Thursday, May 28, 2009

#84 Focusing on "that one scene" that
ruined the movie

Christian culture has a tenuous relationship with movies. Even PG movies have no shortage of cursing, violence and innuendo, and it’s hard to appreciate the movie as a whole with all that thrown in.

If you were raised in Christian culture, you will have inferred this mainly from your parents and your friends' parents. Watching a movie rated anything other than G with them has the potential to evoke in you a feature-length anxiety episode over what their reaction could be. When a love scene comes on or a bad word is said, the parental figure will begin to stir malcontentedly before saying "I think we should turn this off" or something to that effect. If the parental figure is in another room and hears something questionable from the TV they'll either say "What are you kids watching in there?" or make some disgruntled harumphs before coming in and evaluating for themselves. If you feel that old sensation of fear shooting through your chest and into your legs as you imagine this, then you may have been raised in Christian culture.

Consider, if you will, The Raiders of the Lost Ark. When this movie came out, Marion in her bra was actually more controversial with Christian culture than was all the copious, spurting violence. Consider also Backdraft. Those firefighters sure were valiant but the love scene on the roof of the firetruck is a deal-breaker for this movie. The language in Top Gun was a giant problem and rendered it completely unsuitable for Christian culture viewing, to say nothing of the take-my-breath-away-silhouetted-tongues scene.

Many youth group screenings of The Princess Bride have been conducted while youth group leaders hovered by the VCR so they could fast-forward over the part where Inigo Montoya calls the Six-Fingered Man a son of a bitch. At day camps this writer worked at, parents said Bambi was too violent to be shown so The Little Mermaid was shown instead. When the parents protested again, it too was banned because Ariel disobeyed her dad.

Fear not! There are many places out there to help you find clean family movie fun. One site used to reissue movies with all objectionable material taken out (at the expense of the plot and any nuance and subtext) but then a judge ruled they can't do that anymore (something about copyright infringement). Now they offer movies with "no graphic violence or sexual content, no nudity, and no harsh profanity." They don't state where they draw the line on harsh, but from reading their reviews you can surmise it falls somewhere between darn (not flagged) and crap (flagged).

Why couldn't the Bible be more clear on where to draw the line? Dang it! (Is saying dang unwholesome talk?) Could God actually want us to wrestle with this? It's more difficult to put these things up to scrutiny and deal with them in the context of relationship with him than it is to follow cultural mores. And...there's the rub.

Monday, May 25, 2009

#83 Memorial Day

Memorial Day doesn't have anything to do with Jesus, but Christian culture sure does get behind it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

#82 Not Environmentalism

Christian culture isn’t known for their environmental activism. In fact, they aren’t on board with it much at all. Some Christians do care about the environment, but American evangelical culture on the whole is rather mistrustful of the green movement. It is eyed with a hint of suspicion and a dusting of disdain.

They're insistent that God created the earth and so it’s interesting that Christian culture dismisses environmentalism. It may be that they associate the green movement with the liberal agenda. As we've discussed, they don’t much like the liberal agenda.

Go to a Christian’s house. Drink a can of coke and then say, “I don’t want to throw this away, where is your recycling?” A bit of tension might occur. If you detect some frostiness - or the opposite reaction, a casual “Oh, we don’t recycle, there’s the trash” - you may be in the presence of Christian culture.

Ask the same person how much mileage their car gets. If they have no idea, or if they lament the cost of filling up their SUV, you may be dealing with someone in Christian culture.

[click picture to read the bumper sticker]

Then there’s Al Gore. Find a Christian. Mention Al. If their shoulders stiffen or their eyes should roll, this person may have been influenced Christian culture.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

#81 Bono

Men in Christian culture often have giant man-crushes on Bono. Pastors who wish to be emergent/relevant sometimes quote him in sermons and work in a U2 lyric mention when they can. Obscure lyrics must be tempting to quote, but the hit songs are quoted most often. Gen-X pastors likely went through a U2 phase in seminary during which they pondered the
worship/mourning/redemptive elements of Boy and October, but now they need to tailor their sermon references to their demographic. They may assume that most people in their congregation don't own any U2 albums older than the Joshua Tree, which is a safe assumption unless the church is very, very Acts 29.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

#80 Leaving perturbed comments and signing them 'anonymous'

Most of the blog comments left here that defend Christian culture are signed anonymous. It's a fact.

Monday, May 4, 2009

#79 Coffeehouses

Christian culture enjoys coffeehouse culture and likes to open coffeehouses as a way to minister to the populace by providing a place to convene. Sometimes this is described as "outreach" to the "community."

The Christian coffeehouse can first be identified by its name. Their names are always either

1. a play on a Biblical phrase (The Upper Room, Daniel's Den, Jehovah Java)

2. a more subversive spiritual reference (Higher Grounds, Holy Grounds, He-Brew)


3. void of any Bible connotation to make non-believers feel welcome, but still have that community-seeking tone that may alert you to Christian beverages lurking inside (Common Grounds, The Crossroads, The Loft).

Upon entering the Christian coffeeshop you will notice that the baristas are especially perky (haha) and that Christian music is playing (this includes Coldplay). Besides these two key indicators, there is not usually a great deal of religious overtone except for perhaps a stray Bible or the latest Focus on the Family mailout lying around. If these factors have not yet tipped you off, note that the drink sizes are probably tall, grande and Goliath, and there is also a message on a chalkboard about their book club. (They are currently reading The Shack. All are welcome!) The coffeehouse also hosts musical guests and said chalkboard announces the upcoming musicians as well. Their musical guests will appear very similar to these four examples.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:
Exhibit C:

Exhibit D:

When a Christian coffeehouse is not handy, Christians sometimes convene in Starbucks for bible studies and quiet times, sometimes thinking that a witnessing opportunity may arise. Students at Christian universities and Christian students at "secular" universities also use Starbucks and the like for witnessing stakeouts. They study there and hope someone asks them about their copy of Passion & Purity, Velvet Elvis or Blue Like Jazz that's lying among their textbooks.

In addition to the potential for outreach, coffee addiction may be one of the few things Christian culture feels it is allowed to have in common with non-Christians. Pastors like to mention their need for espresso in their sermons or in their blogs, and they like to specify the number of shots they order. These pastors (along with worship leaders, deacons, aspiring deacons, homeschooling moms and bros in Christian solidarity) enjoy talking about their reliance on caffeine, often on facebook and twitter. They would not talk as enthusiastically about any other addictive stimulant, but for some reason this one gets a pass.

*It is worth noting that pastors who identify themselves as part of the relevant/resurgent/emergent epidemic are 72% more likely to mention coffee in their blogs or sermons and/or preach with it prominently displayed nearby.