Ned Flanders Killed Jesus
Why is it that so many Christian leaders seem like caricatures? They (and when I say they, I have to confess that I’ve been there before thinking I was doing the right thing) stand in front of a crowd with their face all scrunched up looking like they are in pain for Jesus. They read the Holy Scripture with a soft, sweet voice pausing on every third or fourth word. They sing songs that speak of Jesus as if He were some kind of cosmic boyfriend that is “lovely” “beautiful” and “like a rose.” But when it’s a faster song they have to add hand motions for audience participation! Then the message comes and Jesus is reduced to the great “Get Out of Hell Free Card” that comes at the low, low price of just being a nice person and doing the “right” thing. And we wonder why people are leaving the church…
Not only do we wonder…we get down right irritated. I remember back when I was first learning about this whole Jesus-thing. I remember that someone, somewhere found out that I watched The Simpsons. I was branded a reprobate and told that no “good Christian” could watch THAT kind of show. “It’s anti-Christian!” I was led to believe that little Bart Simpson was some kind of Antichrist and that this family of yellow-people was created just to lead us off the “straight and narrow.” Today I realized exactly why that took place. It’s all because of Ned Flanders!
Hear me out on this one. Those “inside” the church are so afraid that the way that those “outside” the church see those “inside” the church is the way that we actually are, that we don’t ever get “outside” to look “inside” on ourselves. I’ve been on the inside and on the outside and I’ll have to admit that from the outside, those of us on the inside come across not as children of Abraham but as children of Ned. The character bio for Ned Flanders starts like this, “Ned Flanders is irritatingly optimistic and cheerful. Religion has removed all of the gray areas from him, so he and his family live secure, knowing that the ultimate safety net that is Heaven awaits them.”
I KNOW THAT GUY! I’ve seen him before! He’s led singing in church. He’s served communion. He’s taught my kids’ Sunday School class. And he may have even shown up in chapel at school a time or two! He’s the prototype of the modern, American, middle-class, Christian. And as of today, I’m convinced that he’s the one that killed Jesus — or at least he’s attempting to kill the church that Jesus started.
I spend a lot of time trying to get people to understand that faith/Christianity/spirituality/whatever-you-want-to-call-it is “worth the effort.” They are convinced that in order to be a good Jesus-follower you have to look and act something like Ned Flanders (right down to the “Hi-dilly, ho-dilly, neighboreenos!” and the green pull-over). And they are convinced of it not because of some animated sit-com (only the funniest show EVER), but because WE act like THAT!
I want so bad to stand up and say, “Get over yourself!” And that’s not to sound judgmental because it has taken me a while to even start to get over myself — I’m not sure if you ever really get there. But once you realize that you’re full of crap and Jesus loves you anyway, you can start to become what you were meant to be in the first place. There has to be some kind of wake-up call or we’ll all be sitting around in our green pull overs listening to each other’s whining — “I wish we lived in a place more like the America of yesteryear that only exists in the brains of us Republicans.” (Ned Flanders quote!)
Maybe that day has already come…