Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Garbage in, garbage out

In my "former life," I was a computer programmer. In that line of work, there is (or at least there was) a universally known saying: "Garbage in, garbage out" - which, like most things, became acronymized by computer geeks as GIGO.

It makes a lot of sense in the world of computers. Because basically, a computer takes input, does something to that input, and then produces output. Hence, no matter how good the program is, if the input data is garbage, the output is also going to be garbage.

In our garbage-ridden world, the Lord gives His people gems - the Gospel, mighty words of grace uttered by the Word of Grace Himself through preachers who hold the high privilege of speaking the Word of God to the redeemed of God. In a way, pastors are like garbagemen/gemologists. They remove the trash of sin from the sinner, and replace the filth with the bejeweled beauty of the Gospel.

But what do some of these preachers do? They opt instead to pile on more garbage. There are a lot of preachers out there who think people need entertainment in their congregations, they need movies, they need a good show, they need stage lights, dancing girls, skits, bawdy humor, outlandish costumes, and other nonsense that overpowers the "still small voice" of the Word of God rather than serving as some "culturally relevant conduit" or whatever other mealymouthed psychobabble or sociological "emergent" argot they want to put on it.

I guess I could quote Barack Obama at this point about pigs and lipstick, but I think I'll stick with the GIGO metaphor instead.

These preachers are pushing garbage instead of proclaiming Christ crucified. Instead of removing the trash, they are doling out more. They are turning American Christianity into a rubbish-pile of Wall-E proportions. They are making the American religious scene little more than a fly-ridden smoldering landfill, heaped high with discarded trinkets, broken toys, and junk.

Of course, they are free to do what they want in their churches. It's a free country. If people want stripper poles and shots of Jack Daniels in their churches (and I believe they will eventually get those too), that's up to them. But the reason I feel compelled to comment on it is because there is a faction within our own church, the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, including many in high places in our church hierarchy - who encourage this kind of garbage in our churches, garbage in our pulpits, and garbage at our altars.

They hold conferences and meetings that are celebrations of garbage. They tell us that we have to wallow in the trash in order to "grow." They tell us we need to trash our traditions, and trade them for trash.

Of course, one man's trash is another man's treasure - but not in the Christian Church. We believers in Christ should know a pile of garbage when we see it, and we should know, discern, and recognize the beautiful workings of the Holy Spirit by contrast.

You can get a show anywhere. You can buy cheap junk to add to your pile in any number of places. But you can only get the treasure of the Gospel in one place and from one supplier - the Christian Church. And, as a bonus, the treasure is entirely free.

So instead of taking this "garbage in" from outside, why don't we take the "garbage out" to the curb where it belongs?


SJB said...

When I clicked on the 'garbage' link that you provided, my eyes crossed.

I don't think churches like this can even loosely be called Christian. This looks like a completely different religion or a secular movie review club.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Send your Ablaze! people to my Dad's funeral on Saturday at Providence Presbyterian and they'll be delighted to learn how "celebrating the life and ministry" of the deceased is REALLY done. The program is going to feature a woman minister, a homosexual eulogist, a slideshow of my father's life, plenty of "wonderful music," and who knows what else.

Maybe I could catch a severe 3-day virus tomorrow and Ablaze! could give me a full report.

Rev. Jacob Sutton said...

Fr. H:
Robin Williams once did a monologue where he said that if there were a southern Pope elected, the Holy Communion would change from wine and wafers to "Jack Daniels and Beer Nuts." (Your reference reminded me of that...)

We do know that there is a southern "pope" out there, now don't we...

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Anastasia:

I'm sorry for your loss, for your father's passing, and I am terribly sorry and distressed with you that a Church that calls itself Christian has gone so far over the bend. This is heartbreaking to say the least. I know you will take comfort in our Lord Jesus Christ, in His glorious resurrection, and in the prayers of the saints.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Father Hollywood said...

Dear SJB:

I think you're on to something: "completely different religion." Good observation.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Jacob:

There is a big difference between the pope and the synodical president: the pope can be deposed. Lord, have mercy!

Pr. H. R. said...

Quote from the article:
'"We try to make church and God applicable to people's lives," said Seagears, 47.'

I sure hope they succeed at making God applicable. That God, he can be surly sometimes and really needs a nudge in getting applicable.