Welcome to the Big Picture Podcast. I’m Joel Fieri and this podcast seeks to begin and hopefully sustain a conversation about current trends, ideas and issues in the Church and greater society.
You can’t yell “FIRE” in a theater. We all know that, right?
It would cause a panic, people would get trampled, some maybe even killed.
You can’t do it.
And you wouldn’t think of doing it.
And anyways, you’d be in the theater and could get trampled yourself. Someone you’re with and care about could get trampled. At the very least, you’d face the wrath of the people in the theater, and probably get arrested, because you just can’t yell “FIRE” in a theater!
Well, maybe you can, if the theater really is on fire. Or, even if you think the theater’s on fire.
There’s smoke, and a few other people have seen it, too. Some of them actually did yell “FIRE”, but they were chased out, and the rest left because they were embarrassed by the people who yelled, and they didn’t want to cause any more trouble.
If you start yelling you’ll get tossed out, too.
Besides, it’s probably just a smoke machine from the stage, or a very realistic scene from the movie, whatever’s playing.
Who are you to say with certainty that the theater actually is on fire? You’re not a fireman, so how would you know?
The people probably won’t listen no matter what, because you just can’t yell “FIRE” in a theater!
So, maybe you shouldn’t yell. That’s it!
Instead, maybe you could talk to a few people, telling them they’d better quit watching the show and leave the theater before it burns down.
But the show’s pretty good, and they paid to see it. Why would you want to ruin it with all this crazy talk about fire? And frankly, they don’t much like your tone, either! You’re no better than the guys they just kicked out!
You’ve offended them, and they’re not moving.
So you decide you’d better moderate your tone and find some other people… but they’re not listening either, or watching the show. They’re too preoccupied with their lousy seats. Not only are they a little worn and shabby, but they’re all the way up front. The people in the back have better seats, and that’s not fair. And those people in the balcony, not only do they have the best seats, but their popcorn is fresher, and they have the five-dollar candy.
Down here the popcorn’s cold and stale and there’s no Junior Mints.
Okay, maybe if you can get them better seats and refreshments first – you know, improve their theater-going experience – then maybe you’ll earn the right to be heard about the fire thing.
Because you’ve got time. I mean, assuming there really is a fire, it’s probably down in the basement somewhere and won’t reach the auditorium for a while.
If you can get everyone into the balcony you’ll have plenty of time to first of all apologize for those obnoxious people who were yelling, because they’re the reason no one’s been listening to you.
And then you can calmly, respectfully explain to them about the fire.
The only problem is that there aren’t enough seats in the balcony. You could ask the people in the balcony if they’d be willing to share their seats, but they’re not. And even if you could force them to share, the balcony would collapse under all that weight. Besides, the balcony people are too busy fussing about the theater itself. It’s in bad shape and needs to be remodeled.
Makes it hard to concentrate on the show, don’t you see.
The paint’s a little thin and the curtains are tattered, and they’ve heard something about worn out seats down in the front row. Nothing’s wrong with their seats, mind you, but the rest of the theater is obviously falling apart. It’s a grand old theater, too, and it needs to be preserved.
Hey, maybe if you can help them spruce up the place a little before breaking the news to them that it’s about to burn to the ground, with them in it, they’ll listen to you.
But then again, why would they listen to you when you’re putting a fresh coat of paint on a building you think is on fire? They’ll just conclude that you really don’t believe it’s on fire, so why should they?
Nope, they’ve earned their seats, and they know their theater better than you, so unless you can show them an actual fire, they’re not moving either.
Besides, you’re starting to sound like those crazy people that were yelling “FIRE” a few minutes ago.
You’re not one of those “FIRE” yellers, are you?
Listen, why don’t you just sit back, relax and watch the show? The seats are comfortable, the popcorn’s fresh and the Junior Mints are being passed around.
Besides, you don’t REALLY believe the theater’s on fire now, do you?
In closing, it’s time for the Great Cloud Of Witnesses, the segment of our podcast where we meet and hear the stories of those who have given, and some who are still giving, their lives by faith in the promises of God, and of whom the world was and is not worthy (if you don’t know that reference, please check out Hebrews chapter 11-12 in your Bible).
Today’s witness story goes like this:
It was nearly 9:00 p.m., but the Church of the Virgin Mary, the heart of the Christian community in a ramshackle neighborhood on Cairo’s outskirts, was alive with activity.
One elaborate Coptic wedding ritual was ending, and another was soon to begin. Relatives and friends of the couples crowded the church’s entryway, spilling onto the sidewalks of a busy street that roared with traffic night and day.
That was when the gunfire erupted.
The assailants were masked and riding motorbikes, witnesses said. In a span of seconds, they sprayed the celebrants with bullets and roared off into the night, leaving behind a welter of bleeding bodies and shrieking survivors. Four people were killed, including an 8-year-old girl, and 19 injured, authorities said, in the latest assault on Egypt’s minority Copts.
U.S. Senator Rand Paul recently criticized the media for ignoring the “worldwide war on Christianity.”
“Today I want to tell you about a war the mainstream media is ignoring,” the Republican lawmaker said during a Summit in Washington. “From Boston to Zanzibar, there is a worldwide war on Christianity.”
“You won’t hear much about it on the evening news because the answer is not convenient and does not fit the narrative we have been told about radical Islam,” Paul added.
He then referenced accounts of Christians being killed by the scores in Syria, Egypt, Kenya, Indonesia, Iran, Guinea and Pakistan. Thousands of Christians have been shot, beheaded, tortured, beaten and bombed in 2013.
“So why is the media ignoring this story?” Asks Dave Murrow as he quotes all this on his recent “Church For Men” blog. His answer – “Maybe because the church is ignoring it, too.” Then he asks another question – “Tell me – have you heard anything in church this year about the worldwide persecution of Christians?”
Well, I haven’t. There’s not been one word about it at my hip Southern California mega-church.
So Dave asks one more rhetorical question – “How can we blame the media for failing to tell our story (our story! Did you catch that?) when we refuse to tell it ourselves?”
And then he sums it up quite succinctly – “This is scandalous”.
And he’s right, it is.
The allegory I used in today’s podcast is about us in the Western Church today, where our concern is with our image, our reputation, about earning our “right to be heard”.
We assume that if we can join the world’s causes and placate their worldviews, then we’ll gain their approval and they’ll listen to us. We fear saying the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong tone, of being considered “irrelevant” to our post-modern culture and world.
A culture and world that is going to burn, and maybe soon.
But the allegory is my story, too. Too often in my life I’ve been intimidated or shamed into silence, valuing acceptance and a good reputation over the souls of those around me.
And I still am!
But really, I risk nothing compared to Christians in other countries.
But those Coptic Christians are clear on the other side of the world! And I have problems with their theology. At least I assume that I do.
Did you know they have their own Pope?
They have a faith that’s completely different from mine. Apparently it’s a faith that can stand up to torture, death and destruction, while mine can barely handle bad Gallup poll numbers.
But they are different!
They don’t party in their churches like we party in ours. So is their persecution really a big deal to me?
Is their story really OUR story?
It’s kind of a drag to talk about.
I come to church to hear God’s Word and to build my relationships. Talking about or even praying about people being shot and beheaded for their faith?
Just show me another funny Christian video instead, please.
The faithful Christians who right now, THIS YEAR are suffering and dying for their faith around the world, are hereby nominated to the Great Cloud Of Witnesses, of whom I, in my scandalous indifference, am not worthy.