Friday, February 6, 2009

Film Imitates Life

A pastor friend of mine told me that the 1952 movie High Noon, was the story of one of his pastorates. A few years ago I saw the movie Babe and told my sister in law it was a movie about social justice. The movie takes place in Australia, so I said, "Australians are very political." She and her husband have never let me live that statement down.

The other day I watched the old Dr. Seuss story, now made into a movie, Horton Hears a Who! This is a story about maintaining the status quo in groups. It is a tale about a band of souls united for a common purpose, but somewhere along the way they lose their vision, become apathetic, and the movement becomes stagnant. What's worse is that they get comfortable there. Incredibly, some actually thwart efforts to get things back on track. In this movie, the ones trying to help (Horton and the Mayor) are labeled as "boobs" and pursued like early church heretics burned at the stake. I was moved to tears in this animated story of an elephant because it imitates life too well.

I saw this process first hand at a legislative law making session at the state capitol today. These rabble rousers showed up out of nowhere and started making accusations, and demanding things that threw the proverbial monkey wrench into the works. Our elected representatives surprisingly gave them more power than they deserve and slowed down an already slow process.

The same friend from High Noon showed me the well known bell shaped curve, the life cycle of too many churches. I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry when I see it. What you miss when you see the facts of the graph is the stories of power brokers, and party line politics, and heartache.

Today I listened to an interview with Phillis Tickle about her book, The Great Emergence. She contends we are at a hinge in history, much like the Reformation, the Great Schism, etc. Times in history where our entire culture (and thus, faith) was (and is now being) rewritten. This seems to happen about every 500 years, give or take. Listening to this podcast affirmed that I'm not a boob. We all need that once in awhile. I'm looking for a few like minded souls out there. Any takers?


Tim Stidham said...

Count me in! It's like flatlanders and all other similar parables. You're right. I see the same problems in our community with squeaky wheels getting the attention. Here's to bold leaders like Phylis who remind us how late it is and invite us to press on! I hope it's not too late to rise above bell curves and politics.

The Mercy Place said...

Hey Lon,

I am reading some 'forced' reading material for a class (Nazarene Polity - whatever that is.) Dreadfully boring of course, but the heart of the beginning of the denomination is so refreshing. A church for the poor; a desire to leave behind ritual and seek Christ's heart as to loving others and "doing church." Here is a good quote, "the machinery and the methods of the older churches had proved a hindrance to the work of evangelizing the poor." (Called Unto Holiness, Timothy L. Smith)And that was written in 1890 something. I am fortunate to be a part of a church that is "emerging" back (Back to the Future?) to those ideals. I don't have a movie parable for us at this moment in time, but I think it is what the church is supposed to be. What we do at the top of the bell - ding dong or not ding dong, that is the question. "Bring out yer dead, bring out yer dead - I'm not dead, yet!"

ccepting said...

Listened to the podcast and really enjoyed it. "Concerned Nazarenes" sound like the predecessors of the "Anglican Church in North America" a recent breakaway group from my own Episcopal Church. There are such organized voices of opposition in virtually all our denominations that many of us suspect money and support from a common source.

But, my prayer is that Emergent will take us beyond all that. I'm encouraged by "post evangelicals" and "post liberals" finding common ground in the Kingdom-centered life and ministry of Jesus.

(And happy to claim N.T. Wright as a fellow Anglican...even though he too is not happy with some of us in The Episcopal Church these days!)

Chris Epting