Friday, February 22, 2013

Everybody's doing a brand new dance now

So I was watching The Daily Show the other day and something strange happened during the Moment of Zen...

I watched that and didn't really know what to make of it.  Was this some kind of commentary I just wasn't getting?  But then I saw Colbert doing the same thing!

That's when I learned about the Harlem Shake.  Just type "Harlem Shake" into Youtube and you'll find an avalanche of short videos from all over the place.  I have to say it looks like a lot of fun.  Silly fun, but isn't that the best kind?  Definitely a good time you can have with a group of friends.  It's so easy that anyone can do it!

Step 1:  Get some friends and the song Harlem Shake by Baauer
Step 2:  One person dances awkwardly while everyone else sits around feigning indifference
Step 3:  Everyone erupts into crazy dancing!  The goofier the better! 
Optional Step 4:  Record and post to Youtube.

But did you know that besides being easy, enjoyable, accessible and lots of fun, doing the Harlem Shake was also sinful?  Well now you know!  According to this New England pastor, you better check yourself before you wreck yourself because doing the Harlem Shake makes the Baby Jesus cry!

After seeing a video of young Christians doing the Harlem Shake he had the following to say:

"What’s the problem with a little bit of fun, anyway? No one was harmed. There is a time for everything, after all. And anyone who would find fault with it is simply a puritanical prude. Besides, there is context to the occasion; it is participation in a wider cultural experiment and pursuit. It’s innocent.

Never mind the other errors of such thought-processes, I think this definition from Susanna Wesley – mother of John - enunciates the pitfalls of this minimalist mindset the best:

    Take this rule: whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off your relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.

It seems to me that the “Harlem Shake,” however innocent it may appear to some, doesn’t pass Susanna’s criteria – which, I should hasten to add, seems to be a good paraphrase of Philippians 4:8 – on any level.

Of course, to a large degree, I don’t necessarily blame these young people for the behavior. Young people, to a great extent, are simply living as good as they’ve been taught (and putting into practice what the older generation would love to do in theory – were they not too self-conscious). They’re a reflection of where we are as a people – a people who have not been gripped by the grace and love of Christ to the point that we want to live entirely by His Spirit rather than our flesh; a people who have forgotten that we’re participants in a “great controversy” where Christ is waiting for us to testify unequivocally that He is a God who not only is love but a God who is powerful enough to transform us into other-centered, self-denying people."

Ahh, that sure brings back memories!  No, not of watching Footloose, though I can totally see why you went there!  No, the thing is I used to be that guy.

Here's the thing.  Christianity is not and can not ever be cool.  No matter how many worship leaders and youth pastors you dress up in vintage tee's & tattoos & goatees (and other stuff that went out of style 10 years ago), it will never be cool.  It can't be.  (Some might argue that it shouldn't be) That's not a bug, it's a feature.  It's about Heaven and Hell and Demons and God and Salvation and your ETERNAL DESTINY.  These are serious things and they don't leave much room for frivolity.  Or being cool.  Or fun.

Look, it's not like no one ever tries.  Lots of Christians try to be cooler or more fun.  It's just that as soon as they do, someone is going to come along and ask a passive aggressive question like, "Is what you're doing/wearing/saying really bringing glory to God?" or "Is this really the best way to redeem your time?" or "How do you think Jesus would feel about this?  Would HE think it's just harmless fun?" or "Just remember, we'll all have to give account of every idle word we speak..." or "Is this really helping the Gospel of Jesus Christ?"  Once that happens people are usually shamed into submission for they know that should they continue, the subject is going to rapidly change to passive aggressive comments on the evils of a rebellious heart...

Still, people then try to be fun and/or cool while keeping everyone happy and not offending the easily offended and that's why Christian Culture tends to be "funny" rather than funny and at least a decade behind actual cool.

However, this doesn't mean Christians are doomed to never have any fun activities!  As the blog I quoted from showed, the good Christians of the world still have some options.  Unlike the Harlem Shake, it's never going to be easy or accessible or even that much fun, but it can be very enjoyable in a sense.  Want to know more?  Well then, let me tell you about competitive piety.  See, just being pious can get tired real quick.  Trust me, as a young Christian teen I was pious as fuck (also probably annoying as fuck but I'm sure that's implied...) so I know exactly where this pastor is coming from.  So then, the way to make it more fun is to make sure you're better at it than the rest.  Being a good Christian, you're probably not going to be dealing with any of the major sins (like murder and stealing) so piety really comes down to sweating the small stuff.  So how do you play?

Step 1:  You can never actually admit to anyone (yourself included) that you're being competitive about your piety because admitting that you think you're better than others is prideful and pride is a sin so admitting to the game means losing the game.

Step 2:  Start dissecting every aspect of life and human conduct and try to find out how they could somehow be sinful.  Bonus points if it's for something really popular and relevant.  (This presupposes a thorough knowledge of Scripture but if you didn't have that you wouldn't be playing, obviously!)  No transgression can be too small!  Example from the comment section:
"In response to your second point: simply taking your words that their motives are to “seek attention” (which is what you have ascribed to them), then, biblically, you contradict your own conclusion that it is not “soul-harming.” See Philippians 2:5-8. Any time my motive is to “seek attention” for myself I am not living out the mind of Christ."
 Step 3:  Start sharing your findings with others and try to shame them into conforming - remember, if you can see sins where they cannot then you win!
VERY IMPORTANT NOTE ON STEP 3:  When shaming people about their hitherto unrealized sinfulness you have to be extremely careful not to appear prideful lest you lose the game so close to the finish line.  Therefore it's important to use terms terms like "I struggle with this too" and "None of us are perfect" and "I'm not judging anyone, we all fall short" with very high frequency.  It's important that this comes off as friendly camaraderie and not as judgement - even though it obviously is about judgement otherwise you wouldn't be having this conversation!  Remember, you're not angry, you're just sad about this unfortunate lack of holiness (of which you are of course also guilty and besides all sins are totally equal and you're totally not prideful or judgmental or anything!)  Example from the comments:
"Sadly, I do this often in my own life, so I condemn no one.
But any time I continue with this type of mindset and behavior, it is very soul-harming because I am indicating that the attention Christ gives me is not enough. I am not ascribing this motive to any in the videos, but simply speaking in generalities. All must evaluate their motives for themselves and be cognizant of this sobering dynamic."

Optional Step 4:  If someone accuses you of being judgmental, nitpicky or being guilty of shaming, act all shocked and butthurt and do your best to turn it around on the accuser.  Remember, hyperbole and slippery slopes are your best friends.  Example from the comment thread:
"So merely evaluating a person’s behavior and concluding that it must make God sad is “condemning” and “shaming”? No one is judging motives, eternal destiny, or anything of the sort. To do so would be, as you say, “condemning.” We are simply evaluating the appropriateness or inappropriateness of a behavior. We’re not trying to read hearts.
Should a person never do this – or must we turn a blind eye to everything?"

Now in the days before the internet, Step 3 took some work.  Nowadays anyone with a blog or a Facebook page can do this with ease but just in case you're abandoning the online world due to its sinful character, here are the old school ways to do it:
  • If you're a pastor, just use your pulpit obviously.
  • If you're an elder or someone else with slight access to the pulpit, try to use your window.
  • If you're a smallgroup leader, use that.
  • Ditto if you're not a cell group leader but are still in a cell group and are given a turn to talk
  • If all else fails, use that old evangelical standby - the prayer request.  It takes a little skill but with practice you can use prayer time for anything from malicious gossip to thinly veiled personal attacks.

So there you have it!  Have fun!  Or, you know, "fun"...

1 comment:

GumbyTheCat said...

Reminds me of Drew the Creationist "Science" Teacher from my blog. He played that game expertly with other Christians. Of course, to us nons, he was a condescending judgmentla holier-than-thou sanctimonious fuck, and we saw right through him.