Gospel. Culture. Technology. Music.

Jon and Kate Plus 8 and Evangelical Culpability

(Original): The Gospel and the Gosselins

(Archived): The Gospel and the Gosselins

Reality shows honestly make me ill, kind of like Jerry Springer shows in the middle of the day when you are sick and nothing else is on so you just wind up turning the thing off. The concept is worn out, over-used, uncreative, trivial, trite, shallow, and mind-numbingly boring. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather not watch on television than reality shows, because they are anything but what they claim to be and cheapen the very concept of … well, reality. TV becoming “reality”? I don’t get it and fail to understand how an entire culture is okay with this stuff.

Huxley’s vision of the future, portrayed in Brave New World, is coming to pass and we’re okay with the mundane, the brainless, coming to love our servitude to nonsense and emotionalism. Instead of having an outside oppressor like a totalitarian regime control us by brute force, as portrayed by George Orwell in 1984, instead what we love is killing us and holding us captive (Amusing Ourselves to Death … read it, everyone). Coincidentally, that is exactly what sin does. I honestly believe these shows are all loosely scripted to give the portrayal of “reality” and lack any level of depth that would give them some form of lasting cultural value (you know, like a Shakespeare work or Homer’s Iliad). They are trivial and a giant waste of time to be involved in.

But that’s all just an opinion. On the basis of someone else’s taste preferences, the same could probably also be said of shows that I like such as 24, The Office and FoxNews. My taste preferences are not the same as others. TV in itself is a waste of time (in general) … and I honestly like some of it. Guilty as charged.

Regardless of what I think concerning reality shows, many people like them, and can’t wait for the next episode to come around. Okay, fine and good, I don’t take issue with that. However, the “reality” show Jon and Kate Plus 8 on TLC has brought to light something evangelicals really don’t want to talk about (which the fact we don’t want to talk about it is a whole other issue in itself): our acceptance and absorption of the cultures’ worldly, materialistic, narcissistic, self-absorbed values; the slow (or fast, depending on the timeline we’re talking about) slide toward the secularization of the evangelical church in America.

Now what do I mean? In general, conservative evangelicals, in particular, are against all kinds of immorality in our culture and speak out against it incessantly. But as Julie Elliott keenly points out in an article on Christianity Today, “Too often our ethics have focused so singularly on the question of abortion that we have given comparatively little attention to the morally-significant issues surrounding infertility, reproductive technology, childbirth, and parenting. As such, we have a hard time challenging the assumptions of our consumerist culture or those who, like Jon and Kate, seem to be beholden to it.” In addition, she also says, “Sexual immorality—whether actual or merely suspected—caught our attention, but the materialism, narcissism, and exploitation of children that preceded it was largely overlooked.”

Why is this? Well, because that materialism and narcissism in particular are what make up a good chunk (though certainly not all) of evangelical conviction. It goes unnoticed though because we’re blind and deaf to what Scripture says concerning these things. We’re sinners, just like everyone else. “God wants me to be happy and have a bunch of stuff because He loves me,” seems to be a prevailing presupposition in our little Christian bubble in this Disney Land experiment that is America.

Now, I absolutely love the freedoms of this country and surely God wants to bless us with gifts and even bless some of us with riches, because He does love us like no other father can. But we wonder why we’re overworked, tired and worn out when the reason is quite simple: we’re committing idolatry, breaking the first commandment, Romans 1:18-32 all over again, substituting the glory and satisfaction that only God can provide with the tail-chasing, misery-creating, false gospel of the American Dream. In many ways, the American Dream has now become a virtue in much of evangelicalism. And the result is that we glance over such issues as rampant materialism, narcissism, reproductive issues, and parenting, just as starters.

I’m for prospering and doing well in life, don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing inherently wrong with having stuff or being successful in the business world. But when that’s your life goal, making millions, gaining houses, sending your kids to whatever school because it’s the “in” thing to do, or whatever, there’s a problem. And when it becomes a virtue within the church to acquire stuff “into barns” and to be seen in the social scene of the world instead of standing against it for the sake of Christ’s reputation and the Gospel, there’s an even bigger problem. And when church leaders fail to address this rampant materialism and narcissism in the church but instead pander to it, it is no wonder we are having so little impact on our society and secularism is taking hold at its current pace: we ourselves are apart of the very people we seek to save, not standing out in loving opposition to them and bringing the healing ointment of the Gospel to this world that is dying and falling into God’s wrathful hand even at this moment (Romans 1:18).

We talk a lot about being “in the world and not of the world” when the truth is we are just as much in the world as the next guy and then dictate to the world what it should be doing from a particular moral/political point of view. The only difference is we like sins that are different from those “bad” sins out there in the world. Instead we blindly indulge and find ultimate satisfaction in our stuff, and we want plenty of it.

The fact that a large number of evangelicals are what kept Jon and Kate Plus 8 alive and kicking, according to the article cited, is very telling in itself. It would be wise for us to stop and think through why we like what we like, including myself. I’m not discluding myself from this critique, because if it’s not this show that is my problem, surely it is other areas I’m blind to. I am far from perfect, the worst sinner I know, and speak as one who may see these issues “out there” but also sees them in myself upon honest reflection and in light of Scriptures indictment of my condition apart from Christ. I’m a sinner saved by God’s grace alone in Christ alone. That’s the only way I can look myself in the mirror and say I’m free from condemnation, not because of anything in myself, because I’m tainted and stained with sin. I have blood on my hands and am culpable for my sins. We should always be repenting, reforming and conforming to Scripture and detaching more and more from the ways of the world and conforming to the image of our Savior. May God have mercy on me and all of us for our short-comings.


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1 Comment

  1. Tony

    I like this. You have phrase it all very tastefully. I have very few things although I did purchase my first vehicle in 15 years recently. I haven’t purchased a television in 20 years but thanks to the kindness of others I have now 2 large TVs. I do watch T.V. I don’t really have any particular shows I hang on. I just watch things, mostly to spend time with my kid together on the couch, eating dinner.

    TV seems to be much the same as it always has been. It’s a reflection of cultural needs for escape. You have more to choose from but the format is the same. I actually saw a show with my daughter on Disney called Zack and Cody the sweet life. In the episode they were reenacting that I love Lucy shtick where she got a job at the chocolate factory. It was identical. In all these years Hollywood has not had many original ideas. The labels change, maybe its spicier, but it seems to just be the same ol shtick year after year.

    I do understand what you are saying and I agree, it’s verging on idolatry with all this “my cool stuff” business. Jesus asked his disciples to give up their things and follow him. As I am trying hard to live a disciples life I have found that the more I give up, the more is returned to me. It seems to be a vicious cycle. It never occurred to me till I read about Tom Monaghan and his experience with giving and charity. I cannot seem to part with all my things, keeping myself strong and well keeps me going another day to help the next soul. So for now, I will remain the sinner and his stuff.

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