Church Wars! Part II: Attack of Discernment

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By Jeff Foerster

I should tell you, as a matter of public record, that I own stock in the science fiction sector. I have held positions here for quite some time, having grown up with dystopian novels such as Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World. I still read Ray Bradbury when I take the time, and I just finished Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke. Aliens have long had a special place in my heart as I looked to the heavens and wondered what we may find or what may find us. Prometheus and the Alien trilogy, Close Encounters, Contact, X-Files, and Signs—the list of films goes on and on. As a five-year-old I sat in a theater watching the original Star Wars bright and shining on a screen, loud and larger than life.

Last week’s Last Word may have signaled to you that I recommend abandoning all vestiges of science fiction, more particularly, Star Wars. So, what do I suggest—throw Boba Fett out with the bathwater? Simple answers sometimes result in profound mistakes; I think this is the case here. Before declaring the Star Wars franchise bankrupt and without shareholder value, I think it wise to examine oneself alongside film. God tells us to “keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27). So, will Star Wars stain me? Again, a quick answer may do more harm than good. Let me suggest to you this: You know you better than most do. Even more so, God knows you better than all do—including you. Ask yourself and ask God to speak to you what effect your entertainment choices have upon you. Be open to being taught.

George Lucas has been quoted as saying that the price of admission to see one of his films is a price charged for tuition. He sees himself as a teacher, an educator. The impact his curriculum has upon a person depends in part upon what an individual brings to the table; our worldview matters. “Worldview” is a way of understanding and interpreting, even classifying or categorizing the experiences and events of the world around us. It’s like a lens through which everything is viewed and interpreted. Do you remember the “BluBlocker” sunglasses of the 80s-90s? They filtered out all the blue light from the spectrum and everything was washed in a bath of orange. Of course, taking the glasses off brought the world back to normal. It was not the world that changed, but the perspective of the viewer. However, one’s worldview is not as easily changed as a pair of glasses; it is constructed over many years and can shift, but it does so in a largely incremental fashion.

Everyone has a worldview that allows them to make meaning; a follower of Jesus likewise imposes his/her own schema upon the narratives they encounter. This is crucial to understand when any slice of entertainment is about to be consumed. What do I bring to the table? What is my worldview, and what is the worldview of the artist/author/teacher to whom I listen? Does he or she share my goals—that God be given glory? How is truth approached—with honor and deference, or with skepticism and disdain? Many questions are there to ask, yes.

There are a couple factors I’d like to bring into the light: the power of emotions and the strength of worldview. Emotions come in a variety of flavors: some sweet, some sour, some hard to swallow. If followed, they can lead one to acts of kindness or, just as easily, to fits of rage. Emotions are powerful, and when the heart is stirred it can prompt changes in thinking, beliefs, and, therefore, actions that follow. Emotions are good; God created us with a capacity to feel emotion, to enjoy it and be taught by its power—be it a signpost, a warning, or an invitation. Because of this power, it is not to be taken lightly. Scripture tells us not to arouse or awaken love before it’s time (Song of Solomon 2:7, 3:5, 8:4).

These emotions are for our good; they enable us to praise God with joy and enjoy His gifts with enthusiasm. This takes place when we lead our emotions where it is good to go. Even more easily, though, emotions can turn things on their heads and begin to lead us. Instead of pointing us to enjoy our Creator and seek to become more like Him, we can become enamored with what the Father tells us is off-limits, even forbidden. We may do this when fixing our eyes on a character who has attractive traits and, because of these, emotional connection is made with him/her. Then our desire for connection (an element of relationship) can become prioritized over discernment. When especially enamored, we may brush aside warnings and dismiss any criticism, in order to retain that felt relationship.

Doubt what I am saying? Consider how rabidly a true Seahawks fan will defend their team, defending their favorite character (oops, I mean “player”) when they are called out for a penalty or criticized by one of many commentators. How about the political theater? Have you ever heard someone defend a candidate largely by way of emotion? The good is taken with the bad. Some may say when you take them both then there you have it, the facts of life, but I tell you that some emotional attachments, even based on positive characteristics, can merge with less savory traits, leading to defense and even adoption of the very beliefs that will work against the biblical worldview God is constructing in you.

The strength of the individual’s worldview and how greatly it aligns with a biblical worldview will also affect the impact of entertainment choices. Identifying this development as “spiritual maturity” will aid understanding the impact a conflicting worldview will have upon one’s own. The less developed and tested the worldview, the more it is susceptible to being altered by an opposing view, whether that view is confrontational or politely placed in a palatable offering of entertainment. Children (especially in chronological age) are by nature at foundational stages of constructing their worldview. Much care must be given to build on the solid ground of truth. Expecting young ones to be able, unguided, to distinguish between truth and falsehood is folly. We are commanded in Scripture to teach our children at all times:

“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)

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Reclaiming Our Identity as Followers of the Way

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By Martin Schlomer

Roots. They can grow deep and wide, overwhelming the ground around them, making it difficult to dig them out. Culture and popular opinion, encompassing all who are in a society, can be as tough as these roots to isolate and expose.

A lot of electronic ink and raw emotional energy has been spent recently, addressing President Obama’s comments at the National Prayer Breakfast. While I disagree with his assessment and judgment in what he said, his point that some in the Christian church have made a contribution to the horrors of our past is correct. All one has to do is look at the many churches which supported slavery and Jim Crow laws, not to mention the Crusades.

Why did the Church make such contributions during these horrific seasons in our history? This is a fair question today’s church must understand and address. Did these events originate in the believing church of Christm or was the Church simply complicit in going along with the prevailing beliefs and values of the surrounding culture.

Generally speaking, it was the latter. The Church was being shaped by the surrounding culture and values. This is understandable — the church was birthed in the midst of popular culture and values, and unfortunately she was slow to give up those values and beliefs, contrary to Jesus’ calling for her.

Christians were first called “followers of the Way.” What, or who, was the Way? It was Jesus and His teachings! This is to be the core of the Church’s identity, beliefs, values, and actions. When this is not her identity, she maintains and lives out the identity and beliefs of society and culture, or some perverted form thereof.

The church participated in atrocities such as slavery and racism because she failed to take on and be discipled into her new identity as those who have been called out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light. She maintained her old secular identity, beliefs, values and behaviors, and lived like the culture around her.

Should the church be called to account? Absolutely! However, she is accountable for more than her bad behavior, which reflected the prevailing behavior and values of surrounding culture. She is accountable for not embracing her new identity in Jesus and reflecting His identity, beliefs, and behavior. Throughout history, present day included, too many churches are more like the surrounding culture than the character of Jesus. Those who comprise today’s Church need to reclaim their identity as followers of the Way.

Elim’s mission and vision is to develop passionate followers of Jesus and His ways. This is our identity, which shapes our beliefs and then our behavior. Honestly, nothing else matters as much as this one focus!

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