[Paleopsych] Rock Christianity
checker at panix.com
Wed Apr 27 01:20:38 UTC 2005
When I sent out the Will to Live alternative to a living will yesterday, I
should have called to your attention the near absence of any concern about
costs or whether the taxpayers would have to foot the bill to keep others
alive. Certainly, the entire GDP could be spent on keeping the elderly alive,
and so choices do have to be made. It seems, though, that the state of passion
in the culture wars has so escalated that details over who pays have been
I should also have added, and not just to this story, that in practice
Evangelical Christianity means Rock Christianity, not the rock in Galilee on
which Peter supposedly founded the One True Church of Jesus Herman Christ, but
Rock 'n' Roll music softened into "Christian Rock." Actually, it is noisier
than the early rock of Little Richard and Elvis Presley, as far as loud bass is
concerned. The early records sound tinny in comparison with "Christian Rock." I
recall a teevee special on the first anniversary of the bombing of Federal
bureaucrats in Oklahoma City. Shown was a
splendid Roman Catholic church (by their standards, which I have always found
too gaudy) but with this godawful "Christian Rock" music and the mourners doing
the Twist in the aisles. I should not complain. Chubby Checker claimed to be
able to teach the Twist in 30 minutes, but I figured it out for myself in five.
All rock "music" is dreadful, from Little Richard (to those of you who remember
me from high school and college: I was being satirical about Little Richard the
whole time. I was perhaps too subtle. I mocked "Bob Dylan" then, and still do
today. My younger daughter has repeatedly tried to argue me out of it, and I
have taken on the persona of someone totally close-minded just for this one
instance. I do not know if she has caught on. Probably.)
I attended one megachurch service, in Colorado Springs. No rock "music" in this
one, but a spectacle with massed choirs. The message was about how much Jesus
loves you, how Jesus can make your life better, how Jesus can help you if you
slide into sin, all upbeat stuff. Nothing about Hell, the escape from which is
the central theme of the New Testament. It continues to amaze me when I ask a
liberal Christian if he believes in Hell. "I wouldn't go that far," comes the
reply! But from this sample of one megachurch service (articles I've read say
the same thing), those for whom Hell is a burning issue constitute a small
number of Christians (and almost no Jews as all, despite Sheol in the Old
Why the culture wars, then? I'll have to think about it some more. Anyhow, my
preference for contemplative and dignified religious services may just reflect
an early identification of this kind of service with religion. I was raised an
Episcopalian but when to a Presbyterian church with my parents (I have been
going voluntarily to a religious service once a year now for about ten years,
just in case the Episcopalian vision of the Great Country Club in the Sky, as
Miriam put it, is true) and was shocked that there was no kneeling during
Below is a reverend wrestling with important issues.
Christian discipleship and the Super Bowl
Florida Baptist Witness
2005 Publishing Good News since 1884 Volume 122 Number 14
By JAMES A SMITH SR.
Published February 10, 2005
[Click the URL to see an image of Rev. Smit.]
I could hear the anguish in his voice.
Jerry Vines - the most prominent pastor in the Super Bowl XXXIX host
city of Jacksonville - told me the morning after the big game how
difficult it was to cancel First Baptist Church's Sunday evening
services to assist city officials clearing the way for the National
Football League's championship game.
As anyone who has even casually followed Southern Baptist life would
know, Vines is not the sort of Christian leader who bows to cultural
trends or bends to the will of politicians. As church after church has
moved out of downtown facilities for seemingly more prosperous
suburban climes, as Sunday evening worship services have increasingly
fallen out of favor with some pastors, Vines has remained steadfast in
his traditional commitments in the heart of Jacksonville's downtown.
The former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, one of the
nation's most prominent Christian leaders for decades and an outspoken
defender of the total truthfulness and inerrancy of the Bible is no
wimp in today's Culture Wars.
Nevertheless, the world's premiere sporting event inescapably clashed
with the decades-long commitment of Vines never to cancel an evening
worship service to accommodate church members who wanted to see the
Super Bowl. Occupying nine downtown blocks, First Baptist Church was
asked by city officials to not hold evening services Feb. 6 since the
rest of downtown would be closed for the Super Bowl, held less than a
mile away at Alltel Stadium.
Left with no other choice, Vines was forced to cancel the services.
"We did it without rancor; we didn't kick a fuss up about it," Vines
told me Feb. 7. "I'm realistic - you can't spit in the wind. We
cooperated as best as we know how. We try to be good citizens in
In the wake of Janet Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction" at last
year's Super Bowl, Vines vigorously exercised his Christian
citizenship and his considerable influence in Jacksonville to make
this year's event as family-friendly as possible.
Mayor John Peyton and Vines "were in close communication" throughout
the year leading up to this year's game in the hopes of averting a
replay of last year debauchery, Vines told me.
Vines' criticism of Jackson's performance elicited a letter from NFL
Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, promising a "family-friendly" event in
Jacksonville. The 62-year-old former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney
headlined the Jacksonville half-time show, which most observers
credited as being far more subdued than last year's debacle.
"I guess it's a commentary on the decadence of entertainment today
that a former Beatle is considered family-friendly. But, at least the
old guy kept his clothes on," Vines quipped.
While thankful for the comparatively mild half-time performance, Vines
acknowledged there were still plenty of pre-game activities and
commercial messages that were "pretty raunchy" and "pretty tasteless."
A sport that is inextricably linked to beer ads featuring scantily
clad women and "male performance" messages has a long way to go to
family-friendliness, to say the least.
While he used his citizenship to try to positively influence the
morality of the Super Bowl, Vines spoke candidly of the mounting
tension in today's Christian churches concerning how we balance our
obligation to be in the world, but not of it.
The fact that this American cultural phenomenon falls on a Sunday -
"Super Sunday" isn't an accolade for an especially remarkable worship
service these days - illustrates the challenge for Christians in
relating to an event of the Super Bowl's magnitude.
Rather than attempting to compete with the event, many churches use
the occasion to host fellowships and to do evangelistic outreach.
Vines is not critical of those who choose this path; nor is he
critical of those who would choose to even go to a football game or
other sporting event on a Sunday. But the readiness of some churches
to accommodate the world does concern Vines.
Canceling his first Sunday evening worship service in four decades of
pastoral ministry because of Jacksonville's first Super Bowl "was
uncomfortable for me," even though the city left him no other choice.
"I really think it's not about football. I love football, but the
church makes it too easy for Christians," Vines said.
In our morning-after-the-Super Bowl interview, Vines elaborated at
length about his concern for a diminishing passion for discipleship
among Christians today which is being encouraged by America's
"I think that there needs to be times when Christians have to decide
between activities related to the Lord's work and activities related
to the things of the world. If the church just acquiesces and never
gives the Christian that opportunity" to make a choice, believers will
be harmed, he noted.
Vines told me the story of a young, gifted baseball player at his
former church in Rome, Georgia, who declined an invitation to the
state all star game because it conflicted with a church youth camp.
The young man heard the call to ministry at the camp - and today,
David Allen is dean of the School of Theology at Southwestern Baptist
Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
"What if we had just said, `go ahead and play baseball'? I think there
needs to be those times when Christians have to decide, difficult
times. I think that's a part of growing as a Christian. Churches
today, everything that comes along, churches cave in. It's really a
sad state of affairs."
At the same time, Vines was insistent that I make clear, "I don't come
at this from a legalistic, judgmental standpoint. ... I, in no way, am
judging others or that I view this as this makes you a better
Christian because of what you don't go to or don't do.
"I'm just talking about one's personal convictions and I'm talking
about commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. And we just don't have a
lot of that today," Vines said.
Vines reminded me of the classic movie, "Chariots of Fire," in which a
sprinter who is a Scottish missionary refuses to compete for the
Olympic Trials because the race is held on Sunday.
"That (kind of commitment today) is just like a foreign language to
most Christians, isn't it?" Vines asked me.
Concluding our interview, Vines said, although the signs are not
hopeful, "I long to see a day when Christians will really, really get
serious about the Christian life."
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