Friday, November 5, 2010

Bad Religion

Dooby dooby doo...NBC's The Office was the latest network show to roll up a big fat one and get high off the opiate of the masses, to paraphrase The Temp (aka, Ryan paraphrasing Marx, et al). 

In terms of actual theological depth and probing insight, the episode was all foam no beer.  But that's exactly what it claims to be, nothing more, nothing less.  No quarrel here.  Quite the opposite in fact.  Most of the time the show is pretty hilarious, especially the first 2 seasons.  Although recently it's been like tip-toeing your way through a cow pasture, eventually you're bound to stumble onto something.  This week's episode had its moments.  But you're not here to read a TV commentary. And I have no grand designs on lining animal litter trays with recent copies of bloviated sit-com expositions filling the pages of TV Guide.  ZZZZzzzz.....

Now, individually there were several "highlights" worth mentioning in Thursday's episode.  It almost looked too politically incorrect - a christening (I know, what the bleep is that?), at a seemingly Christian church on a Sunday morning.  It almost brought back memories of the Waltons.  I said almost.  That is until the PC-dar went of at 30 Rock and they through in the priestitute just for good measure (that's right I said it)!  Good night John Boy.  O, good grief.  Total relevancy fail.  But more on women's ordination another day.  That's too much theological depth for this post.  Oddly enough, they did call it Baptism for most of the episode. Although in good Unitarian fashion, they conveniently left out those three not-so-little words - Father, Son and Holy Spirit (I know that's more than three - look out as my friends at the God Whisperers say, home-schooler warning! - but, dammit Jim, I'm a pastor not a mamathematician).

Altogether, the cast of The Office mixed together one wicked bowl.  Let's recap: Ryan thought made the stereotypical aforementioned quote.  Daryl fell asleep in church.  Angela, the cutest Pharisee around, wanted nothing more than to go to the temple to justify herself.  Jim and Pam were in it for family, although it's hard to tell, really.  Michael Scott, of course, was in it for the attention and emotional connection.  Proof that theology of glory is about as empty as his business school transcript (and that's true whether you're talking about worship, Baptism, Justification or Sanctification or anything else).  Why else did he get off that bus?  And moving on...Stanley and Kevin were probably like a lot of people in church when the pastor preaches too long (gurgle gurgle gurgle), ready for lunch.  Ryan couldn't help one more crack at the religophobes with a kool-aid reference.  Which it seemed like there was something in the water at this "church."  It was hard to tell if the marks really were there.  And last but not least, Dwight was the one honest one in the bunch, peddling his goods out in the open. 

You see, this is how pop-culture likes to "do" religion: vanilla, or whatever flavor is true for you.  (btw, the emergents probably loved this episode).  Hollywood thinks religion is for dopes, unless of course they can make money off of it.  Then it's fair game.  And when they do bring it into parlance most of the time it's more of a commentary on how pop-culture views religion.  But these are all caricatures.  When it comes down to it there really are only two religions in the world.  Free.  And not free.  Christianity and all the rest.  Christ for you as rescuer, savior, deliver, Crucified and given for you in Baptism and His Supper for you for the forgiveness of sins.  Or you can settle for whatever the culture and the Barnes and Noble religious section is tokin'.  But when it comes to salvation do you need a swim coach?  A cheerleader?  A life-coach?  There are plenty of guys with slick hair and smooth talking "sermons" for that.  No, what we need.  What we have is Jesus. Lord and Savior.  So, when you are baptized - not christened or dedicated - you receive Jesus as Jesus is washing your sins away through the hands of the pastor.  When the pastor places the bread on your tongue pours the wine in your mouth - you receive Jesus.  When a man, called and ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry, says, "In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins," - Jesus is forgiving your sins.  And that is no drug.  That is medicine of immortality.  That is the life-giving antidote to your chronic sin.  The only way to "reform" the Old Adam is to kill him.  It's not re-hab.  It's just good ole' death and resurrection.  Jesus would have it no other way.  And He's done it all for you. 

In the end, I suppose all that this episode really proves is that when pop-culture goes religious, it's management is about as good as Dunder Mifflin's; in other words, Michael Scott is to Dunder Mifflin as pop-culture is to religious truth claims.  Which is good, because our good works are about as good before God, as Michael Scott's are at the end of the work day.  Don't believe me?  Check out Romans 4:4-5.  We really are the pirates who don't do anything.  Thanks for reading...I'm gonna go grab a snack; hmmm, Cheetos.

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