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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

What Would Jar Jar Do?

I love the STAR WARS movies. I think I like them even more than my nine-year-old son and that's saying a lot. But don't we need to keep a distinction between Christian worship and cinema? Check this out. And this.

What does the Force have to do with the Holy Spirit? What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?

I believe there are many times when Christians can and should use the products of popular culture in order to "build bridges" and begin to communicate the message of Jesus Christ. Paul in Acts 17 is the perfect example. In preaching to Athenian philosophers, the apostle quotes pagan Greek poets in order to make a point, to gain a hearing. He spoke their cultural language. And this lead to proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus - at which point, of course, he lost most of his audience.

And that's not the only instance where he does that. In 1 Corinthians 15:33, St. Paul quotes from the Greek comedy Thais written by Menander. Obviously, the apostle saw or read the play and knew it well enough to quote it. That's like me using a quote from Forest Gump or Spiderman or Lord of the Rings in a sermon. It's like refering to American Idol or CSI:Miami. Or a familiar song from the radio. I do that all the time. Some people like it. Some people don't.

Based on the way Jesus used irony and humor and examples from daily life, I don't doubt that He might draw illustrations from STAR WARS if He gave His Sermon on the Mount today. But would he have St. Peter dress in a wookie suit, charge people to watch a film in worship, base sermons on major concepts of the movie, and suggest that the Bible is irrelevant? No. Jar Jar might, but Jesus wouldn't. Every bad thing is really just a good thing gone too far.

To their credit, the folks at Epic Church did alter their website blurb. It originally said, "No long boring sermons filled with Biblical terminology you don't understand, just messages that relate to real issues in your life!" Call me wacky, but I believe the Bible is relevant. Yes, we need to be careful of cliche preaching and over-use of jargon that the unchurched are not familiar with, but we can't encourage the notion that the Bible doesn't speak to real life human needs.

And "Join the Rebellion" is a terrible motto for a church. The apostles weren't the rebels. Everyone else was. Let's keep this straight. Christianity is not a rebel movement. We are not rebelling against the devil. The devil and the world are rebelling against God and His Church. Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers," not "blessed are the insurgents."

I know the dear well-meaning Christians at Epic Church think they are being edgy and inviting people to swim against the mainstream. But face it, tying your religion in to the biggest pop culture phenom of the year is hardly the way to invite people to a life of dying to self.

My fellow blogsters Bunnie Diehl and Pastor Jeff Warner have good stuff to say too.

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1 comment:

Preachrboy said...

Here, here. Once again we are in full agreement.

I will be going to see the new Star Wars at midnight on the night it opens. I have seen the other two recently released ones at the first showing too. Reliving your childhood as an adult is fun, isn't it?

One of my favorite movies for use in illustration is "The Wizard of Oz". It has such a broad appeal - to the young AND old. I have tried to use Star Wars (and Star Trek) examples from time to time, but I felt like I was losing many of the older people. But it seems like EVERYONE has seen the Wizard of Oz.

New Curriculum at Concordia Theological Seminary