Engaging Culture

Is It Time for Christians to Suck it Up?

I’ve been reading with some amusement about the “outrage” from Christians over the recent Saturday Night Live satire of the movie “God’s Not Dead 2”. Sure there’s a few cringe moments that sting, but let me offer a different thought about the sketch: Consider that for something to get on Saturday Night Live’s national stage means that it’s made a significant dent in the culture. For a movie to get parodied on that show means it broke through and captured an wide audience. After all, SNL doesn’t joke about issues their viewers haven’t heard anything about.

God’s Not Dead 2 suffers from issues that most sequels suffer from (“Hey, the first movie made a lot of money so quick – let’s come up with a follow up.”) It wouldn’t necessarily have been my personal answer to the cultural issue it highlights, but it was a box office success. And rather than complain that SNL is making fun of the film, I’m thrilled that the movie generated such a buzz that SNL felt they needed to respond.

The bottom line is this: If Christians get so offended at every little slight, what do we possibly have to offer the world? If we have so little backbone when the going gets tough, why in the world would anyone seek our help when they experience times of trouble?

You don’t have to go far to read about Christians in other countries who are experiencing real persecution. Mothers being raped in front of their husbands and children. Fathers executed in front of their families. Beheadings. Rape has become a weapon of war in the ISIS effort to stamp out any trace of Christianity in the Middle East.

But in the United States, Christians are outraged when we’re made fun of in a comedy show. It’s no wonder the culture doesn’t see much reason to listen to our message or seek us out when times get tough.

Certainly our rights as Christians in this country are being infringed on a regular basis, and every day, Christians face a culture that’s growing more and more hostile. And this isn’t to criticize those on the front lines of those very real battles.  But whining about every little slight doesn’t help. In fact, it just emboldens the critics to keep pushing.

How about this: Instead of whining and complaining, what if we started doing such remarkable things in the culture that the world would be forced to re-think who we are and who the God is we serve? Throughout the New Testament book of Mark, people were astonished because Jesus’ teaching “had authority.”

Jesus didn’t have time to complain. He was trying to change the world.

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  1. Not unique to me, but wouldn’t it be great to be known for what we stand for and not (always) what we stand against?

    “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

  2. “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” 1 Cor. 1:18 (NLT)

    Our response should be the same as Jesus on the Cross “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 (NLT)

  3. Wow…. I never considered that viewpoint! Plus, isn’t it true that Jesus said we’d face persecution as we made impact? This is not only true of Christians; anyone making major cultural impact gets made fun of on SNL! Thanks for sharing this!

  4. I love to read your perspectives on Christians in today’s culture. Possibly the answer to this issue is a little bit of both/and vs. either/or. At any rate, we need Godly wisdom if we are going to influence and impact today’s cynical culture. We need to be bigger thinkers. @drlangley1

  5. I totally agree. Christians need to man-up over this (and also see the funny side). I seem to recall a verse about being wary when all men speak well of you?

  6. Great perspective Phil. I have to admit to not watching the SNL parody. Then again, I’ve never watched any parody SNL does because I’ve never watched SNL. I’m in bed long before it even comes on. That being put aside, I do believe (tragically so) that we are known more often for what we are against than what we are for (in that I agree with Reel Parables). .

  7. When you make a movie about a situation that would NEVER happen, in order to try and fan into flame the tired theme of “the war on Christianity”, all to make an easy profit, someone is bound to make a parody of it. I don’t know why people are upset about it, it’ll just add more dollars to DVD rentals and purchases.

  8. I learned some time ago that to be offended is to give that person the power to define you. Essentially I’m offended because I’m not secure in my own identity, so when someone else tells me what it is I get upset because I don’t like it and I’m afraid that’s who I really am. This is why our confidence should be in the Lord and who He says we are!!!

  9. To Christians today from a man that was not offended by what others said: “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but
    because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world,
    therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A
    servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they
    will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep
    yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my
    name, because they do not know him who sent me.” Jesus Christ (John 15:19-21)

  10. Great perspective, Phil.

    Being subjected to SNL’s writers and comedians is a rite of passage for our culture. Having the movie be parodied as it was is not mean, conspiratorial or a sign of the end times… it just means that enough people have seen it and heard about it to make it a legitimate focus of their attention for a few minutes.

    I have been doing a ton of work in the Middle East now and in the past few years, working with the refugee crisis. I’ve met hundreds of Iraqi refugees who had ISIS kill members of their family, put a gun to their head and give them moments to walk away from everything they own or be killed — and they did it willingly as people who name the name of Christ. One man told me a couple of months ago, every night I teach my children how to pray, and we ask God to forgive ISIS and to let them see a vision of Himself so they can be redeemed.

    Big difference there… real persecution results in showing the true Christian’s attributes: love and forgiveness; American “persecution” results in boycotts and social media rage.

  11. Agree Phil. The fact that SNL even acknowledged that the movie exists is a comedic back-handed compliment in and of itself. Someone once said, “if the Church can’t get together in days of peace, God will use persecution to accomplish His intentions”. Right now our brothers and sisters are being truly persecuted for the cause of Christ in many parts of the globe. When they suffer, we all suffer. We can no longer afford to look at the Gospel through an “American lens” lest our view of the Gospel becomes rather distorted. The “center of gravity” of the Gospel is shifting from the Western Hemisphere to the Eastern and Southern Hemispheres for a reason.

  12. There is certainly a lot of truth in what you say.

    I honestly think too many journalist/news outlets have gotten lazy, or perhaps too driven by clicks/views, and simply report on the social media reactions of anything that is the least bit controversial in order to get attention…they do this instead of doing real journalistic work. There are the outspoken “reactionists” on both sides of any issue that end up driving the discussion instead of the majority who are sitting back, not posting, rolling their eyes at the parade of ridiculousness, and longing for reasoned and well thought out articles and discussions (much like your thoughts above, Phil) instead of the shallow, emotion laden crap that tends to take center stage.

    The red Starbucks Christmas cup was an example. I don’t know a single Christian (personally) who was actually offended, instead they all thought it was trumped up ridiculousness. Probably by someone wanting clicks (in the name of Jesus, of course). But even national media (being lazy) picked up a ridiculous story and made it sound like millions of Christian were angry at Starbucks.

    OK. Mini rant over…

  13. Recently I was in Jerusalem and a muslim man walked up to me and a couple of other guys I was with near the Jaffa gate and without hesitation or provocation said to us, ” We are coming to America and we will slit the throat of every Christian and Jew and America will be come our slave.”
    The fight is coming here and we are either going to suck it up and become real about out faith or we are doomed to the fate of what so many other countries are already experiencing. Phil is right – we don’t have time to complain, we need to start taking the authority that is ours as believers and make a change in our culture.

  14. I like to think I shoot pretty straight. I have worked in and still do work in TV /film for the past 35 years. I did work for some churches but went back to were I started. I also am a member of the Producers Guild of America. I am so sick of the complaining about what is on TV/ Movies. let’s look at ourselves and what are we doing. and first off stop quoting the bible to people who do not know it understand it or believe it. here’s and idea tell stories that people can relate to and tell them so good they want more. you don’t punch a dog in the face to teach him to follow you or behave. I am in the process of pitching show both reality and one scripted. as of now 3 networks are talking to me about 3 different shows. my point is not one of them knows my faith I am going in underground. lets be wise and shrewd. that’s what I am doing about it. I am sure I will get the “wow he lost his faith and sold out…

  15. I agree with this to a point. But at the same time, the Word tells us “You shall not mock God.” TV plays such a huge part in values kids, and adults alike, get and live by. What we put into our minds is what we are going to be. If SNL didn’t influence so many people, then I’d say no big deal, but it does. We as Christians need to take stands more. Maybe if we did, then we’d have things like open prayer in school, no abortion, etc. We get offended if someone insults or makes fun of our spouse, but it’s okay if they do it to God. Somethings very wrong with that. And unlike what the author called “being weak and complaining”, I see as having some guts to say “Hey you’ve crossed the line”. There is such a thing as be over-tolerant and too passive. Just saying, Gregg Crisp

  16. I don’t think the writer of this article saw the movie, what the movie depicted happens all the time … just watch the credits, our basic freedoms are coming under attack, freedom of religion(unless you’re Muslim), freedom of speech(unless your a liberal) political correctness is a direct threat to Christianity.

  17. I sing praises of this article up to the third paragraph. The fourth paragraph is indicative of a much bigger problem with much “Christian” teaching. Glorification of “real” persecution sends the wrong message. It’s like telling the David and Goliath story backwards. Watch out for the Goliath out there, going to behead you. Telling it this way gives Christians an inferiority complex.

  18. Hey Phil, nice piece. Its also good to read the discussion this has started. History and today shows us that persecution has made the church grow stronger and often an outcome is that our faith becomes stronger, more real and relevant. As TV stations take on Christian Material, we as Christians have a chance to defend or at least discuss our faith. Such discussions should not take place in the confines of a Church building but rather where the people are gathering. Lets use every opportunity we have… Keep going.

  19. I agree Phil. Reacting to things like this are fuel for the fire. I can’t substantiate this right now, but a friend recently pointed out that the Church has yet to win a cultural war. Where we win is in loving our neighbors and historically doing stuff like, I don’t know building hospitals and schools. Furthermore, we never see Jesus take offense when he is attacked, which brings up another point. Offense is never given, only taken. We choose what offends us and God doesn’t need us to defend him. He’s been holding it down since creation.

  20. Jesus said it pretty clearly, I’ve learned not to argue with this.
    John 15:18-27 The World’s Hatred

    18 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. 25 But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’

  21. Ok, late to the party, but you had me at click-bait on your sidebar reading something else. It’s quite simple, really; as long as Christians are being represented by product that makes me cringe and my skin crawl, me and my “family” are all fair game to be made fun of. It might be the Jew Yorker in me that is used to laugh about ourselves, but let’s just stop blaming the devil or society for this. And you’re absolutely right, talking about “attacks” is an ignorant Western First-World statement that doesn’t even come close to real persecution. My grandparents escaped communism as refugees after having gone through all kinds of things (also a childhood spent under the Nazi regime), mainly for their faith’s sake and refusal of joining the Party. My grandfather’s intelligentsia drinking buddies, Vaclav Havel (who later became president) spent many years in prison, and Milos Forman’s films were banned for many years, and he had to leave, as well. But I digress.
    What’s even more disturbing about this awful God’s Not Dead trainwreck (yes, it is! And I even have an old friend singing the title track, so it’s not like I wouldn’t want to be supportive), is that apparently it’s all based on a straight-up rip-off of someone else’s story. So let’s work on our own purity, honesty, and REAL LOVE for our brothers and sisters first to set the example Jesus called us to, before we waste our time pointing fingers at people on the outside who simply don’t know any better:
    In the classic words of Peter Finch: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore.”

    1. Phil Cooke
      | Founder & CEO
      | Cooke Pictures – Burbank, CA 818-303-2424 | Production – Strategy – Consulting
      | How Can We Help Your Story Reach A Bigger Audience?

      Don’t miss The Hillsong Movie “Let Hope Rise ” coming this fall!
      Have you read my latest blog post ?
      Blog: philcooke.com
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      This email is off the record (blogs and tweets too) unless we agree otherwise.

      1. Hey Phil, would like to see your reply, but somehow only your email signature made it on here…

    2. I would tend to be a little more gracious to the producers. We’re just releasing a feature film called “Let Hope Rise” on the band “Hillsong United” so I know just how complex and difficult releasing a movie can be. My point isn’t to dwell on that particular situation, but to show how overall, we tend to cave far too easily. Your family story is remarkable and is a great example of how far we’ve gone down the road to blaming others these days. Thanks so much for posting and please feel free to contribute any time!

      1. Ok, I tend to be a bit more opinionated than others, and you’re right, Phil, I need to learn to apply more grace, that’s a shortcoming. I’m just very disappointed, that’s all, cause I know we can do much better, and many of us are, too bad it’s not always the cream that floats to the top of visibility. But if the rip-off turns out to be true, it’s really sad once again that we as a body act no different than the rest. Anyway, moving on.

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