Monday, August 01, 2011

Small Sips Needs to Check the Temperature in Hell

Seriously, it's gonna start snowing down there after you read this. Okay. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know my issues with Campus Crusade for Christ. In more recent years, this has been a more complicated road to navigate because my sister-in-law is on staff with them. Nevertheless, based on personal experience, I'm not a big fan.

A few weeks ago, the news broke that Campus Crusade for Christ is changing its name to Cru, which apparently has been a nickname used at the ground level for a decade or more. The reasoning behind the change is mainly due to the word "crusade" and its connotations. To a lesser extent, "campus" no longer fits, as they've expanded their missions to many other areas besides colleges and universities. This decision has been met with some criticism, though for the other main word that is no longer there:
“Take Christ out, and you become just another crusade,” one critic wrote on the Campus Crusade website. “How repulsive can you get?” Another person wrote, “We are both appalled that you think you have to remove the name Christ from your name.”

“It is sad that an organization like Campus Crusade at least appears to have allowed themselves to be taken by the politically correct environment instead of acting counter culturally as Christ’s followers are called to do,” said Richard Hornsby, of Kansas City. “For an institution like Crusade to appear to cave to the same cultural pressure that leads school principals to harass or try to ban Christian groups from meeting on campus is incredibly sad. We expect the ACLU to intimidate small towns and schools by threatening to sue them. We don’t expect long-standing pillars of the Christian community to fold like this.”
There's plenty to disagree with regarding this name change, as "Cru" doesn't say anything about what the organization is about. I've already read tons of jokes about how they'll now be mistaken for the band that Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee founded and, to a lesser extent, French wine-making. In addition, there's still plenty to critique about their tactics and theology.

Let's actually give "Cru" some credit, though. They recognized that "crusade" is not the best word for this day and age, and they've taken steps to change it. It wasn't about removing "Christ," as if they're changing their entire philosophy in order to kowtow to Those Awful Liberals. They've "banished" Christ the same way that the UCC has "banished" God the Father (i.e., they haven't). Another tempest in a teacup by people who like being offended.

(HT to The Parish for the...guh...FoxNews article.)

You keep saying "authentic." I do not think it means what you think it means. Rachel Held Evans wrote an article for Relevant Magazine pushing back against "cool churches:"
I want a church that includes fussy kids, old liturgy, bad sound, weird congregants and—brace yourself—painfully amateur “special music” now and then.


Well, for one thing, when the Gospel story is accompanied by a fog machine and light show, I always get this creeped-out feeling like someone’s trying to sell me something. It’s as though we’re all compensating for the fact that Christianity’s not good enough to stand on its own so we’re adding snacks.

But more importantly, I want to be part of an uncool church because I want to be part of a community that shares the reputation of Jesus. Like it or not, Jesus’ favorite people in the world were not cool. They were mostly sinners, misfits, outcasts, weirdos, poor people, sick people and crazy people.
I think she implies some unintended things about smaller churches with less resources. I've been to flashy churches that have fussy kids, weird congregants, and yes, even bad singers...we don't have a monopoly on those things, thanks.

The other implication is that these less-flashy churches are more "authentic." They're clearly not caught up in or capable of lightshows and polished music, so obviously they're engaged in more genuine community and ministry together, right? Believe me when I tell you that in smaller churches, fussy kids still get dirty looks, weird congregants may be accepted or they may just be tolerated, and bad singers may be complimented in the sanctuary but then ripped in the parking lot (behind their back, of course).

The point is that authentic community, no matter the size, configuration, or resource base of a congregation, is something that needs to be worked at intentionally. People like to romanticize smaller churches, but we struggle with this as much as anybody else. It's just that we may struggle with it more because nobody is able to be anonymous, rather than the big church's struggle being due to getting caught up in the show.

And what does "authentic" mean, anyway? I think we need a moratorium on that word for a while.

More boogity. Shirl James Hoffman of The Huffington Post offers some commentary on Joe Nelms' NASCAR prayer:
Nelms seems destined for the same fame. Bloggers have rushed to congratulate him, one commenting that "it is the best prayer he has ever heard." But those who view prayer as sacred business, an intimate conversation between sinners and their redemptive source, are unlikely to jump on the bandwagon. One needn't have a particular theological bend to see that using prayer as a bit of shtick or hijacking a public-prayer opportunity to deliver a bit of stand-up is crass and insensitive, if not profane. And some would remind the good pastor that the scripture around which he no doubt crafts his Sunday sermons, warns mightily against calling attention to yourself when you pray.


Prayers inserted into a culture where the reigning ethos so often mocks the faith than gives them life have always been difficult to take seriously. "What," one is aching to ask Nelms, "was the purpose of the prayer?" Silly, irreverent and banal, it seemed a perfect accompaniment to the raucous, spiritually vacuous events transpiring at the race track that afternoon.
I really don't have a lot to add. When I posted the video the other day, I had a few people praise it because it made them laugh or because it obviously caused the crowd to listen. I'm all for thinking of better ways to get people to listen, but one also needs to seriously weigh whether what they're listening to has any substance. Nelms whiffed on the substance component, but hey, we all had a laugh. Shake n' Bake.