Saturday Night Live hosted it 40th Anniversary Show on Sunday night to gonzo ratings. It was long (like Oscars long) and I half expected Jerry Lewis to step out (posthumously) and begin to ask for money telethon style. Sure it lagged at times, but was a welcome walk through the memories of sketches past and is probably best viewed over Hulu to cherry pick the good parts. It was fun, enjoyable, but overall not too memorable.
What interests me more has been the Monday morning reaction from critics and internet trolls.
With every generation, a bulk of people dismiss the show because it was always better when they remember watching it ‘back in the day.’ Saturday Night Live has never been consistently funny. For every one killer sketch, there are plenty of ones that misfire. That’s comedy – especially given that it happens in a live setting. Every generation has their own favorite cast members – the Bill Murray’s, Eddie Murphy’s, Will Ferrell’s and Kristen Wiig’s. Historically, SNL has consistently churned out great comedians with many others easily forgotten.
So when watching old classics like Dan Aykroyd’s Bass-o-mattic, the Church Lady or Colon blow, I am reminded that comedy ages. What once made you laugh out loud, now simply brings a smile to your face. A well timed bit can speak to a cultural happening and in kills in the moment. But watch it years later… it ages with time and so do the laughs. That doesn’t mean new material isn’t good, we just tend to idealize the past, remembering it better than it actually was. When I was 16, Wayne’s World 2 was hilarious. Now? Not so much. Such is comedy.
Faith is the same way. Watching the face of Christianity today being played out over blogs and the media, I’m seeing the same idealization of the past. Life changes, and the beauty of scripture is that we continue to read it to gain a new understanding of where we find ourselves in our particular time in history. I may have lost a few of you on with that last statement, but it’s true.
Time, culture and history are not static. When we look back at history, we do so through modern eyes. It’s always great to contextualize, but it’s really hard to be completely objective. There’s no way around it. All of life is viewed through our particular lenses and biases in the moment. Handling scripture is no different and you will have to suffer the same pitfalls. Give me five biblical scholars and give you five different interpretations.
Look at how issues are playing out in Christian culture now: homosexuality, abortion, immigration and globalization. There are parties on both sides of the issues holding that their own interpretations of scripture are correct. If it were only that simple. We’ve reduced scripture into intellectualism. You see, too often people would rather wrestle over the issues to prove their rightness instead of actually living into the issues. Intellectualism begs for us to hold on to our past assumptions and beliefs. It leads to an inflexible faith or rather a belief system that our interpretations of scripture are 100% correct. But the glory of faith should always be in it’s flexibility.
Christianity should be about evolution instead of digging our heels in the ground and trying to keep a changing world the same as we remembered it.
That’s the great flaw in how we engage the world because my idealized past is probably different from your idealized past. There is no real “way it used to be.” Each new day brings it’s challenges. Our faith should be about engaging with each new day and giving that particular day the attention and presence that it deserves. So we wrestle with our faith in one hand and in the other, open to helping others and loving well. The faith I had as a teenager is vastly different than it is now. Thankfully it’s more filled with grace, patience and humility that it was. We change and so does the world… shouldn’t our faith or our understanding of faith do the same.
So, like every new season of SNL, I’m excited to be introduced to new cast members and writers. I’m excited about new sketches and characters. I’m excited for the new to happen because if there were great moments in the past, I can hopefully look towards great moments in the future. I approach life and faith in the same way. Each new day brings with it challenges and joys. And while there were great things in my past, there were certainly plenty of bad moments too. I’d rather have a posture that appreciates the old, but also looks forward to the new. Why can’t faith be the same way?
What do you think?