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24 January 2005

Adventures in Missing the Point

A couple of years back Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren put out a book called Adventures in Missing the Point: How the Culture-Controlled Church Neutered the Gospel. The gist of the book is that a lot of conservative Christians just don't get it. By "it," Campolo and McLaren mean those issues of faith reserved for capital letters: Sin. The Bible. Culture. Feminism. Homosexuality.

I was reminded of this book earlier, while listening to a radio interview from a few years back. The interview takes place on WZZD, a Christian radio station of some sort. In one corner we have musician Larry Norman discussing the reason he started performing songs as a child. In the other we have a radio DJ who, well, totally misses the point. Here’s the key excerpt:

Larry: Actually that’s why I started writing these songs, was because I couldn’t get kids to come to church with me. I didn’t think about it at the time, but they’re kids. They’d have to get their parents’ permission or they’d have to get their parents to come to church. Most nine year old kids are not going to tell their parents, ‘I’m going to church, whether you like it or not.’ Right?

DJ: (laughter) Right.

Larry: So anyway, nobody would go to church with me. So when I was in the fourth grade I decided, ‘I’m going to bring church to the kids. I’m going to start singing during lunch hour.’ So I was very, I wouldn’t say ambitious. It really had nothing to do with music for years. It was all about Jesus. It was about being a missionary. That’s what I wanted to be. But I just started doing it in my own country, instead of going to Africa, which is kind of where I thought all the missionaries used to go.

DJ: (laughter)

Larry: Cause I thought, ‘Well that’s where the people don’t wear any clothes. And I think the missionaries feel that it’s their job to make them wear clothes and’

DJ: (laughter)

Larry: ‘tell them about God.’ But I didn’t see why they had to wear clothes. Couldn’t you believe even if you had a loincloth on? Why’d you have to wear, you know, American clothes?

DJ: Right. The innocent thoughts of a nine-year old, coming through.

Um, no. More like pearls before swine. More like dramatic irony. More like missing the point.

The Gospel of Jesus is not about getting naked people to wear clothes because our Western eyes abhor the sight of bare flesh. It’s not about Americanizing other cultures with Jesus, Coke, Big Macs and Nikes. It’s not about some bullshit Manifest Destiny. It’s about a revolution of grace, peace, love and forgiveness. It’s about good news for the poor. It’s about getting it.

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