Tuesday, May 08, 2007

So Who Is Really Serious About Faith and Worship?


If this graphic seems ridiculous to you, there's a reason why. Some men who have been repeatedly skewered by fundamentalists for not taking theology seriously enough have clearly demonstrated that they take theology far more seriously than many elements of the fundamentalist movement.

There may have been a day when fundamentalists as a movement were serious about communicating serious ideas in a serious manner. I have my doubts, but I'll admit it's possible.

This is no longer that day.

I'm not sure any evangelicals would have come up with anything quite this theologically hokey, but many of them surely display the same mentality in their publishing and conference marketing hoopla.

We need to remember that some of the theological leaders of fundamentalism find the Majesty Music brochure to be beyond ridiculous (at least I have to believe they do--perhaps we'll find out). As "Dave" recently commented on Greg Linscott's blog, "The differences are deeper than the brochure." Amen to that. Here's hoping the theological leaders of fundamentalism successfully expose and correct these differences, just as some evangelical leaders are working to do. It is about more than the brochure. It's also about the church, the gospel, and what we believe about God's very person and work. Perhaps it wouldn't be entirely bad if people who agree about these big ideas find ways to influence, encourage, and sharpen one another.

[Graphic credit: Shannon Brown]

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sports theme? CJ, all CJ!!!

~sd

Kent Brandenburg said...

Ben,

You saw the Resolved conference video, right? MTV style promotion for Christian teens. I'm not justifying the Patch marketing technique. We don't go that direction ourselves with worship---training people from a child that Christian music is entertainment. We sing from a psalter and the Trinity hymnal. However, you've got quite a bit of hokey-ness with CJ Mahaney (Josh Harris) and what about Mohler's business with Billy Graham? Patch is cartoon-city, but these guys are your deco, fuzzy, existential, transcendental, touchy-feely style. Patch goes with the spinning, 1930s, comic book look, and the other guys go with the modern, gritty, hand-held camera look.

I think you make a good point about the one, but I would say that the comic motif is more wholesome looking than the evangelicalists version of things.

Chris Anderson said...

Speaking of hokey...

Piper's video promoting the "Above All Earthly Powers" conference was pretty "out there."

Bruce said...

Ben,

I know that you know that there is plenty of corny, embarrassing, and even appalling stuff in Evangelicalism.

I would imagine that at least part of your disappointment of this and the previous post arises from the fact that, as a Fundamentalist, you have higher hopes for the leaders of your own movement-- not just because it is your own, but because it claims to hold the high ground on biblical fidelity in ministry. Although Fundamentalists love to skewer the ridiculous elements of Evangelicalism, I appreciate your integrity in addressing the sin and/or folly in your own camp.

I had actually been thinking about a word that an earlier commenter mentioned. I think that American conservative Christians (both Fundamentalists and Evangelicals, but perhaps Fundamentalists moreso, since they more often eschew contemporary design) confuse "wholesome," nostalgic Americana a la Norman Rockwell with biblical virtue. Certainly, godliness and holiness are expressed in our culture in specific ways, and it would be right for us to present these with honor and respect rather than with the sneer of secular irony.

Ultimately, the biggest problem with the baseball promotional material is not the kid (cute sentimentality) or the baseball (Americana), it is the framing of worship ministry in terms of personal ambition and success (dreams, big leagues, home run).

This would be worthy of sharp criticism no matter who put it out. The values expressed are antithetical to its intended message, serving to undermine rather than promote biblical ministry.

Ben said...

Kent and Chris,

Maybe I haven't caught enough MTV to compare authoritatively, but I think you guys are talking about apples and oranges. These things aren't equivalent just because you don't like them. In other words, it's difficult for me to imagine than anyone would even attempt to argue that the MM brochure communicates something serious about the subject at hand. You may disagree with their arguments, but I'm pretty confident the producers of the Resolved and Above All Earthly Powers promos would do precisely that.

Bruce has made the point well that the real problem here is "the framing of worship ministry in terms of personal ambition and success." Although I don't think that's all of the real problem, it's surely a massive portion. I'm curious if anyone found a personal ambition and success mentality in the Resolved and AAEP promos. Maybe I just missed it entirely.

Finally, the MM folks are among those who argue that the medium is the message--that form reflects theology. When the form of their promotional materials contradicts the essence of their message, they are going be far more vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy and to a loss of credibility than those who don't emphasize the medium/message linkage as much.

Chris Anderson said...

Just for the record, Ben, I didn't compare anything. I said that Piper's video was hokey. And I said at Greg's place that I didn't like comparing worship to "hitting one out of the park"--essentially the same point Bruce made.

Shannon said...

Having been to Resolved I was not totally comfortable with everything they did, BUT there is no doubt they persented everything with gravity and seriousness—from the music to the preaching.

I don't think I've ever seen any promo material from Grace Community that even comes close to being as man-centered as this one. It's more than just the hokeyneess of it.

"Dreaming of the Big League?"

"Get your music ministry crew up to bat with an all-star team of experienced musical trainers."

"Find what thousands of leaders have discovered at the MusiCollege Playoffs! IT’S A MUSICAL CHAMPIONSHIP!"

"This team is ready to hit a home run!"

"Give your team that wining edge!"

"MusiCollege will revive your spirit and encourage your staff to excel. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to PLAY IN THE BIG LEAGUES!!!"

"All-Star Trainers"

"Hit one out of the park!"

Chris Anderson said...

Again, I don't like it. If I were to compare MM's ad gimmick to something, though, it would probably be Pyromaniacs. They address serious issues, but they also have a lot of their own "shtick"--images, comic book characters, shirts, etc. I'm not justifying or condemning one based on the other; just saying that that's probably a more appropriate comparison than the promo videos mentioned.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Ben,

Thanks for the discussion. I don't have TV, and when my wife recently mentioned MTV, my 16 yr. old son seriously asked, "What's MTV?" It doesn't take much to figure out what assocation Resolved and Piper are doing with their stylistic choices. That's not to approve of MM, but MM also has a rather Arminian type of music philosophy---the historic gospel music accompanied by the matching view of sanctification. MacArthur and Piper don't, so what's their excuse?

I believe that MM was also influenced by "excellence equals godliness." BJU's live religious painting, that I think you blogged earlier, comes out of that same heritage. I actually think the same philosophy stands behind MacArthur and Piper. "Good" equals something that would get a good review from a professional advertising firm. Unfortunately, it conforms to the world, associating God and the Bible with ungodly aspects of the culture.

Josh said...

I think Piper's promos were meant to convey that the conference would address serious and important matters. I don't know if the medium WAS the message, but it seems they wanted the medium to be consistent with their message.

I think this post at least implies what I have found to be true: that there is a strand of Christianity that is more biblical and more God-honoring than Baptist Fundamentalism, a Christianity that takes seriously God and the Bible and Polity and male leadership. That Fundamentalists are being "out-fundamentaled" by Reformed evangelicals who aren't pragmatists, aren't seeker-sensitive, aren't compromisers in any respect. It really is true.

Chris Anderson said...

I think that's probably too much, Josh. There are strands of evangelicalism that I relate to more than strands of fundamentalism, so I'm sympathetic with your point. But this situation doesn't prove all that. Again, Pyro is silly, Lig Duncan rapping at T4G and elsewhere is silly, Piper having Voice was serious--I guess--in a less-than-serious sort of way.

I'm not defending MM or fundamentalerica, but I think you're reading more into this than is justifiable. There's plenty of "shtick" to go around.

Again, though, I agree that the idea of comparing worship to being an all-star is not only ill-advised, but perhaps also telling. And the fact that it's coming from a ministry which has decried the entertainment focus of CCM is ironic.

Finally, if you're honest, there are portions of fundamentalism that are all the good things you commended--serious about God, Scripture, polity, male leadership, etc. In other words, I think you're broad-brushing. I think the point that I'm struck with is this: it's not as simple as fundamentalist=good and non-fundamentalist=bad. That's just not true. It's not that simple.

Thanks for the discussion.

Ben said...

Chris,

I don't want to imply in any way that Christians--whether pastors, worship educators, fundamentalists, evangelicals, or bloggers--can't use humor. I have no quarrel with Fun Time at the Wilds or Frank Hamrick's Camp Meetin' skits, and not just because they lampoon revivalistic preaching and horrendous exegesis. I certainly don't have a problem with the Pyros comic book covers, since they're obviously tools to communicate the message. If they trivialize something, they're trivializing the bad ideas they're repudiating. That method of making one's point may or may not be effective at convincing the other side, but I don't think it's a violation of eternal laws of rhetoric. We are blogging, after all.

My quarrel is when we trivialize or contradict the message by how we present it or promote it. Good people sometimes make bad decisions, but this is a particularly telling and egregious example, and I think we all agree on the central issue--the incongruity between what is taught and what is practiced.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Chris, I agree with your last comment. Ben, I agree with your last comment. (Mad scientist laugh)

Deanna Regina said...

do those trading cards come with a stale stick of bubble gum?