Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tebowing and Cultural Christianity I

The other day I came home from work, and opened my Facebook page. One of my parishoners had a picture of their child "Tebowing". For those of you who are unfamiliar with the practice, "Tebowing" is a certain position of bowing in prayer that mimics Tim Tebow's prayer pose on the football field. Underneath the picture my friend had commented, "Thank you Tim Tebow for showing my son that God is cool".

Now I certainly appreciate my friend's heart on this matter. She wants her children to love Jesus, and she is working hard to raise them right. She is looking for all the role models she can get in support of her Christian faith. And, in a day where there are so many awful role models in our popular culture, it is helpful to have one or two that reinforce good, healthy, Christian values. Yet, I had some measure of discomfort when I read this proclamation. This discomfort had less to do with my friend and family, which I have a lot of respect for, and more to do with how Christians and Americans deal with expressions of faith in the public square.

A number of questions raced through my mind. Is God best described as cool? Do I want my child thinking of God as "cool"? In what ways does longing for and expecting God to be "cool"effect the faith development of persons in our culture?

As I pondered these questions I came to a conclusion. I don't think the Lord cares if he is all that cool. Furthermore, I think that more often than not, the way of "cool" and the way of Jesus run in opposite directions.

Over and over again throughout Scripture God's people are called to be "set-apart", holy, peculiar. Instead of being cool, they were often viewed with suspicion. They were beat up, they were persecuted, and they were murdered for what they believed. The early Christians were believed to be unpatriotic to Rome, and irrationally loyal to their God in a land of polytheism. 

Jesus often had crowds gather around him. As soon as the crowds became large, Jesus would challenge people in harsh manner. He would encourage them to count the cost of following Jesus. He would say things that would so shock people that the crowds would nearly disappear. Jesus was so uncool to his peers that they murdered him.

More often than not, American Christians act like an insecure sophomore in high school. You know what I am talking about. Christian culture acts like that kid that gets picked on everyday, but is desperate for everyone to like and admire him. He has yet to learn to be comfortable in his own skin, so he mimics every trend that comes along, and does everything he can to gain positive attention.

This summer, I listened to a Christian leader speak about his evangelistic efforts. He could have shared about many opportunities he had to share his faith. He chose to share about how he led a celebrity journalist to accept Jesus as her Lord and Savior. The way he described it, it was almost like a romantic conquest. He began to speak to her over dinner before. He closed the deal the next morning for coffee. 

I wondered, as I often do in moments like this, why it is so important that he reached a celebrity  with name recognition? If Christians are true to their message, shouldn't a homeless drunk or a prostitute finding hope in Christ matter as much to them as a famous journalist or great pro football player?

You see, what happens with "cool" Christianity is that we try to push God into our mold so that we can brag about Him, sell Him, and use Him for our benefit, and to serve our agenda. When we try to place the label "cool" on Jesus, we try and fit life of work of Christ into something that is easy, palatable, and marketable. We try and make our image of Jesus conform to society's standards. And by doing so, we compromise and ignore basic biblical truths that seem inconvenient.

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