Friday, February 18, 2011

Sounds Like a Squirrel

You've heard the old Sunday School joke. The teacher comes in to a class of 4th graders and asks,"What is gray and furry, climbs in trees, has a bushy tail and likes to eat nuts?' The class was silent for a few moments when one brave little girl said, "Well, teacher, it sounds to me like a squirrel, but since this is Sunday School, I'm going to be safe and say the answer is Jesus!"

Why is it that the Church thinks that the answer to everything has to be reduced to the simplistic answer of "Jesus"? The evangelical community seems to believe that unless any book, movie, song and conversation mentions the actual Name Jesus, it's not really Christ-centered. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I'll never forget that when sweet, little Amy Grant, just coming out of Vanderbilt University and have already released albums that were focused on praise, worship and love songs mentioning the Name of Jesus, decided to become a little more "subtle" and write songs about redemptive love or other redemptive themes that unbelievers could relate to or songs with a positive message without mentioning the Name jesus, received a very cool response from the evangelical community. It's like she was turning her back on her Christian faith and compromising in the minds of many.

I have a friend that I've known since college, a fraternity brother, who leads an organization that seeks to build bridges between thoughtful Christianity and culture. The name of the organization is The Clapham Group. On his web site,, we read that the Clapham Group "is committed to promoting the good, true and beautiful in the public arenas of politics, policy and pop culture."

In a recent post, my friend Mark quoted CS Lewis when he said, "What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects - with their Christianity latent." We have reduced conversations about squirrels to artificial conversations about Jesus. Believers are to seek to speak thoughtfully and in a relevant fashion about all areas of life and we're to bring a Biblical world and life view perspective into the conversation...or song, or film, or book, or essay...and we might not ever mention the name Jesus. Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the speak true truth is to speak Jesus.

Now, are there times when we need to bring the truths of the Gospel to peoples' hearts so that they can see their need for the cross? Of course...but so much of what needs to happen in our day is really "pre-evangelism." In addition, Christ is in fact exalted when we speak about beauty, goodness and truth and never mention the name Jesus.

I was listening to XM radio 32, The Message, yesterday. There were two songs in a by the popular singer and ex-American Idol star didn't mention the name Jesus, but it was truth and it was redemtive in focus...I thought it was great. It was followed up by a song by JJ Heller entitled Who Will Love Me for Me...again, no mention of Jesus, but it was filled with the gospel. It seems that some people are starting to "get it."

I hope my friend Mark doesn't mind me quoting him some more, but he shares about a conversation he had some time back with Bono from U2 and his frustration with the expectations of the super-spirituality of Jesus songs by Christian artists instead of just allowing them to "preach truth."

Mark writes: "In preparation of a meeting with contemporary Christian music (CCM) artists to talk about global AIDS, he wrote me a note: "If the truth sets us free and it does ... Why aren't Christian singers allowed to ring true?" What Bono meant, of course, is that the Church often stifles the creativity and voice of an artist to conform to its own sense of propriety and (in our American context) "family friendly" fare.

The questions is a good one. Do we let the truth shape us and our culture, or do we let our culture shape us and the truth?

Later at the meeting, Bono remarked to the group that they probably couldn't put Song of Solomon (one of only two books of the Bible which does not reference God) to song and sell it in a Christian bookstore. Why? Not enough Jesus' per minute. Too sensual. Not "on message."

So, next time someone asks you, "What is gray and furry, climbs in trees, has a bushy tail and likes to eat nuts?' Tell the truth! It's a squirrel! After all, Jesus would look funny with a tail!

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