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Monday, May 19, 2008


I’ve been thinking this morning about being ridiculous.

Let’s face it: we’re afraid to be ridiculed. No person enjoys being mocked, made fun of, or derided. So we skillfully try to avoid appearing silly or foolish. It’s a pretty normal trait; we are, after all, motivated for self-preservation, whether that means preserving out lives or the way we’re perceived. I mean, how good can life be if everyone thinks you’re a weirdo?

Of course, I’m not just thinking of cool people vs. dorks, but rather the world vs. Christendom. There are many categories of Christians: hardcore, average, lukewarm, and “of course I’m a Christian—I’m American.” Let’s narrow it down to the hardcore Christians. (By hardcore of course I mean the ones that actually have a relationship with God and try to live righteously, not because they beat you over the head with their Bibles.)

The category of hardcore can be further broken down into three categories: the cheesy, the normal, and the ultra-cool.

The cheesy can most easily be discovered wearing t-shirts with christianese slogans that make other cheesies laugh and that nobody else gets, particularly not the people who aren’t believers and toward whom the t-shirts were probably targeted. The young ones are very likely uber-involved (and they’ll use the word “uber”) in their youth groups and campus crusade groups, and unabashedly sit on the sidewalks between classes and play the guitar loudly, singing worship songs. The older versions of the cheesy are generally the types who don’t allow their children to use the word “butt” and come up with their own jokes because the standard variety are too lewd. They have quite possibly spent the majority of their extra money buying Thomas Kinkaid prints and the latest fashion in Bible covers. They give people bookmarks with the “Footprints” poem on it at gift exchanges. I could go on, but I won’t.

The normal are exactly that: regular people who know that their supposed to be a witness, but don’t necessarily thinking banging a guitar amidst flirting college students or flashing a spiffy new Bible cover are the best ways to do that. Most of the time they’re not quite sure how the heck their supposed to be a witness, so they just live life for God and try to be aware of opportunities to share when they pop up. Oddly enough, the “normal” people generally have more experiences in their lives, and thus have learned more and have more to share with others. Still, they sometimes hover between the tendency to be cheesy, and the desire to be ultra-cool.

Which brings me to the last category. Ultra-cool Christians are the ones who wear the latest fashions, have read the latest books, and who can quote lines from all the cool new movies. They go to emergent churches, not because they actually understand the fundamental idea behind the emergent church, but because sitting on a couch sipping Starbucks and listening to a guy be inspirational is much less distasteful than sitting on a hard pew in a place that smells like old hymnals and old lady perfume. Not that they find God distasteful; they are, after all, still within the hardcore phylum. But they are definitely all about class. They feel that they’ll never be able to reach the modern world if they’re still stuck in old-fashioned traditions.

I’m not advocating any of these groups, nor am I shooting any of them down outright. I think each group has strong pros and cons. I think the cheesies have less inhibition, and that overall it’s better to think of God’s opinion first and people’s second. Or last. But conversely, if everyone thinks you’re some kind of mental outcast, you’re not likely to win many people over to the light side. I think a person can be dedicated to God, and unflinching in their attempts at godliness without being a retard. The normal person is probably in the best position, although the tendency to hover between two classes can be helpful or detrimental. It means they can get along with and have dialogue with either, but sometimes they resent one group for being so dorky (and for the scary feeling of identifying too much with those dorks) and the other for being so unattainably cool. The ultra-cool avoid association with the cheesy like the plague. They want to be loving, because God tells them to be, but it’s just so hard when the church seems infested with weirdos. They are staunchly against all things old, and wholeheartedly for anything new and fresh. The world isn’t interested in singing hymns and pot-luck lunches in the basement, but a book discussion at Starbucks is so…modern. And maybe they’re right. Paul does advocate the whole idea of being all things to all men that by any means some can be reached.

But back to my original point (yes, I had one). These three classes of phylum hardcorum still share that common human trait: the fear of ridicule. Whether they don’t fear the world’s ridicule but fear their peers, or fear that the world will associate them with the class that is embarrassing, it’s all the same. No one wants to be mocked. And yet…and yet…didn’t Jesus allow himself to be ridiculous? How much more ridiculous can it get, shoving Deity into corrupt human flesh? Being squeezed out of a womb, being helpless and diapered and nursed? Being average-looking, unimpressive, and despised? The people who surrounded him were deformed, ill, uneducated. He died naked, stripped of all modesty and dignity, spit upon, laughed at. He endured it because He loved us. Why are we so unwilling to do the same? Many of us have claimed that we would never deny Christ even if someone put a gun to our head. But how hard is that really? You say, “I love Jesus,” and someone puts a bullet in your brain. It’s over quickly. But the real test is to say “I love Jesus” and then keep on living in a world that thinks you’re backward and silly. The hard part is willingly associating with those silly cheesies and their silly slogans and embarrassing singing. The test is not finding fault with the ultra-cool for being cooler than you and to not disdain the normal for their placid ordinariness. After all, the disdain we show for our fellow Christians makes us more ridiculous in the eyes of the world than silly singing or compromising coolness.

If the God of all creation allowed Himself to be made ridiculous for us, I think we owe Him a little of that back, don’t you?


foldreformer said...

What's normal (or less than) is often determined by who's defining it.

Steve Nelson said...

I have no problem being ridiculed... nor ridiculing others. *ahem*

In fact, I am referred to as ridiculous quite often. I pretend it is a good thing.

And by the by, I am building up a tolerance to old lady perfume.


Heather said...

Hmmm... I think I'm a bit of all three categories you mentioned.

In highschool, I distinctly remember sitting in the hallways, singing and strumming worship songs on my guitar. My friends all thought I was on drugs. In my agenda book, I made a collage of cheesy Christian t-shirt slogans I had cut out from Christian magazines. I thought the slogans were hilarious - none of my friends thought so...

Now I'd say I'm a mixture of normal and ultra-cool... I'm trying to be balanced in my walk with Christ - On fire for Him yet trying not to be a Jesus repellant in the process. I don't care about what people think of ME, I care about what people think of Jesus. I try to transparent, to represent Him in a realistic approach.