I once watched the Kids’ Choice Awards from Nickelodeon. I watched award after award being accepted. Then Miley Cyrus (aka, Hannah Montana) received the award for Favorite Female Singer and Favorite Female TV Actress. She got up and thanked her “Savior 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. But 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 CDs!” 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? And her father … and he says he’s a Christian. Tsk, tsk, tsk …”
What are we doing?!
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, we get obsessed with sanitizing everything so 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 four, entitled “Bless Us and Keep Us Safe.” If you never watched Kid Nation, it was a show that aired in fall 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 its own 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 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 on to 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 them were 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 about 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 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; in fact, the extent to which we teach children to “Love your neighbor as yourself” is to make sure they don’t hit and are 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 of Christian TV and movies, go outside and meet your neighbors.
A while back, the phrase WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) was popularized. It continues to be another one of those Christian subculture things. But if we were to truly seek out the answer to that question, 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 we should all go out and party it up. What I am saying, though, is we need to engage our communities … the people in our neighborhoods. 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 neighbors 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 to the one who can make them whole again. We can’t do that from the inside of a clubhouse.