Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
Jonal entry 1060 | July 16 2008
Three incidences of mischief in the media got my attention last week.
Who was God talking to?
First, a standup comedian on Comedy Central did a very blasphemous (but not unusual, in these days) set in which he imagined God going on the Maury Povich Show to face charges that he was the father of Mary's baby. Though the setup was blasphemous on its face, I think any serious Christian would see that and react according to his or her own standard for dealing with public outrages against the faith. And any nominal "Christian" or unbeliever would shrug it off as not much different from most of what passes as comedy these days, and laugh along with the show's live audience. It's a novel idea, so maybe it's funny, by that way of thinking. But what I found "msichievous" in a sense worth discussing was a reference a bit later in his set in which the comedian referred to God saying "let us make light" as part of the creation narrative in Genesis. Then the comic continued: "Who was God talking to? Nobody else has been created yet."
This I think has more potential to become a stumblingblock to inquirers into Christianity and those on unstable grounding, because it has a ring of truth and a "gotcha" quality that might cause weak knees to wobble. Actually, the Bible doesn't quote God as saying, "let us make light"; it says "let there be light." It was not until He was about to create man and woman that God spoke to "someone" in terms of "let us": "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea..." Genesis 1:26. Of course orthodox Christians from earliest times since the founding of the church have used this passage as evidence of the eternal existence of God as a trinity, as one being of three persons.
One of the bedrock confessions of Christian faith is, "God is love" (1 John 4:8 and 16). And this is only meaningful, C.S. Lewis has said, if God is more than one person. In His eternal being, "before" there was any creation, anything apart from himself, how would "love," one of his defining characteristics, have meant anything if he were unitary, as Jewish and Islamic theology claim? The New Testament teaches that it was the second person of the Trinity, Christ the Son, who did the actual creating at the creation (Colossians 1:16-17). But even Jewish Bible scholars have an interpretation of Genesis 1:26 that answers the standup comedian's challenge: "God was speaking in the language of royalty; just as the King or Queen uses 'we' to refer to him- or herself, so was God using the 'royal we' in speaking of himself."
Really cheap grace
The second instance of media mischief I picked up from a commercial for a new "reality" show coming to CBS. Though I was tuning only one ear to the telly while keeping my eyes on the computer screen and keyboard, the commercial mentioned that one of the "real-life" characters in this new reality series is a teacher of Catholicism. I glanced up to catch a glimpse of the said "teacher," a young man without clerical garb, and from the little I heard he may be anything from a catechist helping out in his parish to a CYO leader to a Catholic high school teacher or even something more. But the attention grabber was the sound bite from him, which was approximately this: "The great thing about Catholicism is that you can do any terrible thing and then go to confession and confess it and then you're cleared, set to go again."
I'm in no position to know how widely held this teachingor this ideamay be among Catholics, but having it said on network television in prime time by someone described as a teacher of Catholicism sets Catholicism back to pre-Vatican II days, I don't doubt, in the thinking of millions of members of other Christian communions and maybe even some Catholics. I remember that for years this was my own main critique of Catholicism, back in my teens and twenties, but I was told it was a sterotyping caricature of the Catholic approach to faith and the communion's teaching on the sacrament of confession. My reading in the Catholic Catechism tends to support this, yet my "anecdotal" exposure to the outworking of the Catholic view of confession generally seems to comport with the reality show "Catholic teacher's" summation of it in his throw-away quotation. Could it be that official Catholic teaching is that "confession" is only effective if it is accompanied by changed behavior (repentance) but that in unofficial Catholic practice "confession" is seen by most as an easy fix to any sins, a fix that can be applied every Saturday while returning to the sinful practices of Monday through Friday as a way of living? I'd welcome some robust dialog on this perplexing issue.
And again, this is not to attack anyone's religion but rather to, as Solomon says in the proverbs, sharpen their metal to better cut it.
The third instance of media mischief may actually rise above the mischief level to a frontal, albeit sophomoric, attack on Christianity on the part of the media playing it. Last week major newspapers fell over each other to proclaim the latest "archaeological finding" (I put it in quotation marks because even those so quick to brandish it as a bludgeon over the back of Chistianity had no idea whether it is authentic or not) that they believe may totally undermine Christian faith. It is a Jewish text tentatively dated as "slightly before the time of Christ" which says a messiah is being expected to arrive who will die and rise again. This, the media holler, proves that Jesus's teaching of his resurrection was not original.
The spoiler of the "objective media's" fun, of course, is the fact, known to anyone who has been "properly catechised" or even taught in a half-decent history course), that Jesus and the church have never claimed that his dying and being resurrected was an original idea. In fact, the New Testament is chockablock with citations of Old Testament prophecies aimed at supporting just that sequence of events as well as many other unique aspects of Jesus' birth and life. In fact, the most basic and universal creed of Christendom, the Nicene Creed (381 A.D.), declares "on the third day He rose again, according to the scriptures." "Scriptures" here is referring to the Old Testament, the last book of which had been written hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, not the New Testament.
Stick this clipping into the same pigeonhole you've put the National Geographic's million dollar idea of a couple of Easters ago that a "new" Gospel of Judas gives eveidence that Judas was secretly working for, rather than against, Jesus (that "just-found" so-called Gospel had been familiar to the Church for nearly 2000 years, and known to any scholar of the Gnostic Gospels as no more authentic as history than the Protocols of the Elders of Zion). Chuck it where you've put the break-through news a few months ago that Jesus walked on ice, not water, and uncounted other attempts of science so-called to undermine faith.
And though it's been years since I last preached a sermon, I can still mount my high horse occasionally. ;- )