How to Confront the Culture – One More Miracle Theater Post

I fell compelled to write one more post as a result of all the responses to my pointing out the Miracle Theater’s full page ad in USA Today. My biggest disappointment is how quickly a discussion like this disintegrates into personal attacks, gossip, and strife. Honestly, I was a little amazed at how much some people got off topic, and raced into areas that mattered very little to the issue at hand. You want my opinion in a single post? Here it is:

The Miracle Theater (or any Christian) can do anything they want with their money. They have every right to follow their conscience any way they see fit. Unless they have donors and need to report to those donors, they don’t have to answer to anyone but the IRS. We live in a free country.

But there’s also something bigger at stake here: How we share our message in a non-believing, media-driven culture. How effective are we at getting our message heard, and having our audience seriously consider it in the hope that it could change their lives? And finally, what is the perception of our efforts to the greater culture? (Because that perception helps or hinders our future efforts).

Does much of Christian media help spread the gospel to the culture, or create a bubble where we’re only preaching to the choir?

Does standing on a street corner holding posters of bloody, aborted fetuses, change the minds of people considering abortions? Or does it make the protestors look like radical fundamentalists?

Does Pastor Fred Phelps, who created the God Hates Fags website, actually draw homosexuals to the faith, or does he make all Christians look like intolerant jerks? I’m sure he’s a sincere guy wanting to reach the gay community, but does that make it OK?

What about the pastor’s wife at a small church in the South who decided to “celebrate” Black History month by having her all-white church choir perform a “selection of Negro spirituals” – all in blackface. She meant well, and was very sincere. But does that make it a good idea?

I’ve said in other places on this blog that in a media driven culture, simply standing up and saying something about an issue might not always be the best and most effective strategy for changing the culture. In the case of The Miracle Theater, I never doubted their sincerity, and still don't. But the question is: was it the best strategy to reach their goal?

When missionaries approach a cannibal tribe, they don't protest outside the village, call them names, put an ad in the paper, or complain that they eat people. Missionaries develop a relationship with the tribe, earn their trust, and become part of the community. Once they do that, the tribe is far more open to listening to their message.

So why can't we do that with Hollywood? Hollywood is simply filled with sinners just like us. There’s plenty of things Hollywood does that I don’t like, and are detrimental to the culture. But does anyone really think a confrontational approach works? When people get mad at you does it soften your attitude toward them? I doubt it. I wish we could view Hollywood as a mission field, develop a relationship with those in the entertainment industry, supporting the hundreds of believers who are there already, and then speak into their lives.

Some responses from people have sited Jesus turning over the tables in the temple as an example that we should be confrontational with the culture. But we often forget that the money changers Jesus tossed out were the religious people. There's no record to my knowledge of Jesus confronting the non-believing culture. He didn't go into a Roman guardhouse and turn over the tables.

When it comes to The Miracle Theater or anything – James Dobson, Donald Wildmon, religious media, or Christians who protested The Da Vinci Code – we have to remember that believers all on the same team, and respect each other, pray for each other, and support each other. But what team takes the field without helping each other play at the highest level? Do we not offer criticism to the quarterback when it’s obvious he’s throwing low? Do we not adjust a blocker’s stance because his position is too high? Or do we just love them, stay quiet, and let them lose the game?

I have enormous appreciation and respect for The Miracle Theater, and what they’re doing with drama. We need a lot more outreaches like that.

But the truth is, when it comes to the ad, I have yet to meet a single Christian who was brought to the faith by criticism, humiliation, or protest.

Sure we get offended. Sure we feel like our rights often get trampled. But rarely does protesting do more than sooth our egos, and make us feel better. But does it really make a difference? Not too often.

Yes, I do believe there’s a time for protest, and even a time for boycotts. And if you genuinely feel God leading you to protest or boycott something, then go for it. But I believe they should be used very carefully, with a lot of thought to the potential impact and potential consequences.

Perhaps my point is that we need to worry less about how offensive the culture is, and more about how effectively we engage it. Before a general attacks, he makes absolutely sure he’s not going to get outflanked or outgunned.

Will their USA Today ad work? I have no idea. I’m not really sure what they hope to achieve. I do hope they continue responding to this blog so we can see how it plays out over the next month or two.

But for me, the scripture that drives my thinking on the issue is Paul's note in I Corinthians 5:12 – "What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside."

This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 26th, 2007 at 6:41 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  • Anthony Peterson

    Bingo! Couldnt have said it better myself. The older I get the more I realise that bridge burning and angry confrontations usually accomplish very little. In fact, it normally drives people away. I wish I had learnt this lesson much earlier.

  • http://www.frostfamilyband.com Michael Frost

    Phil, I echo your first statement here. I was also disappointed to see anonymous bloggers post "secrets" and "gossip." That being said, let's get on to the real issue at hand. One misconcpetion is that the theater's campaign is to scold, humiliate, criticize or boycott Kathy Griffin. Not true. All we've said is that we take offense at such mockery. That's it. We're not out to boycott her or start a protest. She's gonna say whatever she pleases and she's certainly free to do so. I read somewhere that tickets to her shows run $150 – $250, so if people want to pay that to hear what she has to say, then so be it.  

    Her actions simply sparked something in us. Ad #2 said nothing about Kathy, it simply said there's now a petition to give people a positive way to stand up for what they believe in. We have 65,000 signatures right now, and most all of the feedback has been positive. This cause is meant to inspire and encourage people across America. Our motive is to let Christians everywhere know that although we have been mocked, we should not be ashamed of what we believe. We should be more inspired than ever to minister to people, reach out to those in need, and spread the gospel in a loving way. Our petition says let's take a stand  "against religious slander, bias, and bigotry of all types." If this helps send a message to Hollywood, great! If it doesn't, then atleast we've given people a voice – and hopefully inspired a few to take it more seriously. 
  • http://trade4target.wordpress.com/ Trade4Target

    This is my first time i visit here. I found so many entertaining stuff in your blog, especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here! Keep up the good work.
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  • Lisa

    Kathy's comments could not have hurt me more than if she'd slapped me in the face. My sense of indignation for my Lord was nauseating. But, when we talk about strategy – I return to a tired, but truthful slogan from a few years ago – "What Would Jesus Do"? Hadn't he already borne the ultimate insult by coming to earth and staring us eyeball to eyeball, failing to convince us of his divinity, suffered the humiliation of the cross and our defiance. In comparison, Kathy's comments are childsplay. What was Christ's response? He certainly had the option of making a dramatic statement to convince us of his divinity. You couldn't get much more dramatic or convincing than wrenching himself free of the cross, wiping off the blood and marching back through the streets of Jerusalem with the disciples in tow. And yet – he did make a more dramatic statement. He died. And he did it all the while knowing that everyone around him was missing the point. But he wasn't trying to win an argument, he was trying to win hearts. He knew our understanding would come in retrospect. So, to return to the strategy question, Christ has already told us by word and deed precisely how people will come to adore him. This time we are part of the risk. They will know we are Christians by our love. Dramatic statements aside, the Kathys of the world can make the comments they make because they have not seen Christ before them. I wonder why that is?  With all due respect, I'm pretty sure it doesn't have anything to do with an ad campaign.

     

  • http://www.savemeafuturetoday.org Owusi jerrie

    hello my people, what greater wisdom than the wisdom that says, "lift me up to the world and i will draw men unto myself"

    Many don't know jesus, i don't mean the theoritical jesus but Jesus! nothing added nothing subtracted. He is the fullness of all things, the completeness! the answer to the hearts full of question, the healer of sick bodies and heart, etc.

    we can do this by recognising we are one body…'members in particular'. together without focusing on our differences, we will and sure can!

    love you all, owusi jerrie (www.savemeafuturetoday.org)

  • Karen Covell

    As both an entertainment professional and a Christian working in ministry in Hollywood, I see over and over again the flaw in boycotts, angry letters and any approach that tries to make non-Christians in Hollywood ACT like Christians. The ONLY approach that I find effective is how Jesus did it. He built relationships with people, loved them and then told them how they can become a follower of His. We can’t MAKE people act like Christians, we can only offer them the news about how to BECOME a Christian. It’s amazingly bazaar that Christians send missionaries across the globe to share the Good News with foreign tribes and yet they send hate letters to people in the foreign tribe of Hollywood. Jesus didn’t love the people in Samaria and then hate the people in Egypt….. The only way that people change is through the transforming LOVE of Jesus. And the content of any media product will NEVER change until the hearts of the people creating it change. So, let’s pray for the hearts of people and not worry about their product. That’s the work of the Trinity – and there are NO VACANCIES in the Trinity!

  • http://www.savemeafuturetoday.org Owusi jerrie

    Hello people,Great thoughts and views! Have you thought the fact that the Christian community issue is fundamental, one largely premised presently on wrong foundation? No wonder the rancor and associated arguments. In product development, it is the exclusive right of the creator/ manufacturer to name a product; because the name suggests its character. It was the people in Antioch that called them Christians and not Jesus! Christianity – from several suggestions would mean a people trying to be like Christ but that is not what Jesus came to do. He is the first fruit and we are same like him (the vine and we are the branches). All of these could be seen as growing up processes. This should give one a view we must take when addressing a Christian that is in the wrong. What I would refer as growing up experience – we all once walked on all fours (hands & legs) like animals but that was babyhood stage but there is also growing up, even when you are fully grown sometimes you may find yourself for whatever reason on all fours (I would hope it is for awhile and not a lifestyle). There is a life after here, a life of ruler ship and God knows that and we should recognize that, we would be given responsibility higher than what had on this earthly plane…Jesus said that, for the Joy that was set before him – he endured the cross and the shame. God respects human will but that is what decides for the individual where you would be at the next life – the position you would occupy, because God has a large family you see and he is a just God…and there is not favoritism here! You would be rewarded according to your work. Remember God's word is our talent to trade or live with, he would not trade it for you, you would have to make the investment options, if you make 30%, 60%, 100% percent – good for you! He would always seek to help us with His wise counsel but it is ours to choose. If a Christian chooses to remain a baby, leave him or her, God is not mocked you see! Whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap. Then it told us not to sow to the flesh – (sensory reasoning – which is elementary really) but to the spirit! To some they don't even know what defines happiness, fun and prosperity for them! it is like a baby looking at the cloud are thinking …wow! “It is and looks so solid…so real"…but we know my reason of growth that the clouds is simply air! Why the division over nothing? If you are intelligent ……wow! Praise God and keep it for your credit and please don’t use it to cause division! Men and women are not their bodies nor are they their emotions! We are higher than these two but – what a deception to see many being controlled by it! What is reality? What informs what is real to us? Is it our reasoning or our emotions or the word of God? However if a brother chooses to live and copulate with another brother…. please leave them alone (and love them anyways because it is your life and reward to love) …they have made their choice of having their bodies and their mind control them. As they have theirs to deal with remember you have yours to deal with. Let each one of us focus on working out (expressing) their wholeness (salvation) in Christ with fear and trembling (meaning – with strict adherence to detail from the master plan) knowing that He would repay us with JOY! The joy that Jesus was willing to forego every insult, shame, physical pain for……Oh! i am looking forward to Joy! I am not going to let myself be deceived that all these things in these world are that tangible and real, if i fall …i will get me up again because am focused of having a 100% yield – having traded with word of God on this plane and made profits.Lets stop the debate and let each one focus on trading/living the word of God! for you that have issues – I say to you ….use (trade) the word on that area —you would see profit…i know you will because nothing is greater than the word of God.Know this, Gal 3:27; for all of you who have been baptized into Christ, have clothed yourselves with Christ! You are Christ now! Start living/trading (expressing) who you truly are! Anything outside of you in Christ is not real and should be subsume by the real one! Love you all my family in Christ!Cheers! Owusi Jerrie (http://www.savemeafuturetoday.org)info@savemeafuturetoday.org  

  • noemi del rosario

    hello guys! hope you don't mind me joinng the conversation here..

    matt.7 talks about being founded on a solid rock(JESUS),solid foundation that no one or nothing can offend us anymore since we are founded on a solid rock which is our Savior Jesus Christ.. that we are hearers and doers of the word.and thats how we should be!

    in phil 3:12-14 it says about "pressing on towards the goal(prize)",every believer has a high calling,to go up on our high places…psalm 18:32-33 says to be strong,blameless,because we are set on high places.! and being there doen't gibe us the right in anyways to judge by what we see of feel or hear…but we can judge with righteous judgement!!!!what? we can? yes ofcourse!

    john 7:24 says do not judge according to Appearance but with righteous judgment.! well,not all good ideas are Gods, He has a high road for us, we shouldn't be impressed with what looks good..you see,Christ came not to judge us, but  to seek and to save the lost…we have the spirit of Christ in us! but noemi!!! you just said that we can judge? yes,,,but with a righteous judgment….not base on what we feel,not by what we see,or hear or think.. 1cor.2:16 say " we have the mind of Christ". you can simply say" thank you,but can i pray about it?" that looks good,but can you give me time to pray about it?" that is a very good idea,but i was told to do defferent thing"or"he looks ugly with that shirt! don't you think so?-If i will wear that same shirt,will you still think the same about me?" or you would say " yeah!!! hes so ugly…my gosh,where in the world did he get that?  maybe in mars…"

    so whenever we want to judge people according to what they said,how they look,how they talk,walk,and anything that is base on our own flesh,,look unto Jesus.! what do you think He will do? HE would LOVE and LOVE and LOVE and LOVE and forgive,forgive,forgive and forgive..more than you can ever ask or think…

     without His love and forgiveness, where would I be? where would you be?