Archives For American Idol

repentanceC.S. Lewis foresaw one of the greatest plagues of the post-modern world. He knew that humanity’s insistence on its own “goodness” would undermine our love for God

Believing the lie that we do not require forgiveness causes us to rely on a deception that will ultimately disappoint. As Lewis wrote, “a man who admits no guilt can accept no forgiveness” (The Problem of Pain).

In the United States we have a sad propensity to worship celebrity. Famous people possess an allure that many find irresistible.

I am amazed so many people who lived for American Idol never recognized the irony of the program’s name.*

I suspect most famous people recognize fame’s fickle and fleeting nature. Some avoid the dangers of fame’s flames, but many rush headlong into the furnace.

Some allow the illusory nature of celebrity to deceive them into thinking they rise above the concerns of normal human beings. Why, you might even find one of them professing to be a Christian while denying the very core of the faith.

One of our presidential candidates (unnamed here, because this post is not about politics) went so far as to profess his love for God and when asked if he has ever asked God for forgiveness responded, “I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so. . . . I don’t bring God into that picture.”**

It is vitally important for all of us to understand that (1) we need forgiveness and (2) God is eager to extend it to us.

Most Christians understand this.

It is second nature, for example, to orthodox Lutherans. Lutheran preaching is based on the Law/Gospel dialectic. While it’s often short on the “How Then Shall We Live?” counsel, it goes to great lengths to avoid any intermingling of the Law and the Gospel.

This sharp divide between the two is proclaimed throughout the Scriptures, but clearly seen in the following passage: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 7:23).

A proper understanding of the Law, and our sinfulness, lays the solid foundation for understanding the Gospel. It declares we cannot—under any circumstances—rescue ourselves.

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. . . . But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Romans 3:10-12, 21-25).

Or, as the Apostle John cautions us: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).

I need not belabor here our need for God’s mercy. God help those who choose to rely on their own corrupt “holiness!”

C.S. Lewis’ Take on Rejecting Mercy

In one of Lewis’ most amazing books, The Great Divorce, he addresses a common excuse for atheism. How could a loving God allow Hell to exist? He illustrates with a number of fascinating vignettes the sad truth.

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek, find. Those who knock, it is opened.

My favorite encounter in the book involves a liberal, atonement-denying theologian, but there is another that perfectly illustrates the point of this column.

We all require mercy.

One of the lost souls has been approached by a redeemed saint who attempts to persuade him to continue journeying towards the presence of God. It so happens that the “ghost” (as the insubstantial disbelievers are called, knew the forgiven man while both were alive. And the redeemed person had committed murder. The perceived “injustice” of the forgiveness of that sin only reinforces the intransigence of the ghost towards God’s mercy.

‘Look at me, now,’ said the Ghost, slapping its chest (but the slap made no noise). ‘I gone straight all my life. I don’t say I was a religious man and I don’t say I had no faults, far from it. But I done my best all my life, see? I done my best by everyone, that’s the sort of chap I was. I never asked for anything that wasn’t mine by rights. If I wanted a drink I paid for it and if I took my wages I done my job, see? That’s the sort I was and I don’t care who knows it.’

‘It would be much better not to go on about that now.’

‘Who’s going on? I’m not arguing. I’m just telling you the sort of chap I was, see? I’m asking for nothing but my rights. . . . But I got to have my rights same as you, see?’

‘Oh no. It’s not so bad as that. I haven’t got my rights, or I should not be here. You will not get yours either. You’ll get something far better. Never fear.’

‘That’s just what I say. I haven’t got my rights. I always done my best and I never done nothing wrong. . . . I’m only telling you the sort of chap I am. I only want my rights. I’m not asking for anybody’s bleeding charity.’

‘Then do. At once. Ask for the Bleeding Charity. Everything is here for the asking and nothing can be bought.’

‘That may do very well for you, I daresay. If they choose to let in a bloody murderer all because he makes a poor mouth at the last moment, that’s their look out. But I don’t see myself going in the same boat as you, see? Why should I? I don’t want charity. I’m a decent man and if I had my rights I’d have been here long ago and you can tell them I said so.’

Every time I read those words I am reminded of the truth that I am not a perfect man . . . I don’t want to pay the price the Law demands . . . I want, and need, to receive the bloody Charity of God that flowed from the wounds of my Lord on Golgotha.

It is my hope and prayer that you share this joy with me.

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* Yes, I realize it was based on a British show with a similar title; that may suggest that some other Western nations succumbed even more dangerously to secularism than America. Talent competitions make fine entertainment, but a little more thought should have gone into naming the two series.

** Ironically, this individual professes to be Presbyterian, and I am confident that if Calvin were still alive, he would have a few facts he would like to teach him.

Exhibitionist Civilization

February 21, 2014 — 8 Comments

realitytvWe live in an exhibitionist era. It’s evident everywhere, but reaches a revolting crescendo in some of the extreme “reality tv” that’s become a standard feature of what passes for “entertainment” in a decadent society.

Not all reality programming is inherently vulgar. Some is potentially beneficial. For example:

Cops

Provides reinforcement for staying on the straight and narrow.

Deadliest Catch

Teaches us that whatever we’re doing, there are some jobs we could have that are even worse.

American Idol

I don’t watch it, but my impression is it basically revolves around decent entertainment and at least one prima donna judge.

The Apprentice

Teaches us the worst boss we ever had may not have been quite as bad as we recall.

So You Think You Can Dance

I don’t watch this either, but understand it’s pretty innocuous, aside from occasional humiliation.

Survivorman

Learn how to survive in the wilderness, from a guy with a fantastic surname: Les Stroud.

Among the many programs I would never watch, even if you paid me: Jersey Shore, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

A show I’m curious about—but not interested enough to waste any time investigating—is Pastors of LA. Apparently, one of the featured ministers, who committed adultery and fathered a child while still married, proclaimed: “I have not preached on any platform in any church for one year! I’ve paid my penalty for my sin!” Not quite sure where he found that equation in the scriptures, but perhaps pastors of Los Angeles megachurches determine their own penances.

I can’t understand the allure of exhibitionism. Stripping down to one’s most embarrassing and offensive qualities, and parading those before an anonymous audience, is nowhere on my bucket list.

Even stranger to me than the willingness of a minority to invite public mockery and derision is the desire of relatively significant audiences to view some of these misbegotten concepts.

C.S. Lewis helps me understand the problem. In an article entitled “After Priggery—What?” he says:

We have lost the invaluable faculty of being shocked—a faculty which has hitherto almost distinguished the Man or Woman from the beast or the child.

Lewis begins the essay by condemning “priggery,” the judging of what is bad that infers the “prig” is morally superior. He also raises the question of whether or not our failure to condemn publically demeaning or destructive behaviors results in more damage to society than does the act of making moral judgments.

The illustration he uses is that of a “wicked journalist, a man who disseminates for money falsehoods calculated to produce envy, hatred, suspicion and confusion.” (There seems no shortage of such people in our world.)

Lewis says that our toleration of these malevolent influences is a terrible mistake. The following passage criticizes the fact that we actually enable such conduct by supporting it.

If we must find out what bad men are Writing, and must therefore buy their papers, and therefore enable their papers to exist, who does not see that this supposed necessity of observing the evil is just what maintains the evil? It may in general be dangerous to ignore an evil; but not if the evil is one that perishes by being ignored.*

I find Lewis’ argument applicable to the existence of all sorts of reprehensible material, beginning perhaps, with pornography. To a lesser degree, one might even consider it to apply to exhibitionist entertainment. After all, it is not profitable to viewers and it is rarely (if ever) beneficial to the participants themselves.

And thus, culture declines. Dribble by dribble. I just heard on a newscast today, literally while I was writing this post, that a major cable channel is offering a new reality program entitled “Naked Dating.” Guess what it is about. Precisely what it says. I’m sure that the voyeurs are eagerly awaiting its debut.

In a more enlightened age, society would have ostracized those who flaunted their promiscuous, antisocial, humiliating or debauched lifestyles. Today the people who receive public disapproval seem to be those who question those very behaviors.

As for me, I’m renewing my commitment to the principle suggested by C.S. Lewis. I will do my best to consistently avoid supporting the things contributing to the erosion of modesty, respect, goodness and virtue. I suspect that means I won’t be spending an undue amount of time watching these “reality” programs that too often reflect the seamier aspects of human nature.

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* If you would like to read the entire essay, it is available here.