Cosby and Christendom

 —  November 20, 2014 — Leave a comment

bill-cosby-rape-allegations-pr-nightmareThe Cosby show is recorded before a live audience.

You know this, not because the voice of “Rudy” told you so… but because of all the new coverage and social media chatter about the iconic comedian Bill Cosby. Multiple women have come forth after decades of silence to make claims of sexual assault and drug-induced rendezvous against their will.

I’ve been processing all of this awkwardness like many of you have… not just because he’s been one of my favorite comedians over the years, or even my thirteen-year old son’s recent discovery online of the old 80′s show.

The real “Cosby show” that I’m interested in is how this all relates to you, me and the Church.

bentateConsider the sports commentators on my local radio station who were discussing how athlete Ben Tate was let go from the Cleveland Browns. They noted how after talking about it for an hour, no one called in or sent a message to the station in defense of this player whose firing seemed more related to locker room antics than his skills on the field.

Perhaps because of that filter, I’ve been wondering about if anyone will publicly come to Cosby’s defense. It could arguably be career suicide for such a fellow celebrity, for even Cosby’s own legacy is now in jeopardy. According to Variety newspaper:

Given what a public figure Cosby has been throughout his life, and the likelihood many will believe his accusers no matter what he says, this sets up significant dilemma. Cosby can seek to address the situation head-on, with no assurance that will allow him to rehabilitate his reputation; or choose to stay quiet, which would very likely entail living out his days as a pariah – someone with whom no network, streaming service or sponsor would understandably want to be associated. 

The media are hardly known for long attention spans, and if Cosby opts for the latter path, the drip, drip, drip of accusations will inevitably begin to subside. Yet he will no longer be able to perform – or certainly do interviews to promote any of his appearances – without inviting a new round of uncomfortable questions.

All of this highlights for me our own controversies within Christendom, between the latest megachurch pastor resignation to the ways smaller, extreme radicals of the faith become mountains out of molehills in the local press. Consider that in light of this quote from Ta-Nehisi Coates:

jellocosbyThe heart of the matter is this: A defender of Bill Cosby must, effectively, conjure a vast conspiracy, created to bring down one man, seemingly just out of spite. And people will do this work of conjuration, because it is hard to accept that people we love in one arena can commit great evil in another.

It is hard to believe that Bill Cosby is a serial rapist because the belief doesn’t just indict Cosby, it indicts us. It damns us for drawing intimate conclusions about people based on pudding-pop commercials and popular TV shows. It destroys our ability to lean on icons for our morality. And it forces us back into a world where seemingly good men do unspeakably evil things, and this is just the chaos of human history.

Finger-PointingWhat might be your response to this if it happened in your arena of life?

  • Imagine someone leveled harsh accusations against someone in your church that everyone loved. How would you handle it, especially if you loved this person? Someone recently told me, “I don’t care what people say about Bill Cosby. I love that guy.” Ever felt that same sentiment from someone who thought someone in the church could do no wrong?
  • What is in your past that could be brought up and addressed in a crowd of embarrassment? Maybe the accusations by themselves are slim, but if you got four or five people in a room together sharing stories of your shortsightedness or sin… what would happen next? Should you navigate that ahead of time and confess the situations – whether they’re actual or perceived – or hope that no one notices?
  • How would you feel if your internet search history was published within your church? What would you hope no one would notice or see? How does this affect how you are practicing cover up… or are you practicing transformation?

cosby-show-11The character of Cliff Huxtable was ranked first in TV Guide’s list of the “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time.” None of that seems to matter in all of these allegations against Cosby, unless you consider how it seems that much more sad if this all pans out to be true. Some argue no one wanted to talk about the allegations back then because he made so many white Americans feel so good about race.

Should there be an opportunity for restoration?

What about if we’re not just talking about Cosby, but among people within the church?

What if you were the “Cosby” individual and the allegations start flying?

Where is the consistency and the hypocrisy in how we should deal with this in our own circles?

Are you confused by your “Cliff Huxtable” reputation and assuming all the flubs in your life can be solved by “going to commercial break” or making a silly face when they come up?

How should prayer and confession guide any of that?

Your life and ministry, after all, are being recorded before a live audience.

fightchurch“The thing that attracted me to this project in the first place was the idea of Christianity and fighting, two things that seemingly don’t fit, being paired together.”

This quote comes from director Bryan Storkel regarding his project “Fight Church.” This film offers an intriguing synopsis:

Fight Church follows several cage fighting pastors in a quest to reconcile their faith with a sport that many consider violent and barbaric.

Can you really love your neighbor as yourself and then, at the same time, knee him in the face as hard as you can?

Giving a voice to both sides of the argument, Academy Award® Winning director Daniel Junge and Bryan Storkel allow audiences to reach their own conclusions about these God-fearing men who beat the holy hell out of each other… because Jesus never tapped out.

Storkel was invited into the project after creating a film about card-counting pastors who won thousands in Las Vegas. Fight Church even participated in a Kickstarter campaign.

So basically… this film is about skilled Christians beating each other down, and finding affirmation from their faith in doing so… while other Christians cheer it on.

Imagine if this was how conflict was worked out in the church.

Oh, wait…

um… yeah.

Any takeaways?



Once upon a time, this week didn’t exist.

duck-dynasty-okla-prayerBefore the Duck Dynasty sound-bytes, there was dialogue… testimony… witnessing.

Maybe some of that can continue. (By the way, have you read some other perspective beyond your own? Here’s a great post by Shawn Harrison).

I’d love to offer two videos with some insightful commentary given recent thoughts.

Flashback #1: “What the (bleep)?”

Some have argued this week that a company gets to do what a company wants. So… what has A&E as a company attempted to do – not just this week, but in the past? Here is one that is intriguing, given that it was filmed in the spring that seems to reveal a piece of that.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_0XS1vaX-M

Flashback #2: “Before the money…”

Check out this great interview with Jase and Missy regarding life before fame.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93LY5O7E5bU

Maybe these videos mean nothing, or maybe they give context to everything.

I suppose that’s up to you…

and really…

that’s sort of a point in itself.

I’m not sure why its all such a big deal. Sure, I have feelings about the subject, personal ones, but I thought I’d be able to get away with keeping them private. However, many of my colleagues are weighing in, so I thought I would too. Here are my 5 bullet points on the subject:

1) Ducks are born that way: They can’t help it. Like the old saying goes, “If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, its a duck.” Right?

2) Freedom to choose: I mean, I’m not personally choosing the duck lifestyle but ducks are God’s creatures, too, and He loves us all. I’m sure there are ducks out there who’d rather live like a chicken or a swan. I say, sure – chirp or peep.

3) Life is more colorful with ducks in it: I mean, what would Disney be without them? Who would three-year olds have to feed bread to at the lake?

4) Ducks and Eternal Salvation: I don’t know where to land on this one. I mean, if in fact all ducks go to Heaven, then that there is a whole lot of duck poop right there on the golden streets. Who gets that duty? (See what I did there? Duty? Doody?). Not sure if I want ducks in the church on Sunday morning, either.

5) No Channel or Show Banning Here: I’m not going to ban watching the A&P channel (Animal Planet) in Casa Caro. After all, the show “Too Cute” keeps my grandkids entertained for hours on end and so its invaluable. To ban it would be to punish me.

That’s all I have to say on the subject. I’ve got more important things to think and pray about…like remembering the difference a Baby is about to make.

Stephanie



Everyone has an opinion on Halloween… and its alternatives.

candycornOn one hand, I completely appreciate opportunities to remember that Halloween is really a degradation of “All Saint’s Day.” Everything belongs to God, including whatever has been corrupted or changed over the years to reflect something else. It’s why my family is a huge fan of how this season can be a time to sip apple cider and eat pumpkin pie while the leaves change. We don’t do the ghoul/ghost thing, but we do let our kids get dressed up in a fun costume and make the rounds for candy while we bond with our neighbors. That seems kind of important to God,doesn’t it?

On the other hand, I also appreciate the efforts of Christians who believe we should “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” That word “nothing” is rather powerful, isn’t it?

Churches have tried to come up with alternatives that try to ride the tension between those two thoughts. Sometimes we forget how this comes across, though. Here’s a great one-liner from “Angry Youth Pastor

Harvest Festivals are like substitute cuss words…God and everyone else still knows what you mean. #holyghostweanieroast

ayp

Meanwhile, Greg Stier offers 13 ways not to share your faith this Halloween. Here’s a slice:

  • Insert Testamints into marshmallows covered in chocolate and blessed by a priest.
  • Tell the kids who come to your door that Halloween is the Devil’s birthday party (Like my son used to believe.)
  • Give away apples with John 3:16 carved into them. John 3:16 is great but apples? Seriously? Don’t be that house.
  • Go as a zombie with a sign around your neck that reads, “Dead in my sins

Jesus PumpkinPerhaps a more comprehensive summary is what Darren Sutton hits on regarding how Halloween outreach efforts often fall flat.

Somewhere, we decided that Halloween was bad – and we were going to offer an ‘alternative’ (that strangely looks just like Halloween huddled up on our parking lot.) And then we heartily pat ourselves on the back because 700 people show up for free candy and a dunking booth. We don’t get their names, We don’t REALLY meet them, because this time they’re actually wearing real ‘masks’. And somehow we think we have accomplished ministry. And we’ll do the same thing for our Christmas program, Easter pageant, and July 4th celebration.

So… what’s your perspective on all of this?

Scouting for Alternatives

 —  September 12, 2013 — 17 Comments

Boy Scouts of AmericaYou probably have an opinion about this.

According to NBC News, a new Christian alternative to the Boy Scouts of America has started in response to BSA voting to drop its ban on gay youth earlier this year. The new organization – Trail Life USA – has the support of more than 1,200 former Scout officials, parents and youth from 44 states who attended a two-day national leadership convention for it.

The article quotes different fathers who are trying to voice their position on participating in the new group. One of them is John Stemberger, a former Eagle Scout, father of two scouts and Orlando Attorney:

“I want to have a prominent faith component that will be weaved in every fiber of the program… but at the same time, we are not going to become religious and churchy. This is not another church program. This is going to be a masculine outdoor program to raise young men… I want to be clear: We are not an anti-BSA organization. In fact, we are not an anti-anything or anyone organization.”

So… the story did make the news. Why is that?

I wonder if it’s possible for us to have a professional discussion here about this issue. Not a mean-spirited one where we jump into debate mode, but some observations and theorizing about how this might affect youth ministry.

For example:

  • Is a youth group allowed to create its own policies on expressions of sexuality? Can you ask a barely dressed teenager to not come into your setting or two heterosexual teens who are all over each other physically to leave anymore than you can discourage two gay students from holding hands?

    Keep in mind, I’m not asking if you should… I’m asking if you think you’re allowed to.

  • Has culture really turned the right for personal pleasure into a moral issue? If so, how in the world do you impart a higher value of listening to God on such matters?

Maybe you have some thoughts on that, or perhaps even some questions of your own.

Let’s see if we can keep this respectable and God-honoring. Remember, the eternities of students are on the line.



Avoiding Carless Comments

 —  November 15, 2012 — 1 Comment

As I write this post, my wife and I are driving the New Orleans to Tallahassee leg of our “Exploring the South” road trip from San Antonio to Miami and we are having a great time. When we are on vacation, Lavonne and I have a few fun traditions including me getting a haircut, taking selfies at borders / state lines but one our favorites is taking the opportunity to visit other Churches and just being in the congregation. We go in, eyes open and hearts open to what God wants to teach us and seeing how other Churches do Church. I always learn a lot and appreciate something new about life at home when I am there.

So this time we decided on Sunday to visit a large Church in Texas that is well know for sure. I was excited to see how they do things, how a new person is received, how they do media, worship, connection etc. I was all ears and eyes trying to take it all in. I posted a photo of the sanctuary and mentioned that I was going to Church there tonight.

Within minutes there was two comments on my Facebook wall, with criticism of the Theology and leadership of the Church that I was visiting while others were amazed by the grandeur of it, and other asking how it was. I was struck by the critical comments, not because of what they said ;after all they were comments I had heard before and knew of going in, but because I realized who was going to read them. I deleted the comments this morning for two reasons.

It confuses Students: For my students who logged onto Facebook last night they saw that I was at a Church, I work at a Church, they attend the Church I work at, so in their eyes its just more of the same. So when they log in a read that I am attending a Church that a friend of mine is criticizing it cause a disorientation that is not necessary or helpful to their walk.

It confuses Non-Believers: For my friends on Facebook who are non-believers, hearing a critical comment about a Church could be just another reason not to believe or to increase disillusionment with the Church. For them, just like students it can be confusing to hear Christians being publicly critical of another Christian group.

Its very important that we as pastors be informed, that we understand what we believe and why, but be constantly mindful of the side effects of sharing that opinion in a public forums online or even in coffee shop, people are listening to what we say and reading what we are writing. I am going to follow

-Geoff