Friday, May 18, 2012

Where is the Good News?

I found this image through an entry at Kurt Willems' blog. He seems to have gotten it through a blog entry about "Funny Church Signs". It does not appear to be a Photoshop or otherwise computer-generated image, but rather apparently reflects an actual church sign out there, although I'll confess that I've not called the church to verify.*

I'm going to try to be charitable and suggest that this sign isn't to be taken at face value. That is, to say that people are sent to hell for kissing women (or for liking it). If so, I think it would be safe to assume that pretty much everyone — male and female — in their own congregation would be doomed (let alone the rest of us!). Somehow, I don't get the impression that Havens Corners Church is a cloistered monastery for celibate monks!

That's about as far as I can go in being charitable, though. If one thinks about this sign with any depth, one can only ask "What were they thinking?" Seriously, what good did they hope to achieve? Where is Jesus in this message? Where is the good news?

Recognizing that the words are a reference to an early hit by Katy Perry, one can assume that the church is trying to be a bit humorous with its cultural knowledge, although the humor fades the more one thinks about it, and it's worth noting that the song is several years old now, in any event. I also find myself wondering if the folks who came up with this sign are aware of Katy Perry's somewhat unusual history. Before she became the pop icon (to call her "pop tart," as many are doing, is rather unkind, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that it seems to accurately describe the image she has cultivated) she is today, she was actually a Christian recording artist (under the birth name, Katy Hudson), and grew up in a Christian household (her parents are both pastors). I don't think one can fully understand the admittedly suggestive lyrics of "I Kissed a Girl" apart from this understanding of her own background. At the very least, she's exploring a world she was never exposed to by her parents.

I'm sure many would be quick to criticize Perry's behavior as a "rebellion," not only against her parents (who, according to at least one source, may well be more supportive of her than is often suggested, although I gather that there are indeed some serious differences), but more importantly against God. I can't quite go there. It's not that I don't think she's rebelling. I do think that to at least some extent. But I look at her life, which I admittedly don't do much (I'm notoriously out of touch when it comes to popular music these days), and I can't help but notice that she's already suffered through the divorce of a marriage that lasted barely more than a year before filing papers (a situation which seems only to have added to the difficulties between Perry and her parents). I don't care how much Perry maintains her bubbly image, that's something that just can't be any fun. Whether or not you want to say that Perry is suffering the consequences of her own rebellious choices, I can't find it in myself to be too condemnatory when I think of how difficult going through such an experience must be. I want to offer her hope, not wag my finger at her and say "I told you so."

Whatever your feelings about Katy Perry, or on proper sexual behavior (and my own opinions are probably more conservative than many of my entries would otherwise suggest), the message sent by this church's sign just strikes me as unhelpful. I've little doubt it's intended to warn specifically against homosexual behavior (a message that really isn't clear at all without knowing the context of the song, but with that context, it's hard to imaging it being about anything else), but I just don't believe that the "scare them out of hell" method of evangelism is at all effective.

And if even if this church isn't interested in providing hope. Even if all they care about is getting people to obey God's commands as this church understands them from the Bible, I still can't support a sign like this. God wants followers who will obey God's instructions, yes. But I don't think that anyone argues that God wants followers who obey without love, and how does one come to love a God that is summed up solely in such rhetoric?

Surely, there's a better way.

*Truth be told, if I had taken this image, I'd have blurred out the church's name before sharing it, as I would not only be concerned about misrepresenting the church's position, but about giving them unwanted publicity in general. As it is, I expect their church secretary is probably having to deal with a large number of unwanted phone calls.

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