Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Is Jesus Your Jedi? - (RE) Revived Edition

My wife’s family is mostly Methodist. Our Christmas visits often yield a few bizarre tales from their church life. This year was no exception. Kellie’s aunt explained one recent children’s sermon. The title was “Jesus is my Jedi.” The topic was unclear. This is the same church that embraced an “I Love Lucy” Bible study. They are looking forward to the next minister rotation.

I would object to this lesson on the following points:
1. This metaphor does not correspond to reality. Jesus is not, was not and will not be a Jedi. Wikipedia says, “The Jedi are a fictional monastic peacekeeping organization from the Star Wars saga.” The concept of Jedi cannot be divorced from the dualistic “myth” of the Force. Any comparisons between Jesus and the Jedi belong to the bizarre reaches of the imagination.

2. To make this comparison in a children’s sermon is irresponsible. We must be careful in using metaphors with young children. Suppose the content of this metaphor was entirely biblical (that’s being generous). The danger is leading children to draw further spiritual lessons from Star Wars – which would certainly be unbiblical.

3. Allow me to assume the goal of this lesson was to make Jesus more relevant or “cool” to the children. Such attempts often cause confusion and open the Gospel to ridicule. This metaphor is offense to the biblical portrayal of Jesus. If we must understand the Jedi-ness of Jesus to appreciate him then the scriptures have failed. The minister who gave this lesson is not known for his confidence in the scriptures.

4. Ultimately this metaphor obscures the character of God. Who would think the Jedi worthy to be compared with the Jesus?

Colossians 1:15-20 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (16) For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. (17) And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (18) And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (19) For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, (20) and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
In many churches object lessons are non-negotiable when you teach kids. (Though the Bible is often optional!)

I have a toy sword with Hebrews 4:12 written out on it – just for children’s church. We talk about King Jesus. I will often say something like this, “Sin is when our hearts are fighting against God. When we disobey his Word we become his enemies. It is a terrible thing to be God’s enemy. God has promised forever punishment for his enemies. But Jesus has made a way of peace – by dying on the cross for our sins.”

The mother who told me this story was upset with the violent aspect of the lesson. From her perspective it was not appropriate. I wasn’t there. But I would trust her judgment. I think kids need to hear the whole bible, not just the “G” rated sections. But to make decapitation the focus for a children’s lesson is to appeal to the macabre for entertainment value.

What do you think? Is this just an object lesson gone bad? Should we trade in the cross for a Light Saber? Or will this Rev. Relevant have some explaining to do?

7 comments:

G. F. McDowell said...

Could you detail your objections further? I can understand the initial objection to, "Is Jesus your Jedi?" It seems to be a mixed metaphor at the very best, not even doing a good job of illustrating the gospel. I don't quite understand your objection to the lightsaber imagery, though. The Word of God is filled with violent imagery; are you suggesting we should withhold any part of it from our children? Would we want them to get an idea of Christ as anything less than the priest-warrior-king that He is?

Tony K. said...

ReapolitiKLR,
Thanks for the comments.

You made a good point. We must be careful in using metaphors with young children. Suppose the content of this metaphor was entirely biblical (that’s being generous). The danger is leading children to draw further spiritual lessons from Star Wars – which would certainly be unbiblical.

I have a toy sword with Hebrews 4:12 written out on it – just for children’s church. We talk about King Jesus. I will often say something like this, “Sin is when our hearts are fighting against God. When we disobey his Word we become his enemies. It is a terrible thing to be God’s enemy. God has promised forever punishment for his enemies. But Jesus has made a way of peace – by dying on the cross for our sins.”

The mother who told me this story was upset with the violent aspect of the lesson. From her perspective it was not appropriate. I wasn’t there. But I would trust her judgment. I think kids need to hear the whole bible, not just the “G” rated sections. But to make decapitation the focus for a children’s lesson is to appeal to the macabre for entertainment value.

Just saw you were coming to Southern. Congratulation. When do you start?

R. Mansfield said...

That might have been a bit much if the kids were very small, but if not, how much different is it from the Andy Griffith/Mayberry Bible study that was used over the last couple of years at Southern Baptist churches all across the country?

Now, I have used scenes from The Empire Strikes Back to explain Buddhist worldviews, but I would never create an entire series around the movie.

John said...

Tony,

I agree with you. It is teaching children through example of pulling spiritual truths for outside the Bible. This off course is very dangerous especially to young people who do not realize the bigger issues invovled. Likewise it does not help that it comes from Starwars which has pantheistic worldview.

G. F. McDowell said...

It is interesting... In an apologetics paper, I savaged Robert Schuller for having a Jedi Knight theology. He keeps talking about "the Eternal Creative Force we call God". I start online classes at Southern this winter semester, with the date of my arrival on campus to be finalized...

Stephen Newell said...

Here I go, walking into the lair of the Empire...

Okay, seriously, Star Wars is not by any stretch of the imagination worthy of a Bible study, but we need to be careful before throwing things like SW out as tools for teaching. I can't count the number of times I've used movie and game references to explain the Bible to teenagers.

Granted, it usually takes the form of using the Bible against those references, but often something like SW can illustrate a Biblical concept.

You are right to advocate caution, however I agree with the first poster that you need to explain what your objections really are.

Tony K. said...

I revised the post. Jedi guy - Thanks for the insights from the dark side.