Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Insulting Christians and turning the other cheek

I usually don't give much thought to what Hollywood has to say. Unfortunately I find that most times TV Shows and movies can be fairly predictable or even formulaic. I often still enjoy the entertainment because I realize that I need to suspend reality while watching. However I have noticed a few shows that I usually enjoy getting away with some blatant derogatory stereotypes. If these stereotypes were applied to certain groups of people there would be a national outcry.

But because the target is Christians everything is deemed all right.

Both a recent episode of The Big Bang Theory and an episode from last season of the Office that I have recently watched portrayed Christians in a very poor light. They were shown as being combination of unthinking, judgmental, close-minded, bubbly and vacuous. They are shown as that stereotypical cheerleader for Jesus type.

Let me be the first to say that Christians can be all of those things. And it is absolutely not right when we are. But Christians do not have a monopoly on those character traits. On top of that, those things are not all that Christians are. And that is what has bothered me.

This portrayal of Christians has not been limited to just one episode of The Big Bang Theory and The Office. Rather it has been a fairly persistent stereotype especially in The Big Bang theory. I don't expect Hollywood to become Holywood...but a more accurate and balanced portrayal would be nice. How about showing a Christian character that isn't over-the-top weird? How about showing a Christian that is willing to help someone out not because they are trying to proselytize but rather because they are simply willing to help out?

I find it very interesting but at worst it is an insult. There is no great injustice done to me if Hollywood decides to inaccurately portray Christians. Yes I might very well have to deal with undoing some preconceived notions that people have. Beyond that there is no true harm done.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you."

Far too often I have heard this used to say that Christians should be pacifists or should just lie down and take it. But what is interesting is that this passage is actually talking about how we should deal with insults. The point is that I shouldn't take any actions against someone insulting me that would unnecessarily escalate an insult to something more violent. And I think that it is very good advice in a situation like this.

I really do not like that Christians get portrayed poorly by Hollywood...we tend to do a good job of poorly portraying ourselves as it is. But the answer isn't to rage against the machine. Rather the answer is to do a better job of being the type of Christian that I would like to see portrayed in Hollywood. If we as Christians do that then those inaccurate portrayals will be seen as being inaccurate even by those outside the church. And that will do more to change those portrayals than anything else that I could try and do to change them.

By the way, if the Matthew 5:38-42 passage is meant to advocate pacifism then why did Jesus tell the Disciples to buy swords?

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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