Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Caricaturization of American Morality

Caricatures affect how we see and react to the world around us. It's nothing new, the caricature. It has been used in politics by way of the political cartoon  for perhaps centuries. But the cartoon was only a type and shadow of the real influence that would arrive with motion media. The Church's overall image has suffered seriously with the advent of moving image caricatures. Caricatures paint an unrealistic picture of the Church and her people by accentuating negative aspects, both perceived and real while down playing or ignoring positive aspects.
This has in two ways built a wall between the Church and the culture it serves. The first, and by far the worst way is by distorting how Christians see themselves. One example of this can be found in the book "UN Christian", by David Kinnaman. (1) Kinnaman tells of A church in the Los Angeles area that did a five-week series of talks called "Confessions of a Sinful Church". To promote this event a team passed out postcards at local college campuses with a list of five apologies by the Church:
  1. We're Sorry for Our self-Righteousness and Hypocrisy.

  2. We're Sorry for Our Endorsement of Slavery

  3. We're Sorry for Our Mistreatment of Homosexuals

  4. We're Sorry for the Medieval Crusades

  5. We're Sorry for Saying the Earth Is Flat

Kinnaman doesn't elaborate on the content of these talks but the questions themselves seem to apologize for a portrait of the Church painted through the use of caricatures by men whom Jesus prophesied would hate and persecute her. (2) As a result these apologies appear pathetic. They center around a distorted view that the Church sees of herself when she buys into the assertions of a caricature that is at best a misunderstanding, and at worst hate filled and intentionally twisted. Perhaps it would be better if the Church apologized for seeing herself through the eyes of her accuser rather than the eyes of her Groom.
Secondly is the wall that exists because of the caricaturized picture that the culture has adopted of the Church. This is more understandable because the Church is supposed to be a light to the culture it serves and as Jesus said, men love the darkness rather than the light. (3) As a recovering heathen myself I personally garnered great comfort in pointing my finger at the failings and presuppositions I had of the Church and it's people. This of course allowed me to ignore my own failings rather than seek redemption.

(1) Un Christian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, Baker Books. Page 55-56
(2) John 15:18-20
(3) John 3:19


Nancy said...

Excellent! Now we know just who "created" Christian Chimps (chumps)!

Dan said...

Sorry I wasn't quite done when you commented. I wound up publishing before I was finished.

Susan said...

We are reaping the effects of what was being laid out 40-50 years ago. We who know better, must cling to The Word and the fact we are made in the image of God and that in Christ we are new creations. The time, and times, of our testing are coming and coming fast. May we who know the Lord stand firm.

Mary Lee said...

Still reading...have to take a break :)

Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Dan: thank you so much for your kind comment regarding the letter to my father. God bless you.


Jon said...

The cartoon is interesting. I wonder if the cartoonist knew that the phrase "scum of the earth" is a biblical one, coming from Paul's pen in 1 Co 4:13, the referent of which is Paul himself and the other apostles.

Great post--one of your best, I think.

Dan said...

Thanks Jon

I really appreciate the encouragement.

tusker said...

It is ironic and interesting that they went so far to lie and make the evolution proponents look so strong and moral. In reality, if they were correct, there would be no existence of such morality or virtue in suffering persecution, being open minded, or seeking the truth that doesn't exist. Nice piece!

TraciG said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TraciG said...

This is great food for thought Danny. I agree that our culture has gone a long way toward diluting the "idea" of Christianity. Something I wrestle with though is that Christians have also done a pretty good job of tainting others' perspectives as well. I think most of the time it's due to our lack of obedience and the compromise we allow in our lives and choices. The average Joe can recognize inauthenticity in a flash. I also think that some can be attributed to our lack of "loving as Jesus loved".

We are covering the 10 Commandments in our youth program currently, and it's been a good reminder of how imperfect and sinful I am in all kinds of areas that look pretty easy to handle at first glance. I'm a sinner, one saved by grace, but a sinner simple as that and it's good to remind myself of that when I'm out amongst the rest of them! (Or should I say, "the rest of you! LOL).

Dan said...


Thanks for coming by, I know what you're saying, that if there is no God, all that is left is opinion. Opinion that will shift and change from generation to generation, or perhaps even from decade or decade. People might one day fight vehemently to prevent something that later they will fight just as vehemently to legalize. This reminds me of a parable.

Dan said...


I agree that the average Joe can recognize authenticity. But the reverse side of that is that he by default will also recognize authenticity. I think that will ultimately drive him to either a hatred of Christ and so Christians, or to repentance. If hatred is the direction he takes, then to him Christians will be a smell of death
that no amount of love on our part will overcome except though his own repentance. Of course we are still called to love those who persecute and hate us, and also to strive to live a life worthy of the calling we have received.

One of the questions I have is the methods by which we are to love as Jesus loved and even the definition of the word love in the context of this statement. The answer to this question seems more obscure than ever as I read "Un Christian". If you are teaching youth, I recommend reading this book. It is a Barna type book-in fact I think that David Kinnaman is employed by Barna-with lots of polls and surveys that give a glimpse into how the youth to thirty somethings see Christianity. He seems to think that the problem is hypocrisy. I happen to think it's much worse, and one reason it is much worse is that we have bought into the notions perpetrated by the incessant and insidious caricaturizaions presented to us in entertainment.

TraciG said...

I guess when I say "love as Jesus loves" I mean this: Jesus was not indifferent to the religious or the sinful. He was frequently found in the company of both. He didn't just hang out with the scribes, He was constantly in dialogue with them about their errors in understanding and their "mis" practice of their faith. He really hit them on the condition of their hearts. He was also seen with the "scum" of that society, eating with them and pointing out the error of their ways and asking them to "repent and sin no more". To Him, a relationship with an individual was what brought about the opportunity for confrontation on the spiritual issues.

IMO He did both because He loved them, He was not willing that any of them perished...

In my "Christian" circle, I maybe see something different than in the rest of the big bad world. I just see so many people who are pretending to be authentic, thinking that attendance at the right church, reading the right books, hanging out in their factions, and repeating Biblical facts like seminary parrots is what it means to be a follower of Christ. Most seem to be too busy in their lives outside of Sunday to get involved in teaching youth, serving on benevolence committees, or even getting involved in group studies be they Sunday School Classes or Bible studies.I guess the thing that bothers me is the apparent lack of commitment. Maybe that clarifies my position a bit. I guess I'm just a little sick of the luke-warm-"ness" of many believers I observe.

But then again, that might make me judgemental....

And while each individual is in charge of his or her own choice to follow or not follow Christ, our job is to be an attractant to Christ, not a repllant. Authenticity and commitment are two things that at least elicit enough respect that someone might be willing to at least listen to their presentation of the gospel, whereas hypocrisy and quasi-commitment would stop a witness at the front gate.

ATCBob said...

The world is not flat? Someone could have told me. Thanks guys I am always the last to know these things.

Larry T. Durham said...

Very well done.

As a Cristian, I won't be doing very much apologizing; particularly for the "Crusades".

Kathy said...

Maybe this would be an easy dilemma to solve if it weren't so multi-faceted: the dilemma of lack of authenticity, hypocrisy, Hollywood's caricaturization of the church at will - with little or no backlash from anyone who might care even just a little bit. It appears the "salt" is not as salty, the light is dim, and we're pretty comfortable with that. Father in Heaven have mercy, and wake us up before it's too late.

Kathy said...

Comment part two- and as for the nearness of the little red button to the on/off switch on the TV remote, what about the nearness of the rectangular black (or two-tone or whatever) book containing the words of the one who gives any of us breath and life. Perhaps after we activate the "off" button we should actually read and take to heart the truth of the living Word. We have lost the fear of the Lord. We are responsible for way more of where things are than some wish to acknowledge.

TraciG said...

Amen to all of that Kathy. Our lack of commitment to the church and being authentic largely comes from our over-exposure to the world via media of all kinds and our under-exposure to God's Word!

Elizabeth said...

Wow Danny,looks like you struck quite the chord here. This was very eye opening and you did a great job writing it. Kathy, I totally agree with your comments. In my own life it has been easy for me to stay very strict with what my children see but lax when it comes to myself, and that needs to stop. Thanks for the "prodding"...

Kathy said...

I don't like odd numbers. Let's make it an even 20. (sorry, just had to!)

Pat Jenkins said...

dw the "church" may be going through a period of "reformation" itself over the next few years, and that might not be a bad thing! (and i don't mean about losing its sight of GOD, but realizing what a God has done for the human soul!) .. i hope you and your family has a very happy easter!

Dan said...

Thank you Pat.

Anonymous said...

Good points and outstanding video. I've heard that Inherit the Wind was quite the propoganda piece and the video tells the story really well.

Dan said...

Thanks for stopping by Neil. Honestly the first time I ever heard of the movie was on this video. There are lots of other movies Holmberg looks at in the documentary though that I have seen. And I'm afraid to say they probably had their desired affect on me.

Have you ever heard of Eric Holmberg, or seen any of his documentaries?

Anonymous said...

Hi Dan,

I'd never heard of Holmberg.

Stan said...

"1. We're Sorry for Our self-Righteousness and Hypocrisy.
2. We're Sorry for Our Endorsement of Slavery
3. We're Sorry for Our Mistreatment of Homosexuals
4. We're Sorry for the Medieval Crusades
5. We're Sorry for Saying the Earth Is Flat

Oh, this stuff makes me weep. It is so skewed. This is what you were talking about on your comments on my post. It is ... wrong. Unfortunately, people with faulty information spew this stuff out as if it's true and then Christians feel like they need to apologize for the lies being told about them without actually realizing that they're lies. Look at these things. They make no sense.

1. The fundamental doctrine of Christianity -- the starting point -- is "We're sinners in need of salvation and we can't fix that; we can only be made right by Christ." Immediately "self-righteousness" is absent or it's not Christian. And the underlying core of the Church is "we're all a bunch of sinners saved by grace", setting aside hypocrisy as an option.

2. The slavery of the 18th and 19th centuries was not the slavery of the Bible. If this is an apology for God's rules on slavery, we had better be very, very, very careful when we apologize on God's behalf. First, we don't have that option. Second, it's not wise to say, "God was wrong." If it's a reference to the slavery of the 18th and 19th centuries, it was Christians (genuine ones like John Newton, a slaver who gave it up when he gave his life to Christ) who put an end to it.

3. If we are going to apologize for God's opinion regarding homosexual behavior (He calls it an abomination ... not a word I would choose) -- again, we'd better tread lightly. If we're going to apologize because people who call themselves "Christians" acted in a manner that is in direct opposition to Christianity, then we're fools.

4. I can hardly tolerate this whole "crusades" thing. Here's what I told the last guy who threw it at me. "So, you're happily married, right?" "Yeah!" "Good. So, I come to you one day, pull out a gun, and say, 'I'm going to have to kill you.' You say, 'Why?!' I say, 'You're wife told me to.' What would you say?" "I'd say you're crazy; my wife would never say that!" "So, why is it that someone can come to you and say, 'Christ told me to' even though it's in direct opposition to everything we know about Christ and you say, 'Oh, okay, it must be so.'?"

5. It is a lie. Sorry. Plain and simple. The entire "flat earth" thing is a lie perpetrated by an anti-Christian in the 19th century. I wish people would look at the truth about Galileo and all before simply buying this kind of nonsense. Christianity never said the Earth was flat>.

Ultimately (and we seem to keep doing this) it's all nonsense. What possible point is there for me to apologize to everyone else for something I didn't do, for something I don't agree with, for something I don't believe? What right do I have to tell someone "I apologize for what someone else did to you"? Worse, what right do I have to tell someone "I apologize for something that someone else did to someone else"? How have I made things better? But we buy into these lies and false stereotypes and end up trying to defend ourselves for them. Very sad.

What are we to do? "Love one another as [Christ has loved] you."