There are several things I like about this episode:
- That the show would even deal with Christianity, and that in a positive light.
- They rightly point out that different Christians worship in different ways.
- There are a ton of great lines from this episode (e.g., Pastor K: "Don't you think Jesus is on this half pipe?" Hank: "I'm sure he's a lot of places he doesn't want to be.")
- It raises questions for both edgy and traditional Christians to consider.
- It's hilarious.
What I want to discuss, however, is Hank's whole problem with what I'm calling Edgy Christianity (EC). EC takes on a lot of forms: hard rock, rap, and other intense forms of music; tattoos and piercings with a Christian message to them; Christian clothing (like Bobby's "Satan Sucks" T-shirt, or the once-popular "Hell, No!" shirts), offensive bumper stickers, and other related stuff. Hank's statement reveals his feelings: "Can't you see? You're not making Christianity better; you're just making rock-'n-roll worse."
Is that true? Is Christian rap good for Christianity, or is it bad for rap? When does becoming "all things to all people" turn into "making rock-'n-roll worse"? Is it true that "Body Piercing Saved My Life" as one T-shirt says? Yes, it's true that nails pierced Jesus, but is that the same as today's body piercing? Obviously not; what we have here is a classic case of equivocation, using the same word (or phrase) in two different ways to argue one point. All fallacies aside, why do we feel that we need to make Christianity cool? Is it cool? Is Jesus really our "homeboy"? What happened to Jesus being the "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" before whom "every knee will bow . . . and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord"?
My fear is that relevance has trumped reverance. Don't get me wrong; I want the gospel to be understandable to everyone. But why be relevant? What does "relevant" mean? Relevant to whom? If we don't ask and answer these questions, we are simply using relevance as a justification to toy around with the eternal truths of God. Is faith a product to sell? Is planting the seeds of the gospel a matter of proper marketing? Are we asking youth (THE main target of EC) to deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Christ, or are we asking them to think that Jesus is cool and would be worth making a friend on their MySpace?
Maybe I'm (too) cynical. But I can't help but be reminded of what Simone Weil said about relevance: "To always be relevant, you have to say things which are eternal."
For the youth out there to whom we're trying to be relevant (btw: do we really think that we can keep up with all the changing trends of kids these days, always adjusting the message to be right on top of things? Ha!), we must communicate Christ in such a way as to prevent, five years from now, Jesus ending up in the box of trends which were cool at the time but are now rather embarrassing.
Becoming a Christian means your whole life is changed, not just your vocabulary. It means that you are transformed by the renewing of your mind, not that you transform your music collection to Christian music you don't mind. It's about putting on Christ and becoming a new creation, not putting Christ on a T-shirt or putting a fish on your car. Yes, you vocabulary should change; your music should be evaluated; your clothing might change. The question is: why?