Saturday, May 27, 2006

Missing the point again

Madonna opened her new tour this week in Los Angeles and, as usual, used multiple methods of shock and awe to wow the audience, who she knew consisted of more than just the thousands inside the arena.

Apparently, at some point in time, she was raised up on a mirrored cross, reportedly wearing a crown of thorns, as she sang her old ballad "Live To Tell." This stunt, as you might guess, infuriated certain Christian organizations, most notably the Church of England which issued a statement that included these lines:
Why would someone with so much talent seem to feel
the need to promote herself by offending so many people?

The same article quotes David Muir of the Evangelical Alliance:
Madonna's use of Christian imagery is an abuse and it is dangerous...She should drop it from the tour and people need to find their own means of expressing their disapproval.

At the risk of appearing to defend Madonna, which I'm not, I'd like to take exception at the way in which these (and other) organizations responded. It appears they didn't take the time to investigate, much less understand, the context of the cross scene.

Thanks to a wily concert-goer, you can view footage of the criticized performance, and see that it actually served a higher purpose, a purpose which Madonna can't even live up to. As she sings the ballad, three huge video screens show faces of African children, and tout statistics concerning the plight of children orphaned by parents infected with AIDS. Halfway through, Madonna comes down from the cross, and the screens show flames igniting, interspersed with the faces of children. Words from Matthew 25 appear on the screen, ending with, "What you did for one of my brothers, you did to me."

Taken by itself, the episode is powerful, and it's almost as if by coming down from the cross, Madonna is challenging Christian believers to get off their religious kick long enough to actually do something about the plight of children in Africa.

But the Church doesn't like to hear that, especially from an outsider who's such an easy target. I'm amazed at the failure of many organizations and denominations to perceive that the world is screaming for the Church to be authentic, and to truly start caring for people the way Jesus cared for people. Instead, we sit in our ivory tower of salvation singing "This world is not my home" all the while forgetting that "God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son."

Of course, Madonna can't live up to her own presentation. According to, Madonna donated $100,000 to the relief program. While that may seem praiseworthy, keep in mind that her current tour is expected to gross more than $200 million, or 2000 times the amount of her donation.

Still, sometimes the world makes better points than the Church. And sometimes, just sometimes, the Church becomes wise enough to stop being defensive about its sacred symbols and realize that we still have much praying, learning and giving to do.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Pic Share

April 29, 2006 -- Gatlinburg, TN

Which came first?

Still more about marketing the church. Brian Orme mentions a book called Get Back in the Box. In his post, he says:
In a church, the people should create the experience, or the buzz; the experience doesn't create the people.

Agree or disagree?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

More on marketing the church. Out of Ur asks:
Unlike the explosive church growth being experienced in Asia, Africa, and South America in recent years, the U.S. church seems to display little spiritual vigor or power. Has our reliance on the wisdom of marketers and business principles displaced dependence upon God’s Spirit?

Check out the entire post.
While Mike Yaconelli was alive, he proudly claimed the humble title of "pastor of the slowest growing church in America." Sometimes I think I may have been the heir of that title. I've been a pastor for two and a half years now, and often wonder just what kind of trick God has played on me.

One of the things I constantly battle is just how far to go in marketing our congregation. We changed our collective name to CrossRoads, and I've been tempted more than a few times to spend hundreds of dollars pasting that name on flyers, cards, magnets, and signs and distribute them all over town. But then I think of the name which Scripture calls us to publish, and it's not CrossRoads.

The Parish has a great post which analyzes an advertisement by a church in Oklahoma.The author finds several subtexts in the advertisement, and I have to agree with him. I think it's a shame that so goes much of Christian advertising these days.

Reminds me of John Fischer's declaration in Fearless Faith:
Sometimes I wish we had a new word for "Christian."
I bet there are a lot of people who would be Christians if they didn't have to become a Christian to be one.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The truth hurts -- assuming it's really the truth

"Don't we have it exactly backward? Shouldn't one's overall happiness -- physical, marital or otherwise -- be directly equated with exceptional amounts of sexual training and education and awareness?"

So says Mark Morford, SF Gate columnist in "Christian Virgins Are Overrated / Think sex and drugs destroy America? Try naive chastity. Oh, and "Purity Balls". Exactly where he claims to have tried and proven his own theories is beyond me, but the article is intentionally provocative, and one you should read twice.

Morford cites recent research which claims that within one year of taking an abstinence pledge, half of all teens who did so had sex anyway. Furthermore, 88 percent break the vow at some point before marriage. Numbers like that lead Morford to this conclusion:

Let's just say it: There is no sacredness in the virgin. There is only the fear, were she to be educated and empowered and really let loose, of what she could become.
Say what you want about Morford's mockery of religious tradition and sacred beliefs. But if those numbers are correct, shouldn't we Christians be asking ourselves what the missing element is?