When any of us look at the American church, it’s so easy to see a myriad of problems. It’s similar to a kid’s birthday party with a piñata where everyone knows it’s there, and the entire purpose of a piñata is to smash it to bits.
When looking at the problems of the church, some of the big ones would be lack of diversity, fear-mongering and a political erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction and the church… what? Well, it’s like a dose of Viagra and always pops up in the wrong situations. Think of all of the Christian boners: Franklin Graham, Ted Cruz and basically anyone who visits the creation museum. Those are easy targets because they stick out and are akin to punching a kitten.
That’s not what I want to talk about. I actually want to dialogue about something more sinister; something that lies below the surface. Something evil that happens every Sunday in pulpits and in fellowship halls. I’m talking about how Christians like to classify people.
We assume there are the good ones and the bad ones, right? There are either the just plain evil ones or backsliding ones (hello people who happen drink or watch Deadpool). It’s judgy and an aphrodisiac of most conservatives. It excites them in a dirty, dirty way. Even the term backsliders sounds like something you find streaked in the rear of your tighty whiteys. No one wants that. Essentially it harkens us back to those old, silent, keystone cop films. There are the good guys and the bad guys. Everyone knows which is which. It’s just that simple, right?
But faith, lived out well, is never that easy.
So that brings me to Saturday Night Live. Take for instance the recent SNLs sketch called FBI Simulation, and it features the elusive Kevin Roberts. Who is Kevin Roberts? That’s a fair question. And the answer is: He’s the coolest bitch in town.
Take a moment to watch it here:
Viewing this sketch, reminds me of one of the central problems of Western American Christianity… our sin of judging others. We take a cursory view of people, and then presume to know their stories, ambitions and motivations.
The sketch surrounds FBI recruits at a simulated gun range where they have to make spit-second decisions on who’s the good guy and who’s a threat. That’s where Kevin Roberts enters. He’s an animatronic enigma that doesn’t seem to fit into reality. Is he good? Is he bad? Why does he want a donut? No one may ever know.
In the church, we tend to respond to the Kevin Roberts of the world like the cadet in the sketch does… he shoots the guy that doesn’t fit the predisposed mold of good guy or bad guy. Roberts doesn’t make sense in our paradigm, and in return must be taken out like he’s bad.
We all do this in life. We judge others, fitting people into our preconceived notions and killing off anyone that doesn’t fit into our assumptions. It’s black vs. white. It’s good vs. bad. It’s boiling down the world into a simplistic way that makes us feel comfortable. If we know who is outside the tribe, then we know who is the “other” or bad guy.
But Kevin Roberts breaks the convention. The mould doesn’t fit. It presses us to think beyond our simple categories and classifications. He doesn’t fit into an easy type. So what do we do? We kill off the outliers. If they don’t fit, they must be bad.
The problem isn’t with the categories… it’s with us… the Christians. When we look at Jesus, he defied classifications, and always moved to the marginalized in society. He gravitated away from the one percenters and the religiously pious because they assumed that they had already figured out life. Their belief system was already stagnant and set in stone. There was nothing he could do with people that have already assumed that they have figured “it” out.
But the Christian faith isn’t about those people… even though they populate our American churches and sing our hymns. They’re pious posers… like Kylie Jenner on Instagram posting to women the picture of beauty while actually being the epitome of plastic surgery and fallacy. We worship the thing we hate most. But I digress in the snarky jabs of pop culture that verge on becoming the very situation that I’m raging against. My apologies.
Back to SNL. In the sketch, the FBI trainee stuck in the simulation decries, “If being a field agent means dealing with human puzzles like Kevin Roberts, maybe I belong behind a desk.”
If we as Christians assume that our role in God’s Kingdom is to be the guy behind the desk, or the bouncer or door keeper of who says who doesn’t get in… then we’ve missed the entirety of Scripture. Our call as the faithful is be loving, caring and welcoming of those who don’t fit into society’s assumptions and categories. Simply put, we are called to love those that others don’t love. We are called to love everyone who exists outside of our man made boundaries and classifications.
Basically put by Jesus and the Jewish tradition that came before him, we are called to love our neighbors. In the scriptural context, our neighbor is anyone outside of ourselves. With this, there is no room to judge others.