Using films, books, culture and sport as we tell others about Jesus.
This is the first part in a series on what it means to share our faith, and therefore what ‘Jesus Saves Racing’ is about at its core. In essence the series will focus on what we as Christians aim to be talking about and how we go about saying it when we share Jesus Christ.
I love music and enjoy playing guitar and writing songs a bit. Although I have a broad taste in music, ranging from rock to rap and from metal to folk, I would say that primarily I’m most inspired by the singer-songwriter. A guy or gal with a guitar, in a subway, with a message. A voice crying out into my town or city, into my life.
“You’re the voice, try and understand it, make a noise and make it clear… We’re not gonna live in silence, we’re not gonna live in fear…” – John Farnham.
From Woody Guthrie to Dylan and from Tom Petty to Jack Johnson I’m lovin’ the message in the music. The Streets, Arctic Monkeys and Eminem spoke to me because they had something gritty to say. They had observation and a certain critique of our culture. They spoke into a society that they really resonated with. They had a voice with an edge, rather than being a bubblegum-gobbledygook-voice that goes pop. Don’t get me wrong I like pop, but for what it is – surface pop, fizz and bang! But, as a ‘speaker of truth to all mankind’ (as Martin Smith/‘Delirious?’ sang) I want be a voice. I want a message. I want to be Bob Dylan with ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ and not Aqua with ‘Barbie Girl.’ I don’t want to share ‘plastic life’ with a ‘Barbie world,’ I want to share Jesus Christ with a needy, gritty real world.
Sharing the Saviour
So how do we speak into what is increasingly called a ‘post-Christian’ culture – where references to God are scant and confused? We will be looking at a number of ideas, but this time around we are going to get into what it means to say to someone “you can be saved.” It’s such an important thing to grasp and share.
Recently it was suggested to me that the idea of being ‘saved,’ or someone ‘dying for us,’ is alien to our society… Is it? What do you think? Is that a true statement, or is that just an assumption we’ve been told to believe?
I argued back, “It’s just not an alien idea!”
So let’s tease out this ‘substitution’ thing, this ‘dying for’ saving idea, in our culture (not in our faith, for the moment, we’ll do that later).
“I’m a substitute for another guy” – The Who
Let’s look at a few cultural examples:
‘Dying for us’ is the central thing that speaks to us from those that have laid their lives down for their country (‘They shall not grow old, as we that are left to grow old’). The two minutes’ silence on ‘Remembrance Day’ is a sombre, serious and profound moment when we remember those that died fighting in wars so we can live. We also find many films that have this theme running through them. They range from ‘The Matrix’ to ‘The Way the West Was Won,’ and include movies such as ‘Gran Torino,’ ‘The Guardian,’ ‘Seven Pounds’ and ‘Armageddon’ along the way (with just about every super hero film chucked into the bargain, in some sense).
If we think about songs, we find the concept of dying for someone is the ultimate expression of love, e.g. Bon Jovi – ‘Baby I’d die for you, I’d die for you, I’d cry for you, If it came right down to me and you, You know it’s true, Baby I’d die for you’. We even have a messed up version of ‘dying for’ in Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ (and thus ‘The Cutting Crewe’s’ song ‘I just died in your arms tonight’ – an ‘80s special!) In sport we have the concept of a ‘substitution’ – the player who takes the place of the tired, the poor performing and the injured.
So we see, ‘dying to save’ is not so alien. In fact it’s very central. The thing that is difficult for us believers to convey is that it is God who is doing the dying for us. Talking about a defined God is increasingly alien (but certainly not extinct) in our ‘post-Christian’ society. Whether you talk of God’s love, God’s existence, faith and science, or being saved by God dying, the challenge is the same – God. (We will return to this difficulty in a couple of blogs time).
“I’m a changing man, built of shifting sands” – Paul Weller
But there is hope and a way of sharing that message ‘Jesus Saves,’ if we can get to grips with current culture, its history and its mindset.
We do not live in a society with no Christian reference at all. What we live in is a postmodern society that needs to be able to re-link its current ways and attitudes back to their biblical/cultural origins. For, although we lack direct references to the Christian faith (they are a dying breed) we still have the lasting effects of those lost references alive in our culture.
When talking with people we find many Christian concepts and phrases are alive and well, but we do need to do the re-linking work. This gives a wonderful array of illustrations for the Gospel that are easy to grasp and we find we have a lot more to go on than we thought. (It also sometimes mercifully spares us having to tackle some embarrassing so-called ‘Christian’ moments and attitudes from history too… though not always.)
So, we can re-link ‘substitution’ (‘Jesus died in my place’) using films, books, culture and sport as we tell others about Jesus the God/man who died so we might live. We can ask: Why does Remembrance Sunday move us? Is dying for someone the ultimate expression of love? Why does the sacrifice that Bruce Willis makes for his daughter leave us with such admiration in Armageddon? And do we ever feel like that footballer who is ‘played out’ in life and needs someone to step into the breach? – because, as U2 sang, ‘Sometimes You Can’t Make it on Your Own’?
… And that’s another one – ‘stepping into the breach,’ someone who takes the helm from us… and another…
Keep on twanging… keep on singing… ‘You’re the Voice’.
Next blog, more tools for sharing faith in ‘The Main Message’.
Alvin is part of the Jesus Saves Racing Team