The Best Way To Create A Family Friendly Church Service Is To Stop Having A Biblically Committed One.

MB PostsYears ago I was on a return flight from a conference in California. I was early onto the flight so I buckled up, settled in and popped open my Bible. It was a risky move in that it opened up the possibility for conversation, something I very much wanted to avoid on this flight. A Bible in 8B can act as a beacon of invitation for a sweet older Christian in 8A who sees your Good Book as a good opportunity to bend your ear about church potlucks and her quilting for Jesus club. Or even worse, you might end up with a Dispensationalist in 8C who wants to know what you think about blood moons, the Trilateral Commission and Nicolas Cage starring in “The Left Behind” movie. It was risky, but I had some things on my mind and needed to do a little cross checking.

As I read, a distinguished older gentleman hoisted his bag into the compartment above and then settled in next to me. I could sense his head tilting to glance over at my reading material. For roughly 5 minutes he did this until his eastern European accent cut the air, “You are reading a Bible, yes?” Hoping to maintain a cone of silence and dissuade any further conversation I simply nodded. “I’m Jewish. I know this book. It is a dirty and vile work.” With those words the cone of silence evaporated.

“Really!” I thought. “Of all the people you could have placed next to me, Jesus, you put a Nazi-era Jewish European who thinks the Bible is ‘dirty’ and ‘vile’.” At a slight loss for an opening sentence, I simply burped one of those awkward chuckle-coughs and mumbled, “Really?”

“Oh yes, it is the darkest least moral book in the world.” Now at this point I figured he was going to elaborate on how it has started wars, fostered slavery, blamed his people for the death of Jesus or segregated people groups. Instead, I found that his thesis was a bit more content driven.

“It opens violent. The world is chaos. Then God tears everything apart to make day and night, land and sea. He then makes people where sex and domination are their first commands. It starts with violence and sex. It’s dirty.” I confess this was not the answer I saw coming. In fact, it’s an answer I had never even considered before.

“Interesting… I’ve never seen it that way.”

With a kind sincerity he looked at me and said, “How could you miss it? It keeps going like that. They are naked in a garden. Their son kills their other son. After that God destroys the world due to wicked people. All those animals die because of people. It’s very very violent. God telling people to kill men, women, children and even the pregnant women for land. You see men having sex with their slaves and grotesque animal sacrifices. Even Solomon writes a book on how to have sex – it’s a pornographic book.”

Awkwardly I responded, “Well that’s why I’m more of a New Testament guy.”

“Oh, the New Testament! I’m Jewish; I do not know it so well, but I do know it says Jesus was crucified for sins. That is a very violent way to forgive. I also know Jesus said He will send people to eternal torture if they don’t believe in Him. That is both violent and cruel.” He then paused for a brief moment, leaned in and said in a whisper, “The Bible should never be taught to children. It is not for kids. That is why Christians change the stories so much, to make them friendly for their families.” With that he simply patted me on the forearm and said, “Thank you for the talk. I think I will rest. Enjoy your book.”

This 15-minute interaction happened over 20 years ago, but I never forgot the importance. While I didn’t agree with this man’s extreme articulation, I did agree that the Bible is not exactly a family-friendly book and to make it so does violence to what God has revealed. Think about it. Even the “kids’ stories” of Adam and Eve, Noah and The Flood, David and Goliath or Jesus and The Apostles are at some juncture R-Rated stories if accurately and fully told. Even the moral parts that would be construed as most family friendly are usually set against a backdrop that is not. For example, if you want your kids to memorize the 10 Commandments you are going to have to get into swearing, murder and sex. Aside from these popular examples, the entire narrative of the Bible is dealing with the problem of sin, rebellion and wickedness and how God solves that through Jesus, the Cross and His Word.

From all of this I see that the only way to be truly family friendly in a Sunday service is to redact much of the R-Rated Bible in order to make the whole experience more acceptable for a G-Rated expectation. Yet this fails our commission. Our calling is not to decide what we think is appropriate in the Bible, but to communicate the full council of God. We are not free to be editors, but proclaimers. We don’t possess the authority to write or erase the mail; we merely deliver it as it is. Now, I know that sometimes God’s mail makes us squirm, gets uneasy or even downright feels offensive, but not nearly as much as the sin it’s combating. Sin makes the Truth, even the ugly Truth, necessary. And as Christians move forward in the hopes of reclaiming a family-friendly world I pray it begins by embracing the fullness of the not so family-friendly, though always family-preserving, Bible.

8 thoughts on “The Best Way To Create A Family Friendly Church Service Is To Stop Having A Biblically Committed One.”

  1. Reblogged this on Zera Today Blog and commented:
    If preachers actually did less redaction preaching and preached the Bible as it is, it would offend so many and probably drive some from the faith just as some of Jesus’ followers were in John 6:60-71

  2. Your title had me do a double-take there, but you’re right. The Bible is not an easy book to study or teach if you confront it honestly and fully. I think that’s perhaps why so many people simply write it off as self-contradictory nonsense. Or gloss it over in a similar fashion to the original versions of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales – also not very family-friendly reading.

  3. This is a good post and quite true, thanks.

    Might I make one observation? When you say, “Well that’s why I’m more of a New Testament guy,” are you not (I assume unintentionally) undermining the importance of the OT text? My guess from the remainder of your post is that you do in fact appreciate the importance of the OT, but often Christians convey the idea that the NT holds a prominent place over and above the OT. Shall we not view them as equally important and necessary, revealing the whole plan of redemption and not just part? I don’t want to be a pest or a nit-picker, just perhaps something to chew on.

    Thank you for your blog – this is my first comment here, but I am a regular lurker!

    1. Thanks man! Yeah, 20+ years ago I was way more of a NT guy (when this conversation happened). Now days I am a Bible guy and love both Testaments. In fact, just thinking about it I have probably had a pretty even split of preaching OT and NT over the last 20 years (Preached in the OT – Genesis, Ruth, Ester, Nehemiah, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon / NT – Matthew, Mark, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, 1 & 2 Timothy, James and Revelation). I also did a series 1 1/2 years ago that was all the popular OT stories in their full – at times – R-Rated context. It was called “Sunday School Uncut.”

  4. When I was in high school during the Vietnam Nam war, my school newspaper had a decidedly serious tone. We produced award winning, and often controversial journalism that was often picked up by national media. Once I wrote an editorial about a then recent Supreme Court ruling on censorship, that landed me in hot water with both our school principal and the city’s Prosecuting Attorney — but not our “crusading” Journalism teacher and advisor. She defended my position and forced them to back down, pointing out that each man had one of the most offensive and graphically violent books in the world in their own offices, and most likely also in their homes: the Bible. She specifically mentioned a story where a young girl was murdered, cut into pieces and sent throughout the nation, resulting in a brutal and bloody war. She believed that if more people really read the Bible, they would think differently about it and life itself, and not be so caught up in the trivial, and become less intent on sanitizing sometimes ugly truths. It’s all about context she pointed out, and her attitude toward scripture changed how I regarded it myself. I was reticent to read it before, because of the “high and lofty” regard in which it seemed to be held by the other adults around me. I began to realize that most of those people had never read it, and I decided that I should find out for myself if it might be relevant after all. 44 years later, I’m still discovering its amazing relevance. BTW: I never favored one Testament over the other. Only after I read it cover-to-cover did I learn that some Christians tend to gloss over the OT. Big mistake! After all, the Old Testament was Jesus’ Bible!

  5. Perhaps you are no more capable now than you were those 20 years ago, but I’ll opine. Please do not perceive my tone as abrasive. In the interest of brevity, I will primarily address one point you made with these words, “Our calling is not to decide what we think is appropriate in the Bible, but to communicate the full council of God. We are not free to be editors, but proclaimers. We don’t possess the authority to write or erase the mail; we merely deliver it as it is.” To proclaim anything of God’s council, you must be familiar with it. God’s “council” is contained in the instructions, requirements, commands and rules that he clearly communicated. Portions of those have been edited with content both erased and written over by men who determined something other than God’s council to be more “appropriate.” God described as much to the prophets of old. The compilation and evolution of the NT is nothing if not a collective process of choosing what was deemed appropriate and then edited for preferred theology. Yes, you may be delivering it “as it is”, but you are most certainly not communicating “the full council of God” by deviating from his message. So what’s the point in being honest with small stuff that you “admit” or “confess” if you do not even approach the big stuff that God instructs and commands?

    These are not comfortable for a Christian to consider but are nonetheless factual: “Jesus Christ” means no more to God than “Barbie Doll” and was fabricated no earlier than the 17th century; God actually has a name he prefers to be called that is not “The Lord” and will not withhold punishment for any who cause his name to be diminished and forgotten; words that have been edited include ‘church’, ‘cross’, ‘holy’, ‘christ’, ‘Jesus’ and many others. These substitutions were made for a reason. None communicates the original message intended, but they are familiar and so trump evidence. Take courage to examine Yah’s council and determine whether he reneged on his promises. My journey of discovery can be found here: http://1pilgrimhere.wordpress.com/about/ .

  6. Very interesting article here that I came upon by accident (ok, providence). Your title really pulled me in.

    I’ve only seen one guy writing music that seemed to be able to write about the darker parts of scripture in a way that is both honest, clear, and appropriate for younger ears in a way that teaches and proclaims the whole gospel. His name is Jamie Soles. His website is at solmusic.ca , and his music is not just for children. By the way, I get no royalties for telling you about him. I just know his music was a great tool for me and my six children, and all of our understanding of the whole story of scripture.

    Blessings to you in your ministry, brother.

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