This morning, I checked into Facebook and saw that a Synod in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA-the church I’m affiliated with) produced a video called “Kid Bishop” that mimicked the popular Kid President videos that have gone viral on YouTube.
Of course, I reacted pretty strongly to it….to put it bluntly, it pissed me off. It’s one of my biggest annoyances with the church and Christian culture in general – taking something from popular culture and putting out a Christian version of it. But, in my rashness I posted a rant on Facebook, which I usually condemn in others. So I’m guilty of hyprocracy and a lack of tact, I’ll own up to that.
Here is my Facebook status post, my reaction to “Kid Bishop.”
1. This is horrible.
2. It isn’t witness or mission.
3. For a church that keeps telling everyone that they’re all about diversity: Really? A white kid? And with the implication his message is better than Kid President’s? (A black kid)
3. I still like Kid President better. A whole lot more.
4. I know I’m being extremely judgmental. But sorry, I think this is just wrong.
I got called on my status by another person in the ELCA…a pastor. And I’m glad she did: one, it reminded me what a jerk I can be sometimes, which I need to be kept in check on (my wife will affirm that!), and two, I got me to reflect a bit more on the problem of what I call “Christianizing” the world and life around us.
First off, when it’s done the quality is poor and it’s just plain cheesy: poor acting, poorly constructed puns and jokes based on insider language. In that light, it makes Christian faith out as some sort of bad novelty. While all for embracing awkwardness and nerdiness, I’m not sure I want the core of Christian faith and the life of the church to be banished to the realm of novelty, a la Trekkies or Star Wars.
I think there is something deeper to Christianizing: it sends the message to both those inside and outside the church that Christian life is significantly of more value than secular life. It effectively says, “The message of the church is infinitely better than any message that the world could ever come up with.” Kid Bishop and his message is infinitely better than Kid President’s. If we believe that, it runs contrary to the core of a Lutheran understanding of mission. Mission is witness: sharing and telling the good news about Jesus Christ. But it’s a witness that says, here is how faith has changed my life and how I see this world. It is NOT a witness that says, faith is important, and this is why you should believe and buy into it.
A good friend of mine hit it on the head – such a statement is only for insiders, those within the church. But it isn’t for those outside the church. And perhaps Christianizing things has a place then…but the result is brand-loyalty, not a deeper sense of an experience with God’s grace and a call to discipleship and mission of witness and service to others.
Christian mission asserts and takes seriously God’s activity and presence in the world….at least in Lutheran circles. When we are constantly Christianizing secular messages and things, we negate the value of a world that God created, redeems and gives life to. We marginalize this world that God loves for the benefit of increasing our piety.
And, we deny God’s very presence and activity in the world and in secular things, which runs contrary to the Theology of the Cross. A Theology of the Cross says that is EXACTLY where God is found – in the world. In ordinary things. In human suffering and weakness. In human longing for reconciliation, freedom, and hope.
I think I’ll keep my rant posted on Facebook, because I think it’s high time the church gets out of the business of Christianizing the world, and instead proclaiming that the messages of hope we hear in the world – cries for justice, love, peace, belonging, community – messages from the likes of Kid President, are synonymous with God’s message to the world through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.