergent Church that seeks to emphasize more on the journey of faith, as opposed to the destination of faith. In Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian was focused on the end where heaven was—that was where he was headed. His struggles to get to that place, were merely secondary to the primary goal of reaching that upward call of God.
Therefore, my question is: what does lasting faith mean?
Could Christian have reached his final destination without the true and lasting faith in Christ? I would hazard a guess that he could not have.
Could we truly think that Bobby could have been a Christian in that clique for his whole life? I would hazard a guess that he could not have.
I often wonder what goes wrong when teenagers pack off to college, and they completely lose their faith. What it is that causes people to lose faith in God when a loved one passes onto something heavenly. I don’t have any answers to these, because I am one of those teenagers at college, finding myself continually fighting that unbelief I find in myself.
Is it a shallow Christianity that has been passed onto these? Were these people ever saved at all? Does the youth group Christianity, really nurture a lasting faith or a feel-good sensation?