Ranting about the caricature
I find it annoying that the artists of our world pick on fundamentalists. For an illustration of this you can watch "Driving Lessons", a British movie about a young by raised by what the cover of the DVD calls an 'evangelical Christian'. This evangelical mother wears a plastic smile, is rude, manipulative, fearful, deceptive, and clearly cruel. So once again, pop culture presents the fringe fanaticism at the wacky edge of the evangelical movement as 'normative'. It is from her oppressive regime that the son must break free which, of course, is the main theme of this coming of age film. He finds an alternative reality in the wild adventures of a burnt out alcoholic actress who, we are led to believe, is the one who really understands life as it's meant to be lived: a mystery which you celebrate when you can, and escape from through binge drinking when you can't.
So here's my rant: I completely understand how easy these fringe elements are to pick on. I'm as frustrated with them as anyone (did you read the previous post a few days ago about the convention in Everett?). But because the arts community paints people of Christian faith almost universally with this fanatic, fringe brush, many in our world lump all people of faith into this category. It's why sometimes, when I travel, I don't want to tell people what I do until after I've had a good bit of conversation with them. I want them to know that Christians can enjoy poetry, be politically informed, care about environmental degradation, and read the NY Times. More than once, people have said, "you don't fit my notion of a pastor", which has sometimes led to conversations about where they got their notion of what a pastor is, of what a Christian is. That's when it comes out; the parody portrayed in mainstream media has become 'the norm' in people's minds. Books like the Poisonwood Bible, the Brothers K (one of my favorite books), well written books by authors I respect, paint pictures of the faithful that reinforce this sorry caricature. Film, literature, television, the vision of Christianity as boring, petty, controlling, is relentlessly reinforced.
That's like saying that all baseball players are Barry Bonds, all female pop-starts Britteny Spears. Jamie Moyer is more common than Barry Bonds. And Christians who pray, love their neighbor, care for the poor, and interact with their culture are... what do you think? Common? Rare? Love to hear your thoughts! And would love to learn of good film and literature providing an alternative view!
Whatever we think though, it seems that our calling should include word recovery, so that words like church, Christian, and believer can be recovered from the trash heap upon which they've been thrown.