Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Biblical Value of Satire...yes, Biblical

So, full disclosure: my favorite band for the past couple of years has been Mumford and Sons.  Yes, the quartet of guys who, despite being from West London, look like they're 49ers off to go pan for gold (albeit hipster 49ers).  And yes, their lineup fields a standup bass, banjo, and accordion.

And they get it.  They get what they look like, what their image is, and why people either love them or mercilessly loathe them.  While I look at their high-octane, emotionally-driven performances and see a reason for me to like bluegrass again, others (generally more unbearably hipster than me...which admittedly does not take a lot) look at them and see a whole lot of fluffy schlock.

And they get it.  As evinced by their latest music video, which is set to their Babel song "Hopeless Wanderer."

I won't spoil it for you, but if you haven't watched yet, you should.  I will simply say that instead of Marcus Mumford and his band of merry men, American comedians Jason Sudeikis, Jason Bateman, Ed Helms, and Will Forte dress up as the bandmates and shenanigans ensue.

It was a brilliant self-satirizing piece of mass media, and I laughed my ass off the first time I watched it.  It takes a minute or two for the comedians to start working as comic foils for the actual musicians, but once they do, it's priceless.

So like I said...they get it.  They get that the world--or at least part of it--sees them as a bunch of English eggheads playing dress up and cranking up the guitar strumming on camera.  And...this, to me, is the true brilliance in using allows them to acknowledge that in a way that comes across as humble for taking a dose of your own medicine, but still gives you the liberty to, you know, keep doing what you're doing.

In other words, you get points for being self-aware, even if said self-awareness doesn't actually change things all that much.

What does all of this have to do with the church?  Or with the Bible?  After all, Eric, you DID entitle this post "The BIBLICAL value..."

Easy, fellow Jedi.

The gold standard for church parody comes from Andy Stanley's Northpointe Community Church (as an aside, adding an "e" to the word "point," especially in church names, drives me nuts.  Who the hell decided that church names needed a silent "e" at the end, like we are all still living in Chaucer's England or something?  "I'm off to ye olde Northpointe Churche's Coffee Shoppe?"  Ugh).

And said gold standard would be this.  It's brilliant--it acknowledges what most people know to be true about A LOT of praise music (namely, that the lyrics are vacuous), it acknowledges what people also know about how A LOT of megachurch pastors preach, and it acknowledges how we at the church try to bend over backwards to be as hip and cool as possible.

And it's the exact same sort of logic--I show the video to my friends, but it doesn't change how I plan worship here at FCC.  We still do praise music.  We still have an overhead with PowerPoint.  I still preach in the round, with an iPad.  We do what we do, but we show that we are in on the joke about what people say about how we do it and reap the cred of being self-aware rather than being like the stereotypical church that lives in its own little bubble.

In this way, the Mumford and Sons music video reminded me almost immediately of the Youtube clip from Northpointe.

And if you want a precedent to blame this on, really, you can start with Jesus.  In John 1, when Nathanael the disciple hears about Jesus for the first time, he famously rhetorically asks, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"

Jesus then meets him, and upon doing so, exclaims, "Truly, here is a man in whom there is no deceit!"

In other words, Jesus is saying, "Yep, my hometown is a hellhole!"  Since we're already talking about one Jason Sudeikis performance, we might as well toss in another...this is Jesus doing pretty much this.

Except he is saying it without having been present at Nathanael's utterance, which of course convinces this hapless, deceitless chap to follow Him immediately.  That's the major takeaway of the story.

But the aside of this story is that Jesus is, like Mumford and Sons and Northpointe, saying, "I get it.  I know what people say about me.  Here, let me put on some self-aware self-effacement to put you at ease."  He does so, and gains an apostle.

That's the value of satire in Scripture, in the church, and in life: it blunts criticism and humanizes the person who is parodying themselves.  It insulates you from knee-jerk reactions, and it potentially garners an ally or three.  And while there are no other records that I know of in Scripture of a full-blown conversion taking place because of a joke, who knows?

After all, in Christ, I'm a hoooooopless waaaaaaaaandererrrrrrrr...

Yours in Christ,

No comments:

Post a Comment