Monday, March 28, 2011

The Cartoon Song: A Reflection

In the late '90s, Christian radio stations were abuzz with the hidden track on the album Past the Edges by Chris Rice: Cartoons.

Without question, it is a catchy, fun little song. It presents us with a simple hypothetical to consider: What if cartoons "got saved"? And it is clever to imagine how those famous cartoons would say "hallelujah". And yet, as imaginative as this song is, the message that it sends leaves much to be desired...

The song suggests that "Beavis and that other guy" won't be or can't be saved. The slight pause and one word dismissal of "nah" makes at least some people in the live audience laugh -- there are some who cheer, even -- but, I don't see the humor or joy in it. Why is it that we think that these two cartoon characters can be so easily tossed aside? Is it their choice of dress? Is it their choice of music? Maybe it is their presumed education level or their choice of language? Why is it so difficult to imagine Beavis and Butthead getting saved?

The answer really all depends on your understanding of salvation. Some people believe that salvation is totally dependent on our actions -- that is to say that we humans have a kind of authoritative role in whether or not we are saved. Some say -- either with their actual words or with their actions -- that salvation is based on our believing something or doing something or saying something, as though our being saved or not is dependent upon our "works".

I don't agree with this understanding. You see, I don't believe that we humans (or cartoons, for that matter) have any authoritative role in "being saved". Salvation has nothing to do with any choice that I could ever make. It has nothing to do with any magic words or special incantations. It is not something that comes about because of our "works". Salvation is not something that we do. God - and God alone - is the one who acts through Christ. If salvation is dependent on me and my actions/choices, then that would mean that God is bound by me...and that is a really weak God! Salvation is a gift from God -- pure and simple.

So, I have to wonder... why say "nah" when considering what it would be like if Beavis and Butthead were saved? Is God not capable of extending the gift of salvation to characters like them? God doesn't hesitate to save Fred Flinstone, a character who frequently mistreats his wife. God readily saves Scooby-doo and Shaggy, who are known trespassers (and long suspected drug users). God has no problem saving someone like Yogi Bear, who is an admitted thief. And yet, according to the song, God has no interest in saving two teenage boys who like to watch MTV.

Really?!? I'm just not buying it... I wholeheartedly believe that God is fully capable of saving Beavis and Butthead! Do I know that God would save them? No. I don't know that any more than I can know if God would save anyone else! I don't claim to know the mind of God. This is why I find it rather upsetting that there are "Christians" who dare to make judgement calls like Chris Rice has in his song "Cartoons". There is no good reason to suggest -- even in jest -- that God has no interest in or ability to save someone...

Jesus said -- without mincing words -- that we are not called to make these kinds of judgements. "Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get (Matthew 7:1-2)." It is pretty clear that none of us are in any position to decide whether or not God would save someone. If we're going to be judged according to the judgments that we make, then I am going to follow the rules of love and grace...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

If There Is A Hell...

The violent behavior of Fred Phelps that has recently been revealed by his estranged seventh-son, Nate, comes as no surprise. Any person whose entire "ministry" revolves around hate is bound to exhibit violent behavior. (I don't think that I have ever heard any reports of this "pastor" of the Westboro Baptist "Church" even saying the word love.)

At the end of the article, Nate Phelps (the son) says this: "So since the United States is taking steps to move in the direction of equality for gays in America, he says that has doomed America... So anyone who is connected to America, so anyone who is supporting America in any sense is subject to the wrath of God."

So... here's what I'm wondering... The Westboro Baptist "Church" benefited from the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in their favor. The court decided that they have the right to do what they do, right? So... doesn't that mean that they are "connected to America"? I mean, they live in America. They live under the rule of the U.S. government. They were just supported by the highest court in America.

So...according to their own claims regarding what happens to those who are connected to America...doesn't this mean that (due to their association) "God Hates Westboro Baptist Church"?

Just wondering...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Roll Away Your Stone...

What stone could you roll away today?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Who Does This? Really? seems that the gal in the video that I posted yesterday - the one thanking God for answering prayers to convert atheists by causing the earthquake in Japan - was making up the whole thing.

Now, on the one hand, I am incredibly happy to find out that the video wasn't legit. But, on the other hand... Who DOES this sort of thing??? I mean, is this meant to be entertaining? Is it meant to be a political statement of some sort? Is it designed to make other groups of people look bad by pretending to be the most rotten apple in the bunch?

Parody or not -- "troll" video or not -- what was posted was just plain wrong. And the "oops, my bad" pseudo-apology doesn't really cut it for me...

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Response to One Who is Thankful for the Tragedy in Japan

I was wondering when we'd start seeing things like this. And, by "things", I mean "crap". I guess I was hoping and praying that the wackos would keep quiet about the horrific tragedies in Japan. Sadly, we're not that lucky. I simply do not understand how it is that people can say these kinds of things.

(I warn you that this video is, in my opinion, incredibly offensive. If you are one of those people who is prone to throwing things when you get angry or such like've been warned.)

To say that I am disgusted by this person's words is, perhaps, the understatement of the century.

At first, I figured that this must be a prank video - intended to parody so-called Christians like Pat Robertson and John Piper. But, alas, I don't think that is actually the case. I looked at her profile on YouTube, and I'm fairly certain that she attends (or is at the least greatly influenced by) the Chalcedon Presbyterian Church in Cumming, Georgia. I saw the word "Presbyterian" and nearly came unglued. I quickly checked to see what particular "flavor" of Presbyterian this church claims, and I discovered that they identify with the Reformed Presbyterian Church in the United States. I have a few friends who attend RPCUS churches -- and the RPCUS is quite different from the PCUSA -- but I don't think that this person in the video is a good spokesperson for that denomination.

The real Christians that I know aren't cruel, hate-filled people who think that we should celebrate when tragedy strikes -- they are kind, love-filled people who reach out to friends and enemies alike in the name of Christ. The real Christians that I know don't believe that God is all about separation -- they believe that God is all about reconciliation. The real Christians that I know leave pronouncements of judgement and damnation COMPLETELY up to God -- they don't pretend that they can make those kinds of pronouncements themselves.

The creator of the video posted above calls Christians to prayer. And I say, let's do it. Let's pray fervently throughout this Lenten season. But, I would encourage us all to pray in ways that don't put words into God's mouth. Instead of praying for things like destruction and vengeance, let's dare to pray for those things for which Christ suggested we pray: pray for your own ability to forgive (Mark 11:25); and pray for your enemies and those who persecute you, so that you might demonstrate your love for them as God demonstrates love for you (Matthew 5:43-48). May we learn to pray in ways that answer God's call for us to love as Christ so loved us...

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Lenten Fast Suggestion

The season of Lent officially began on March 9th (Ash Wednesday), and it will continue for forty days until Easter Sunday. Beginning in the days of the early church, the season of Lent has developed into a time for learning and preparation – particularly for those preparing to be baptized. For all of us, Lent is a time to renew our faith, reaffirm our baptismal identities, and to learn more about what it means to be a follower of Christ.

Many Christians “give something up” for Lent. Have you ever done that? Many people will fast from something during Lent – giving up meat, chocolate, television, or something like that. Fasting is a common Christian practice – especially during this season. By choosing to refrain from enjoying something that we otherwise enjoy on a regular basis, it gives us an opportunity to appreciate those things that much more when we break our fast. Fasting during Lent also invites us to refocus our lives, to repent from our sins, and to renew our commitment to God and God’s Church.

Over the last several years, I have opted to "take on something" during Lent instead of "giving up something". And this year, I am wanting to do both -- take on something AND give up something. Once again, I will be striving to "take on" blogging on a more regular basis. (Hopefully, I will have better success this year!) And I will be "giving up" the oh so tasty trips to Dunkin Donuts... I plan to use the money I would have spent buying donuts and coffee to support one of our church's missions.

Now... all this is well and good and all that... but, let me share what I PRAY we will ALL consider giving up for Lent this year... It is my prayer that we will give up saying things like "But, we've never done it that way before," and "We tried that once and it didn't work." Seriously. I REALLY want us all to give up these useless phrases! I especially pray that those of us who believe Scripture when it says "Behold, I am about to do a new thing" and "Nothing will be impossible with God" will give up saying things that express hopelessness, reluctance, and fear. Instead of "But, we've never done it that way before," I hope that we will say "Let's give it a try!" Instead of "We tried that once and it didn't word," I hope that we will say "Let's see what happens this time!"

As we begin our Lenten journeys, may we dare to look forward - not backward. May we celebrate the gifts God has given - not whine about what we wish we had...