Brian Brown at Aleteia.org writes this about Disney, animated movies, and Christian outrage:
(A)s a Millennial who grew up on (Disney animated) movies, I think our parents got upset about most of the wrong things and utterly missed the most fundamental way Disney was shaping their kids. While Mom and Dad were worrying about overt things that were realistic (Ariel dressing like a mermaid, a Native American revering nature) or a normal part of fairy tales (magic), Disney was installing a value system into us that was apparently too subtle for them to notice.
Nearly every Disney animated film for decades taught us the same core moral principle (…)“following your heart is always the right thing to do.”
Thankfully, my parents didn’t get too far into that. We had our own issues, but there was a pragmatism about the world as they were more interested in preparing us to deal with it than they were in keeping us unspotted from it.
But I’ve seen these moralists. Friends, neighbors, people in church, they were very common, and this article lays the problem down clearly: Christians too often become too hung up on the visible issues of something, and too often entirely neglect the real problems, the problems deep down, at the heart.
The writer further explains:
(T)his is part of an even longer and broader tradition of caring a great deal more about a total absence of bad things in a movie than the presence of good things, which is partly why the Christian films we’re all “supposed” to go see are almost universally clean, safe, and horrible.
One thing I’ve appreciated about some of the more recent attempts a “Christian” film making is that they recognize that any story worth its salt needs conflict, that God is no stranger to conflict and is more than capable of dealing with it, and that we Christians have the best answer to conflict found anywhere. A real story that deals with real issues with honesty and integrity is more “Christian” than a thousand Hallmark Holiday Classics.
The New York Times headline lumps all corporal punishment under the same roof as the abusive advice of the Pearls.
A friend of the parents most recently found guilty points out “the Pearls are not professionally trained or educated in child development.”
First off let me be clear: These parents are evil and deserve the full and just punishment for the abuse and murder of their children. How heartless, callous, cruel, and stupid must you be to consider sending your young child naked into the cold to be reasonable punishment, a good idea?
Yes, children are sinners just like you and I, and discipline is necessary to guide them into being healthy adults, but the goal is never to break the child. These are children, not horses. Discipline is about structure, structure is about direction, direction is about purpose. The goal of discipline is to grow within the child the self-discipline necessary for them to be able to accomplish their own purposes in life. Breaking a child’s will robs them of purpose and so is not a legitimate goal or form of discipline.
Parents who consider advice such as the Pearls dispense sound are doing grave disservice to their children at best, and are harming their children immeasurably at worst.
But we have to also be clear about a few others things as well:
Professional training in child development does not in any way make a person a legitimate expert able to dispense advice that would be any more right or effective than the destructive trash put out by the Pearls. Experience and success, or even an honest understanding of the source of ones failures, are more likely to present advice worth reading, and even if that is read, it ought to be run past your own common sense, for what is successful with one child may not necessarily be successful with another, even one in the same family.
Corporal punishment, spanking, is often illustrated with extreme cases where the intent is clearly harm to the child, when there is no proof that is how it primarily exists. The very fact that these isolated cases are such big news is that they are isolated. Most parents are not beating their children with plastic tubing until they “draw into a quiet shell and obey”.
The Bible in no way supports the ideas of breaking children down. Instead, twice in the New Testament Paul tells fathers to not provoke their children to wrath, anger, exasperation, embitterment, or discouragement (Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:21).
So far as we know the Pearls have not committed any crimes themselves. Freedom of speech and of the press means that in this country at least they ought to still be free to publish their drivel and silly people are still free to follow them. Not every child raised by adherents of the Pearls folly die, and some even turn out all right I’d presume. But like the leftist Democrats in the Westboro Baptist “Church” the Pearls ought to be confronted with wisdom and truth by some, and studiously ignored by all others, and parents ought to be surrounded by their family, friends, and community with good and sound advice and help and support.
As a musician this aspect of Christian music has bothered me for some time. But it does not bother me so much as some, because I don’t think all Christian music is bland and blah. At the various times in my life when I considered writing or composing, it has never occurred to me to publish it in a “Christian” venue. I’d rather write and play and sing songs that have truth than pigeon-hole my music into a particular demographic. Listen to a John Denver song and you’ll generally get the idea: he sings about strong and true things. A Christian will hear his lyrics and be prompted to examine their life and praise God. A non-Christian will also be edified as the aspects of their soul that resonate with the truth of the words will perk up and be strengthened. He would have gained nothing by selling his music as “Christian” music, and the world probably would have lost much.
So perhaps some of my lack of worry is because I never considered “Christian” music to be as distinct and separate as some would consider it, even when I held to the legalistic perspectives of my youth. But some protection from that cynicism has come from my seeking out musicians that aren’t endlessly derivative. In fact, rather than spend time trying to explain how there are nooks and corners of Christian music, and even some broad swaths, that are not “genreless” and “unoriginal”, far from it. There are some artists that are veritable fields of deep and spiritually healthful music calculated not to tickle the ears of the masses, but to speak to the soul words of truth.
Pandora introduced Dirt Poor Robins to me a few years ago when they played Masquerade by this husband/wife group. It’s clever use of a well-known nursery rhyme caught my attention, as did it’s musical genius. Then the words of Rise Up, meshing the words of God to Job and Isaiah, have served at many times to bolster my spirit in difficult times. But all these pale to I Shot A Man:
Rich Mullins’ music has attracted me since I first heard Creed, and the intro to Sing Your Praise To The Lord seems to me to have effectively pre-dated most of the Classical/Rock fusion now common in the songs of Evanescence and Within Temptation. That’s not derivative, that’s original.
While no one would claim that Steven Curtis Chapman or Michael W. Smith are in any way nearly as talented musically as either Dirt Poor Robins or Rich Mullins, I think these two illustrate a second aspect of how “genreless” and “unoriginal” are not the only standards by which Christian music can be measured, especially for Christians themselves.
No one can argue that Smith and Chapman more than make up for their lack of talent with a great depth of spirit and honesty in their Christian walk. I think recent events probably brings this more to the forefront in Chapman’s life, but I get the same feeling from Smith’s music as I do Chapman’s: they are both real men with real hearts of God who sing to the utmost of their ability praises to their Lord and Savior. Granted, these men play rather key roles in my own spiritual growth, proving to be catalysts in my breaking free from the legalism that captured much of my youth. Hearing This Was Her Time during a televised Billy Graham Crusade showed me irrefutably that contemporary styles of music were not devilish, and at my first (and only) concert, Chapman had the son of Nate Saint and Mincayani himself as guests on stage pushing an upcoming film on their stirring story. At that same time we’d been studying the story of Jim Elliot and Nate Saint at home and this coincidence confirmed to me further that God was being glorified through modern music as well as through the old.
But regardless of my own attachment to these two, they both use their derivative and unoriginal music to make joyful noises to the Lord, edifying and encouraging Christians who hear them in their own walks. That, to me, indicates music that is successfully Christian, regardless of it’s stylistic grade.
This brings me to a final point: more is gained when music is appreciated for what it is than criticized for what it’s not. Music that is good for Christians comes in two flavors: music designed to encourage praise of God in a corporate or private setting, and music designed to encourage good living. I listen to much more of the latter in my personal music library, and this latter category also contains much music not written for, or even by, Christians. The former category has certain inherent limitations imposed by it’s purpose: it must be singable, accessible, and “relevant”. In a word, it must be popular. It is generally mostly in the latter category that you’ll find music that is interesting, technically creative, stylistically challenging, in short, original and genred. Unfortunately, it is the former, singable, accessible, “relevant” music that you hear on KLOVE or whatever your local praise-fest station is, and it is this style that is mostly what is thought of when you hear some comment about how dull and stupid Christian music is.
The author of the article ended by saying that Christian music ought never have moved beyond hymns, stating that is the only “true” Christian music genre. I assume he’s forgetting that a hundred or more years ago when most of those hymns were written, they were in the style of the popular music of that culture. It has been as many in the church have gotten stuck in a 300-year-old music style that the church has grown old and stuffy and concerned about things like walking down the aisle, saying the “sinner’s prayer”, developing theologically questionable habits that are more about pew-warmer’s comfort and less about letting none perish. Not that these two trends are necessarily causal, but they certainly are correlated.
“They had zeal without full knowledge, hope without understanding, religious practice without clear theology.” ~ J. Julius Scott Jr., Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament
“My people are destroyed” said God.
While you could say the small prophet Hosea spoke to a different time and people, look around today and you’ll see it is still true. God’s people are destroyed. Beaten back on every front, surrendering left and right the ground of morality and decency and charity. Christian responsibilities co-opted by conniving socio-political systems that seek to enslave through manufactured need rather than free by salvation of the soul.
But why are God’s people destroyed?
It isn’t, as one would gather from visiting churches today and listening to the people and the pastors and reading the glut of how-to-fix-Christianity books, that they lack heart or soul, or truth or depth in their feelings of devotion. It has nothing to do with with a lack of action by them on behalf of the gospel. It isn’t that they are too involved in the culture, and it isn’t that they are too distant from it. It isn’t that they don’t read their bibles, or because they protest at abortion mills. It is not for any of these reasons that God’s people are destroyed.
No, it is because they lack sense. Because they are not intelligent about what it is they believe. God’s people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Passing through a bookstore, do you breeze past the Theology section? Do you see a book titled “Systematic Theology” and your eyes glaze over? Do you come across a difficult section of scripture and you skip past it looking for greener pastures for your soul? Does the thought of countering charges of biblical inconsistency or addressing the basic points the foundational principles behind baptism cause you to shiver? Why is this? Do you fear that you don’t know enough about “those things”, that such things are better left to pastors and some nice but weird people who God has made specially for debating and defending the faith and that scary thing called “Apologetics”?
God may not have called us to defend our faith before a television audience with Larry King. He may not even care whether or not we show up at the local park and talk to strangers about Him. But He wants us to not be destroyed.
We avoid destruction through knowing, first and foremost, what it is we believe. And not in simple Sunday School terms that haven’t advanced since 2nd grade. It is the responsibility of each and every Christian, to the extent of their own ability, to know why they are saved, what they are saved from, who saved them, and how that salvation came to be. For most people, the extent of their own ability is far beyond where they are now.
We avoid destruction through also knowing why it is we believe what we believe. This requires knowledge of the history of the Christian faith. We do not live in the only important time. It is a general fault that the majority of each generation thinks only in terms of their own generation. But the world, humanity, and Christianity are all very much older than any one of us, and are likely to continue on much longer than any one of us. Those troubling issues we deal with today are in no way unique. Brilliant people have struggled and pondered and argued over every nitty-gritty detail of the various ideas that comprise orthodox Christian theology, and there are very good reasons why the most universal and general beliefs of orthodox Christianity are what they are today. Even a little knowledge of how we came to believe what we believe can help defend ourselves against the destruction of predatory and untrue belief systems and cultish ideas.
We avoid destruction, in short, by studying to show ourselves approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
Can you rightly handle the word of truth?
I doubt I’ll ever be able to handle the word of truth. But that will not stop me from learning and honing and studying and growing in knowledge so that I may escape destruction.
4 Yet let no one contend,
and let none accuse,
for with you is my contention, O priest.
5 You shall stumble by day;
the prophet also shall stumble with you by night;
and I will destroy your mother.
6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;
because you have rejected knowledge,
I reject you from being a priest to me.
And since you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children.
2 Timothy 2:14-19
14 Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene… 19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”
X and Y duke it out in a battle for the minds and hearts of the readers of The Jesus Inquest. If you accept, as X does, that belief in the Christian is belief in a lie, and as both X and Y, that to believe a lie is a terrible thing indeed, you will fight wholeheartedly to convince those who believe this considered lie of the truth, as you see it. And Y is no less hearty in his defense of the same.
X and Y are figments of barrister (lawyer) Charles Foster’s literary imagination. Two fiends for truth who wage epic battle through the pages of The Jesus Inquest, arguing and counter-arguing the aspects of Jesus‘ death, burial, resurrection, and subsequent appearances and final ascension using logic, reason, evidence, history, science, and any and all other tools they can muster There can only be one victor, and on the outcome hangs the foundation of faith for billions of people through history and today.
The book began as Charles Foster encountered his own doubts and need to substantiate what he’d believed regarding the epitome of Christs life and all human history. In the truest sense, his heart cannot believe what his mind will not accept. And so he set out to research and investigate, beyond the just-so stories of Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell.
As a barrister Foster is used to being able to see and argue both sides of an argument, and he brings this skill to good use through creating not a devil’s advocate, but two characters of reasonable intelligence with deep grasps of their respective positions, their strengths and weaknesses, and the others preferred points. These two characters, X and Y, meet in the pages of The Jesus Inquest. The arguments from the anti-Christian X always come first. Some may say this weakens him as the final word always then goes to the pro-Christian Y. Foster wrote the book for his own purposes and this structure affirms that.
The Jesus Inquest is clear and readable. In creating the two characters as he did, Foster saves the book from being a simple tit-for-tat straight and dry comparison of facts and arguments. The conflict between the two holds the facts and arguments to a narrative which remains interesting and engaging.