Keeping Up with What?

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.vom

Gentle Reader,

I have a confession.

You should probably sit down.

Here goes.

I got sucked into the world of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

It’s okay if you judge me. I judge myself.

Don’t even know how it happened. Some random, black, internet hole pulled me in without warning.

The family is weirdly entertaining. Sure, they’re materialistic, out-of-touch with the real world, are publicly naked far too often (once is far too often) and have zero sense of style or fashion. Kris Jenner probably pushed her children into the limelight. Certainly she gave her youngest daughters far too much freedom. At the same time, the petty fights and bizarre conversations they have – it’s like any other family. They’re in each other’s business, push each other to do better (their version of better, anyway) and come to each other’s defense if anyone on the outside dares to attack. Though I doubt they reveal their true selves on television or social media, one thing shines through the layers of make-up and spray tanner: They genuinely love each other.

Elements of horribleness and elements of absolute normalcy.

And humor. There were some genuinely funny moments in the episodes I watched.

I know. I write about theology, history, logic, chronic illness. How can I also be so low-brow?

I’m a complicated person. What can I say?

What truly fascinates me about this family is how easily, casually even, they throw around references to God, church and Christianity. In one episode, the oldest daughter, Kourtney, tells her friends that they will be going to church that evening – after they’ve spent time getting drunk and playing pinball at a Korean barbecue joint.

What?

How do those things possibly go together?

As I sit here, knowing I need brain bleach and some time meditating on Philippians 4:8, I am reminded of this article that Karen Swallow Prior shared on Twitter over the weekend. I quote:

Instead of an intellectual tradition, it is a church built on emotion. Every sermon is a revival stump speech about the evils of the world and the need for salvation. Every sermon ends in a sentimental pop song/worship chorus to accompany an altar call in which the same handful of members weeps at the altar (these people are subsequently held up as the most exemplary Christians. I had a friend in junior high who could cry on cue; she cleaned up on attention in this system). …

…you have membership with no theological or doctrinal depth that you have neglected to equip with the tools to wrestle with hard issues.

And there’s the answer.

We have such a hard time getting church right, don’t we? Across this country, there are thousands of churches that are built on either legalism or cheap grace. Both ends of the spectrum appeal to the emotions; oddly, it’s the same emotion – pride – that they tap into. “Do these 375.32 things and God will be happy with you” or, “Do whatever you want and God will still be happy with you because love.” Either way, it’s not really about God being happy. It’s not about walking in close relationship with Him, learning to wholly submit to His will each day. No, instead, it’s about pouring the infinite Lord into some ridiculous, man-made box. “He will behave this way, because I want Him to.”

How interesting, to realize that legalism and libertinism are two sides of the same coin.

Oh, idolatry. You’re just lurking around every corner, aren’t you?

The Kardashians aren’t the problem. They’re the symptom. There are many people who live exactly as they do, just with less money and without television cameras documenting every move. They believe that God must bless whatever it is they do, because…because. It goes no deeper than that. It’s “your best life now” and “God wants you to be happy.”

Sanctification, holiness, righteousness.

What happened to those concepts?

Please, church, stop trying to be relevant. Stop trying to be cool. Stop trying to “fit in” with the people you want to reach. The true Gospel transcends time and culture. Preach that. Give people what’s real. Call them to something higher and better found in humility before God and hiddenness under the shadow of His wings. Show them that true happiness is found in obedience. That God’s law is for our good and protection.

The Kardashians need the truth. At the end of the day, when the make-up slides onto the washcloth and the extensions are removed; when the cameras are off and the silence of night descends, what are they left with? Near as I can tell, only the sorrow of believing that their value lies only in the sexiness of their bodies and the deception of a false faith.

God made these women and He wants so much more for them.

It’s our job to show them – and all the rest – that more.

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Not the Fundamentals: Entertainment

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Gentle Reader,

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” – Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)

Paul’s words serve as our best guide when it comes to entertainment choices. He doesn’t tell us to avoid books. Or magazines. Or television. Or movies. Or paintings. Or newspapers. Or sculptures. Or music. Or lectures. Or magazines. He doesn’t even tell us to – gasp! – avoid dancing. I know. You probably need to take a break from reading and process that.

Now, of course this reality doesn’t give us a free pass. There are things that we shouldn’t indulge in. Pornography isn’t true, noble, just, pure, lovely or of good report; it lacks virtue and there’s nothing praiseworthy about it. There are many musicians that glorify or trivialize drug and alcohol abuse, promiscuity and violence. Much of what passes for good television isn’t worth the drop in IQ that comes from watching it. For women, fashion magazines often contribute to our sense of ugliness or worthlessness, and so should be treated with caution.

Yet there isn’t a hard and fast rule here. When it comes to entertainment, the journey in faith is highly individualized. For example, I used to be a fan of Grey’s Anatomy. Most of the episodes were very well done – the characters were complex and interesting and so were the story lines. For years, nothing bothered me about it. And then I just couldn’t watch it anymore. I realized that I was watching something that, despite having good qualities, didn’t line up with what I said I believed. The same thing happened last summer when I got hooked on Parenthood.

The truth is, I don’t watch a lot of television or movies. Part of that came after learning in therapy that everything – and I mean everything – impacts the way I think and feel. That lesson was repeated just a few months ago when I figured out how to use Spotify. I built a playlist full of songs from my high school days (N*SYNC, anyone?) and got a real kick out of listening to it. Slowly and subtly, I began to romanticize and long for that time in my life. I wasn’t living in the moment. I began to feel discontent. It was the music, and I had to delete the entire playlist.

 Could another Christian person watch Grey’s Anatomy or Parenthood and listen to music from their high school days without feeling convicted about it?

Absolutely.

We walk by faith, not by sight. Those who believe follow the path that God illuminates, and He often shines light on different things at different times for different people. I can’t stand the song “Blurred Lines,” and I’m happy to talk with anyone about it should the conversation arise, but I’m not going to judge my Christian brother or sister by whether or not they like it. I’m not going to assume their faith is lesser than my own. And while I firmly believe that we have to protect our minds and thereby our hearts, I also believe that the art of protection is never fully achieved. There are probably things in my life right now that I think are fine that I won’t be able to watch or listen to a year from now. It’s a process.

Lastly, nowhere in Paul’s words, and nowhere in Scripture, in fact, do we find a basis for detaching from artistic expression. Anyone who believes that faith equals the possession of nothing more than a Bible and a commentary set needs to go out and look at a flower. God is an artist. He is the ultimate Master. And so I would dare to say that Christians should be pursuing the arts with vigor. Who better than the redeemed to write, act, dance, sing, paint, sculpt, draw and speak? Cannot all of this bring glory to God?

My journey to faith. (15)

For all the posts in the Not the Fundamentals series, go here.