The play was really very good. In fact it was so funny I found myself laughing until tears were running down my cheeks. And it’s several somber moments, when I felt myself wanting to give a pretend preteen a hug, were well performed. My sister and brother-in-law took us to a dinner theater in Ashland. The play was The 25th annual Putnam Spelling Bee. But the last half of the show put me in my own very somber mood. And my thoughts centered on the Church and her future.
In the midst of this rather melancholy comedy about preteens attempting to win the right to appear in the National Spelling Bee I experienced the turn that society has taken.
On the one hand the characters were at times frustrated by overzealous parents; on the other hand they were desperate because of absentee parents. But even timelier was how the script was plagued by too much attention to sexual matters. It was as though the author was attempting to add to the pathos of preteens by overloading them with the necessity of sexual deviation.
One young man was afraid to get up and spell his word because he had been thinking and looking too much at a supposed young woman in the audience and his body was reacting. That might have been okay-except after the intermission, walking up and down the audience rows, he began singing lustily about his experience. I’ve never had the word erection or references to genitalia sung loudly in my face before.
One preteen girl, head of her school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, was frustrated with her overzealous fathers. The play had certainly entered the 21first century. The Church will deal with this because the Church is God’s salt in the earth. But how, since sexual self-indulgence simply exists, seen by most as normal?
And so a sense of sorrow enveloped me as I thought of the days ahead. In many ways we will not be a part of the culture but we must stay involved in the culture. We can’t be rabbits hiding in our burrows or even churches running for the hills. The "Peanuts" funny today has the little girl Sally telling Rerun that he will be catching the school bus there next year, “Just like the rest of us.” He says “If I hide under my bed, they’ll never find me.” But, of course, they will find him!
And God wants us to be found, reflecting and then shining his brilliant light into every dark corner. So the Church must address the sins of the culture, including overzealous parents, absentee parents, divorced parents and yes deviant sexual lifestyles. But how?
Well first of all by addressing our own sins, the sins of the Church. We must confess that we find divorce too easy, that we also find busyness too easy, that we often turn our faces from the sin of fornication and rarely address our own ambitions and lusts. Indeed, we instead should have a calling toward purity.
We are sanctified by the Holy Spirit’s work in us. But denial of His work and our failure to respond to His voice hurts our own spiritual life and brings disgrace to the Church. We need to confess, as a Church, in order that we might speak to the culture in which we are so badly entangled.
The Church needs to speak life giving words. First words about sin, because a culture so ignorantly soaked in sin needs to hear the cause of their despair. And then words about the forgiving work of Jesus Christ, the good news that Christ lived, died and was resurrected, that God became, yes even a preteen, that we might experience love, forgiveness, righteousness and hope. And these words need to be spoken over and over, in churches and sermons, in homes and Bible studies, to friends and family, to local communities and our nation.
And then we need to prepare to stand in the faith upon the rock that is Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 6:13) In Him we will find the compassion that reaches hurting hearts. In Him, through the Holy Spirit, we will find the heart of the Father who grieves over a sin infested world. In Him we will have the only righteousness that matters in the midst of a declining people. In Him we will find the strength to endure the times ahead.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the Devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers , against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Hebrews 6:10: 12)