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’Ship Christians Only Can Say?: How Bobby Petrino, Yoda, and Bill Clinton Tie-in Together

12 Apr

They (questions) offer us a unique opportunity

to rethink what it means to be the Church,

not merely critiquing the presently existing church 

for failing to live up to its ideals,

but rather for espousing the wrong ideals. 

– Peter Rollins

Several weeks ago I was sitting in church, probably just surfing on my phone, and the pastor made a comment that made my head snap up like a yo-yo being yanked upward. I was fully focused on listening to how he was going to explain what he had just said.

Before I jump in, please trust me, I am writing this not to solely criticize his statement/attitude; but I do believe what he said is bad theology and also a prevailing thought shared by many in the Church (the church-at-large); if not always explicit in word (although in this instance it was) it is most certainly implicit in actions. Overall, I want to try to make our church culture in Arkansas (and elsewhere) better.

Here’s the story:

The pastor was telling a story about how one afternoon he was just cruising around on the internet and saw an advertisement of a gathering for single adults that said, “Come and have some fellowship with us.”

{This next paragraph was his explanation of his gripe with that particular internet ad. When I started to write this post I listened to the podcast of the sermon when it was posted online to accurately quote what he said.}

“Man, don’t use our word! That’s not “fellowship”! “Fellowship” is not any casual human interaction that we have. “Fellowship” is not two christian guys getting together talking about how great the razorback basketball game was or how all their hunting exploits have been, that’s not “fellowship”. “Fellowship” is a lot deeper than that. “Fellowship” is not two people just getting together and working on something. It’s not you calling a friend and saying “hey, why don’t you come over and let’s do scrapbooks together and have fellowship. Well, maybe you will maybe you won’t. You say, “{Pastor} (name withheld), why are you talking about this?” Because there is incredible joy, listen friends, in genuine “fellowship”. Genuine “fellowship”. And “fellowship” is not some kind of mere friendship, “fellowship” is much deeper than that. It’s not a group of Christians getting together and having a potluck together. It’s so much bigger and deeper and wider than that.”

He went on to explain, in his opinion, what Paul teaches is required to have “genuine Fellowship”.

Deep breath…ok, I’m better. Let’s dive in.

So what’s the big deal? Why am I getting so picky about a word? First of all, even though “fellowship” isn’t used in our everyday vocabulary, I completely disagree with his definition of the word “fellowship”. I believe every situation he listed can be an excellent example of fellowship and yes, even worship, but overall that’s not what this post is about. It’s not the specific word that was used that is the problem. The false-ownership of a word is a problem, but the main issue is the problem behind the problem that I want to focus on. Some people in the Church (again, the Church-at-large) try to separate themselves from the culture in many different areas of life because they believe culture is bad and out to get to them. They isolate themselves and deem there are Christian words, watch only Christian movies, read only Christian books, and condone or criticize things under the banner of “God”, “Jesus”, or “the gospel”, when I wonder if God would want his name attached to some of those things. Yes, I’ll go as far to say this isolation and bifurcation is bad theology. I believe it portrays and creates a fragmented worldview and also creates an “us vs them” mentality. God called us to redeem (reclaim) his creation – this includes culture, but if Christians are separating themselves from culture and simply saying, “Come quickly Lord Jesus”…well, that’s the problem. So how does this “us vs them” mentality form?

Even in society as a whole (Christians and Non-Christians) we tend to hold a fragmented view of certain ideological issues in our lives: sacred vs secular; public lives vs private lives; and church vs state are just a few examples. Some Christians interpret the Bible as proffering this separation (which is borderline Gnosticism), they believe this bifurcation of sacred things and secular things (I don’t like the word “secular”) as acceptable to God. In this post and the next I’m going to hash out and explain a little more why this is not what God desires as our worldview.

{Yes, you can probably think of examples where the fragmentation isn’t a bad thing.  A boys bathroom and a girls bathroom – yes, that’s a good thing. But when the fragmentation does occur in the wrong instances it often leads to an undesired end.}

A bifurcated worldview tries to eradicate the fear of the unknown. And the fear of the unknown can cause us to do some childish things.

Here are two quick examples of a bifurcated worldview and also the fear of the unknown –

(quick note – part of this was written before the firing of Bobby Petrino and I am very impressed with the integral approach Jeff Long took in this situation.)

1) Bobby Petrino. Now, try to take off the razorback-red colored blinders for a second…  I can’t tell you how many times during this whole shameful incident I heard or read somebody say something along the lines of, “He’s our coach, he’s not the pope.”, and “We don’t care what he does on his own time, we just want him to win ball games.” That’s a clear bifurcation of his public life (his job) and his private life (his affair). And below even the waterline of people bifurcating his job from his actions, people have also bifurcated their treatment of a winning coach vs a losing coach. What I mean is, would Arkansans still be holding rallies and fighting for his job if he had an average record as a coach then had the affair, paid the woman and lied to his boss about the accident? Doubtful. Should we just care about wins and losses and not the way he carries himself in the community? Or should we value what the coach does wholly? So why all the angst from Razorback fans? Because Bobby Petrino is a damn good coach – he had won 21 games in the past 2 years and had them in the hunt for an SEC title this year which automatically put them in the hunt for the national title. Well the angst might be from what my favorite KC sports radio host likes to ask, “If not him then who?” Now that Petrino has been fired, what’s on the other side? A possible fear of the unknown. Arkansans don’t know for sure what’s on the other side since there is a coaching search just now starting, but Jeff Long did a damn good job in showing that overall integrity matters and he will attempt to make the appropriate hire. Fear of the unknown: greatly diminished.

2) Now, an example for my Jayhawk brethren on the fear of the unknown. We don’t have to think back too long ago to have a similar example. Roy Williams was our coach from 1989-2003. While on the job for 15 years at KU, Roy racked up – 4 final fours, 2 championship game appearances, several Big8/Big 12 titles, and won 81% of his games – a staggering clip. In 2000, the University of North Carolina’s coach Bill Guthridge retired and UNC (chiefly, Dean Smith) tried to coerce Roy to “come home to North Carolina” to be their coach. Roy graduated from North Carolina and was an assistant to Dean Smith their hall of fame coach. After deliberation Roy declined by saying, “I’m staying.”

Later on in the same press conference Roy also said, “The next time I have a press conference is when I’m fired, or I retire.”

What does that say to you? To KU fans it meant he was never leaving, that he would retire at KU. In 2003, UNC fired Matt Doherty, and came after Roy…again. What?! He already told us he’d never leave. Well, he left and we all felt betrayed. Now, we weren’t worried about attracting a top flight coach – we are one of the top 4/5 programs of all-time in college basketball – James Naismith (inventor of the game coached at KU), Phog Allen (grandfather of coaching, coached at KU and has our Fieldhouse named after him), Adolph Rupp (from KU, played under Allen, and coached at UK), Dean Smith (from KU, played under Allen, coach at University of North Carolina), Larry Brown, Wilt Chamberlain (player), JoJo White, Paul Pierce, (and many more of course) #2 school in all-time victories, 14 final fours, 5 national titles, countless all-americans etc, etc…but still there was the fear of the unknown. Who would we have as our coach, and would he do as good as Roy? If not Roy, then who? That thought was running wild through our minds when Roy left. Yes, I was bitter at Roy. He told us he’d never leave. I took my “Benedict Williams” t-shirt to the 2005 Final Four and was crushed to watch him when his first national championship. Enter Bill Self to replace Roy. Now, if you would have told us when Roy left that Bill would win 8 straight Big 12 titles, make it to 2 Final Fours in his first 9 years, have several all-americans, win at a better percentage than Roy (Self’s win % is 85% – ridiculous!), and that Bill would beat North Carolina the two times he’s faced them to this point, then the fear of the unknown would’ve been eased quite a bit. But absolutely 100% of the bitterness was erased in 2008 when Bill got to his first Final Four and beat UNC in the national semifinals, and also won the national championship in his 5th year as our coach that year. Fear of the unknown with Bill: 100% gone.

So what do I mean by the fear of the unknown? When we have fear of new ground that we’re approaching maybe it’s not the specific thing standing in front of us that is feared, but it’s actually the effect, or fallout, of what might happen that is feared…or maybe it’s a bit of both.

I’m not afraid of falling…it’s the landing that worries me.  

Make sense? If not, sit back and think about it for a second…look at the things you might bifurcate. I’ll try to pull it all in tomorrow with the second part (of 3 or maybe 4 parts) of this post. And remember this is all tying back to a bifurcated (fragmented) worldview that some Christians carry of “us vs them”. Tomorrow we’ll also hear from Yoda and Bill Clinton.

“Man, don’t use our word.” Man, I hope I never hear that again.

 

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Posted by on April 12, 2012 in culture, theology

 

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