The Grammies and Satanic Goat Statues: Not Surprised

So I spent last week in a seminary class on Christian Ethics. The class began the morning after the grammies, and not surprisingly the class opened with some alarmed comments about the shenanigans of the night before.

(Disclosure: I declared the Grammies dead and irrelevant after the 1991 “Jethro Tull/Metallica” debacle, though I showed a brief revived interest with 2007’s “duets” idea.)

At any rate, some folks in the class were “shocked” and “appalled” at some of the performances.

Which made me think of satanic statues.

(As you do)

Lately, some pagan—and even straight up satanic—groups (I’m not using these terms pejoratively: they are self-identified pagans and satanists) have petitioned to have monuments and statues placed on courthouse and state lawns alongside “Christian” symbols (you can read the story here).

Ahem.

So I know that I’m supposed to be angry and indignant at this outrage, but I’m really not.

(Well, excepting the fact that the statue is actually quite hideous and ugly… THAT is quite disappointing.)

You see, I like it when people and institutions “show their cards.” When they take off the masks they wear and just declare, “This is who I am: deal with it.”

I like it because then I know a little more of the truth, and I can choose to accept it or walk away from it.

But at least I know.

In these two cases—the Grammies and these petitions—the music industry and our culture—are “showing their cards.”

Church (and I mean everybody): they are not our friends. We should not be surprised.

I don’t mean in a “get-scared-they’re-coming-to-take-me-away-and-oh-please-Jesus-come-back-it’s-the-Left-Behind-series-starting-where-is-Kirk-Cameron” way.

I mean a little more in the “raise-eyebrow-roll-your-eye-turn-off-the-TV-and-read-a-good-book-or-better-yet-have-a-conversation-with-your-actual-family” way.

Let me be really blunt:

  • The Grammies—and the music industry—exist for pretty much one reason: to make money. While they occasionally make a reference to “values”, and while people may occasionally thank God during an acceptance speach, if the industry has to choose between a dollar and Christian values, they will choose the dollar. They are obligated to.
  • The state exists to be a political entity. It has to perpetuate that system. If you know history—at least anything besides recent North American history—you’d discover that the “State” is no friend to faith. Because of the unique era of history that we’ve lived in, it’s easy to believe that our (awesome) political system is an ally of our faith, but that’s an illusion that most of the world does not live in (for that matter, it’s an illusion that most of the history of the Church doesn’t share, but see below).

(This is probably the time that I’d say I don’t believe in a “Christian nation.” I believe in Christians who may be part of shaping a nation, (but really, have you seen the “Jefferson Bible”?) but largely Christianity and politics have been disasters (#Calvin’sGeneva #Rwanda).

Now, in regards to the State, there is some good news:

This is not new.

Our New Testament was written in an era where the State and Roman culture dominated the landscape. But there are repeated reminders that culture, and in particular the State, do NOT have the same interests as Jesus (and His church).

Here are three of my favorites:

1.
In Matthew 2, the magi show up and tell Herod that the KING OF THE JEWS has been born. “When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jeruslam was troubled with him.” (2v3) Why? Because if someone else (namely, Jesus) is King, it means Herod is not. It means that there’s a new king, and he’s coming to Jerusalem to shake things up. Things are about to change. You have to understand that the Jews (and the Christians) of the 1st century didn’t hear “King” like we do, as a private, faith-filled term. They knew their king ruled. Like really. Externally. Visibly. (It goes without saying that we should realize that Jesus is a real, ruling, living King.)

2.
Mark begins his gospel like this: The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God’s Son…” (1v1) The Greek word for “good news” is euangelion which, oddly enough, was used by the Roman state to announce a military victory. It seems that what Mark is saying is that Jesus as the Messiah means that a visible, military victory is going to be one. It means that Jesus’ “kingdom” (state) is going to be the new reality.

3.
Saint Paul probably knew this more than any of the writer of the New Testament. He was a Roman citizen, after all, and so he was quite aware of its agenda, and he knew it was not Jesus’ agenda. In 1 Thessalonians he is writing to a church about the time when all things will be resolved, a final time when Jesus will bring all things visibly together. He writes this odd phrase: “When they are saying, ‘there is peace and security,’ at that time sudden destruction will attack them, like labor pains start with a pregnant woman, and they definitely won’t escape.”

Here’s the thing: “PEACE AND SECURITY” WAS A ROMAN SLOGAN. It was meant to remind people, “Hey, your peace, security, and well-being all come from Rome. (So keep supporting us.)” Paul is saying though, “Actually the folks—the state—who are saying we will provide your peace and security are deceived, and they are not your friends.”

For Paul, Rome was no friend of Jesus Christ and His church (though Paul was not above giving sensible advice to living under authority: see Romans 13).

I think the same is true for us today. We shouldn’t be shocked when we see ridiculous behavior on the Grammies, or ugly public art (though I’m sure we Christians have created our share).

To me it’s just those institutions showing their cards.

They are not my friend, and their agenda is not the Church’s agenda.

So get over the shock, and keep on walking, folks. We still have work to do.
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2 thoughts on “The Grammies and Satanic Goat Statues: Not Surprised

  1. Your parenthetical comment about ‘America as a Christian nation’ touched on something that has been bouncing around in the walls of my mind and heart. For sometime I have almost bristled when I’ve heard people make this reference–usually when they were seeking support for something they wanted politically. I find your comment more true, that there are Christian people in a nation who try to help shape that nation than a belief and a political entity are one and the same. My reasons for thinking this are simple.

    1. Jesus taught and showed by his living that God’s kingdom was vastly different than the world’s kingdom. In fact, he taught that it would be turned up side down: what the world/society finds important is not what God has shown through Jesus to be important. Competition, power, might, wealth, self-interest are not the focus of life but mercy, kindness, forgiveness, inclusion of the ones left out, and above all genuine love that only comes from being open to God’s love.

    2. While some of the early people who came to this country wanted to practice their beliefs freely, most of what I’ve read in history shows they didn’t allow the same to others who practiced their faith differently like Quakers. The Puritans in fact, practiced faith more rigidly like that of the Pharisees of Jesus’ time.

    3. As far as our founding fathers creating and instituting a ‘Christian nation,’ does the evidence of their actions support that? Or did they just use Christian language to craft the documents we refer to? Just as the context of Jesus’ words needs to be remembered, so does the context of our forebears’ words. Everything they put into place was from the view of, and for the benefit of, white, male property owners because that’s how life was then.
    Don’t get me wrong…I love this country and am exceedingly thankful to live here but that doesn’t mean I live in it looking back through rose-colored glasses. The building of this country was at a heavy price…the treatment of those who lived on this land and treasured it were treated in ways that were evil; they were persecuted until their way of life and their dignity was destroyed. Let’s face it, America was built on taking what belonged to others instead of sharing in it with them.

    4. Maybe we are in such trouble today because we are trying to live into something that didn’t exist and we are trying to make nationalism and Christianity one. We pledge our allegiance to our country and strive to live in it as good citizens, but as Christians our primarily allegiance is to God and living as God’s children using the gifts given to us to help and benefit others by treating them (and us) as God’s beloved. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and our neighbor as ourselves.

    These are things I struggle with; I certainly don’t have all the answers but maybe together… each of us sharing the truth that has been revealed to us…we can do what we as people of faith are called to do in the place where we are and the time in which we live.

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