The new movie "The Excorcism of Emily Rose" has now been released and the television ads are showing the demon possesed Emily Rose and how the keepers of Christian religion i.e. priests and ministers, attempted to free her from her demonic prison. This is based upon a true story. The movie raised a minor furor and news channels broadcast clips of religious services from Catholic and Evangelical churches where people were in church being prayed for.
What I noticed was every clip that was aired showed ministers screaming, placing their hands on people's foreheads and trembling while shaking their heads back and forth by hand. The more clips I viewed, the more cynical I got. I was beginning to see showmanship and eccentricity. I am not saying I was right or wrong, I am simply sharing how I began to feel. Please keep in mind that I am a minister and I was having those thoughts. Why was I thinking that some of these people were, in the midst of doing good, putting on a show?
Which brings me to another instance. I was channel surfing one night and I saw a televangelist in a hotel conference having a meeting with people. I noticed that every time he spoke to the TV people, most often it was about getting out of poverty and accumulating wealth. Then there would be a break where he would offer a free tube of miracle spring water to viewers. This spring water, when applied to the person's body, would bring wealth, prosperity, physical healing, pay off the mortgage, fix the car and pay for the kids' college. At least that's what the testimonials were saying.
I turn to anothe channel and AGAIN there is another televangelist on TV. He wasn't peddling free miracle spring water. He was offering green hankerchiefs to hold while you pray. We all remember references to the old wild West days where snake oil salesmen would travel selling their snake oil saying it would heal the sick. I wonder what the difference is between these people. I mean really, where in the Bible does it say anything about spring water and green hankies being necessary for God's touch?
I've been paying attention to how people view evangelical Christianity and Christians. Time magazine did a piece on the subject. Newsweek did a story on it, both cover stories mind you. The Boston TV show Chronicle did a show on it also. It matters to me how Christianity looks to outsiders. From what I saw on TV I'm afraid we might not look too good.
The word relevant means "having a bearing on or connection with the subject at issue". Peddling spring water and rags, to me, seems to have no bearing or connection with Christian spirituality. It has no relevance. But this is symptomatic because there are all kinds of things in American Christianity that have no relevance to most people. We exhibit behaviors in meetings that make people think we're crazy. We use language and a nomenclature that sounds like nonsense to non-believers. Please note that I didn't say any of these things were wrong. I am pointing to relevance.
The apostle Paul in Romans chapter 1 said, "I have a great sense of obligation to people in our culture and other cultures..." (paraphrased from the NLT). He really wanted people to understand Christianity. He wanted to be relevant to the culture. He didn't peddle magic trinkets and make promises to people who sent in a financial seed gift of faith (It's amazing that the only way we can be financially blessed is if we send a financial gift to THEIR ministry).
Jesus went about healing all those who were sick and oppressed of the Devil. He did miracles and performed excorcisms! It's kind of like the Excorcism of Emily Rose. Whether you like the movie or not isn't the point. It's doing what Jesus did and reflecting who he is to our culture is really what it's all about. That is relevant.