Saturday, March 04, 2006

Unfunny "Babtists" Cartoons

A few months ago the Religious Herald (the state Baptist paper in Virginia) began featuring a new cartoon called "Babtists."

Let me first say that I appreciate good humor. Let me also say that I have used irony and satire in writing and speaking that has been misunderstood and unappreciated. I write this to say that I do not approach this as an uptight prude when it comes to church humor. However…

The last two "Babtists" cartoons have really been awful (not to mention just plain "unfunny").

The first (in the Feb 16th issue) shows a group of grinning congregants in the pews. A bubble coming from off screen reads "…and in conclusion" (presumably from the preacher). A bubble over one particularly goofy, grinning man in the pew reads, "Amen!" And the caption under the cartoon reads: "The three words that will always bring a Babtist crowd to life."

The second (in the Feb 23rd issue) also feature a group of people in the pew. This time they are all snoozing with eyes closed and a collective "Z" overhead. The caption reads: "Babtists believe Jesus meant it when he said, ‘Come to me and I will give you rest.’"

What is wrong with these cartoons? They contain the not-so-subtle message that preaching is a boring and worthless part of worship. They also subtly undermine the authority of the pastor as preacher by making it seem to be a quaint, outdated, and uninteresting part of worship. The people in the pew merely tolerate the preaching. It is just something they have to endure.

Moderates denigrate pastors and preacher and then wonder why they are not producing men in their seminaries who want to preach the Word. See the recent comments by Curtis Freeman on the moderate "clergy shortage": "Moderate Baptists and mules have a lot in common. Both are strong and hard-working [i.e., stubborn], and both have problems reproducing."

These cartoons are not only theologically offensive but point to the pathetic spiritual state of so many traditional Virginia Baptist churches. In truth, there is not a hunger for hearing the word of God. The days foretold by Amos have come about:

"Behold, the days are coming," says the Lord GOD, "That I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, Nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the LORD."

Compare the "harsh" words of Jesus in Matthew 13:12-13 about those who could not understand his parables:

12 For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 13 Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

If we do not find the preaching of God’s Word of interest these words should make us shudder.

In contrast to "Babtists" consider the exiles during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah who listened to the Word of God read in the public square "from morning till midday" (Neh 8:3) and the church at Troas which listened to Paul preach till midnight (Acts 20:7; yes, this also records the slumber of Eutychus but not approvingly!).

No, our sinful flesh does not always love to hear the preaching of the Word of God. This is not something to be celebrated or winked at, however. It is worthy of our repentance. God has ordained the "foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe" (1 Cor 1:21), since "faith comes by hearing" (Rom 10:17).

Sadly, we must say that Brookins has put his finger on the heart of the spiritual problem with Virginia Baptist churches. We no longer love to hear the preaching and teaching of God’s word. It is not interesting and entertaining enough.

If only "Babtists" would wake up and become "Baptists" again (or for the first time).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Jeff. This grieved me even before I was called to preach. I never understood why people (even ministers) did not delight in the preaching of God's word. I can remember attending a Virginia Baptist association-wide meeting where the key-note preacher began by saying that he wouldn't be taking long because he knew everyone wanted to go home. The majority responded with jovial "amens." I looked at my friend beside me in bewilderment. We asked each other, "why did anyone bother coming to begin with?" It is truly tragic to see the lack of desire for God's word even among ministers. No wonder they can laugh at such a cartoon. It certainly reveals the desire of the hearts of many.