I am working on another post, "Toward a Mature Spirituality", based on my weekend retreat with Dr. James Hollis, but that's still maturing. Instead, you get this...
Tonight, I realized how myopic I've gotten with this whole conversation about worship and church, see my post below in response to Racel Evans. I suddenly found myself convicted as I sat before the magic screen today and watched this interview with David Carr on Charlie Rose. I've been a David Carr follower ever sense that amazing PBS special on the radical changes in the newspaper industry, Page One. Since I'm a former journalism major/video hack/photographer/drama queen college guy, I still have a fantasy of being the Guy Noire of some newspaper. (OK, that fantasy has now dissappeared, mostly)
The interview runs 25 minutes, but I encourage you to set aside the time to digest it. Around the 18 minute mark, David says, "we are going to be able to program our own little universe."
Program our own little universe? I heard that line and thought, HOLY MOLY BATMAN, what's this mean for the faith, all faiths? I've long maintained that our greatest competition in post-modern society has been Hollywood. No, I'm not one of those, Hollywood is destroying the family values that made this country great, kinda preachers. Rather, I'm thinking about the power of narrative as the driving force in human consciousness, from those cave drawings on the wall 10,000 plus years ago, through all the great literature, both sacred and profane, to the modern era. Narrative is what shapes us and molds us as a species.
The Bible contains amazing narrative and Moses, Ruth, David & Bathsheeba, Job, Jesus. We kill the Bible when we turn it into a constitutional document. Those stories have power, because the narratives sink deep into our souls and do work over the long haul. As a Christian, I am partial to the stories of biblical literature. But, that doesn't mean I'm also not fond of the narratives of Homer, the Buddha, Native American mythologies, Shakespeare, Zora Neale Hurston and Flannery O'Connor.
The new narratives are being written by Hollywood. George Lucas did more to interpret Zen Buddhism and The Hero with a Thousand Faces to North America through his Star Wars movies, than any great lecture series. Francis Ford Coppola did more to interpret the Vietnam War and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness in his epic Apocalypse Now than any Time magazine article. Juno was a wonderful movie that balanced out the vapid portrayal of teenagers, with a reminder that the youngest among us can rise to a level of maturity, despite our best efforts to reduce teenagers to the lowest common denominator.
If David Carr is right, and I suspect he is, we will, and maybe already are, programming our own little universe, what is the implication for faith, public civil discourse, human community? Is part of our increasingly divided politics a result of the fact that many of us are only talking to like minded people? Are traditional forms of religion and faith being squeezed out of our lives because we now get our life shaping narrative from the box? Are the stories being told in "House of Cards", "Lillyhammer" and "The Sopranos" more interesting, more entertaining than Jacob & Isaac? Where does the equal need for human community come into play in this era of home movie watching?
I want to suggest that the church, and churches consider diving into this realm. No, we cannot produce Hollywood style films, nor should we attempt to produce some of those vapid sugar-coated Christian tv shows. I'm thinking of embracing "Breaking Bad" and connecting the narrative to some of the equally "Breaking Bad with Cane and Abel" scriptures. In the interview above, Carr describes a series of interesting protagonists in modern Netflix films. Can we engage these characters with some of the darker sides of those scripture characters.
I wonder if the church has sugar coated the shadow side of our biblical characters, and thus washed them clean of their, well, humanity. We embrace a theology of saint and sinner in each person, so let's explore that theme with Don Draper, Francis Underwood and Nurse Jackie.
My thought upon beginning this blog post, was holy cow Batman, we are debating worship styles, when the rest of the culture is programming their own universe and we are not even a part of the conversation. So bag that Bible Study you just bought from the church publishing house, and get a stinkin' $8 per month Netflix subscription, invite people over for some theological brewing on the narratives glowing in everyone's living room. There's a lifetime of material, and I suspect that over time, the conversation will mature and people in your little group will open up, and the narratives of their own lives will come forth. Then you'll be on to something as film, scripture and life dramas collide.
* If this post has a higher than normal punctuation, spelling and grammar error quotient, it's cause I was typing so fact, cause I wanna head downstairs form the next showing of "Orange is the New Black,"