Homosexuality, Morality, and Talladega Nights Theology

Homosexuality, Morality, and Talladega Nights Theology June 27, 2012

As happens virtually every time Nancy (or anyone) strikes back against the relentless and pervasive pop culture celebration of all things gay, the comment board (and Facebook) have exploded with accusations that she’s judgmental, she’s arrogant, and that she’s just downright un-Christian.  Jesus wouldn’t judge homosexual sex, after all.

It’s in these contentious times that I do what culturally-concerned Christians should do — turn to Will Ferrell for insight.  And insight he brings us:

Yes, it’s the legendary “dear Lord Baby Jesus” scene, where Ricky Bobby prays to the Jesus he likes best, which of course triggers an intensely thought-provoking discussion:

Kyle Naughton, Jr: “I like to picture Jesus in a tuxedo t-shirt because it says, like, I wanna be formal, but I’m here to party too. I like to party, so I like my Jesus to party.”

Walker (or is it Texas Ranger?): “I like to picture Jesus as a ninja, fighting off evil samurai.”

The whole scene is basically a three minute summary of much of what passes for contemporary Christian theology. We invent the Jesus we like best, name that version the God we serve (or partner with), and then find the church (or friend group) that aligns with our vision and — voila! — we’ve got our faith. To be clear, our version of Jesus typically corresponds with some of his attributes, but the picture is always so woefully incomplete.

Gay Rights Jesus is about sex, love, acceptance, and — above all — no judgment (except of course, you can judge someone else’s alleged intolerance). Gay Rights Jesus isn’t bound by your antiquated notions of sexual morality anymore than he’s bound by antiquated dietary rules that maybe involve shellfish . . . or something.

Green Jesus loves plants, animals, mountains, and all living things, but he’s not super-fond of people. Sure advanced industrialized societies let people live longer, healthier, more prosperous lives than any time in history, but at what dreadful cost. Won’t someone think of the polar bears?

Friend Jesus is God’s therapist. He’s about comfort, love, and a shoulder to cry on. His Bible, subtitled “seven steps to a healthier, happier you!” is the best self-help book ever written.

Or if you want to go back to my childhood, there was Mad Jesus who dipped souls in and out of hell depending on the profanities that slipped out of their mouths or the guitars they played at their worship service.

I could go on and on and on . . . we worship Republican Jesus, Democrat Jesus, Nationalist Jesus, and even Yoga Jesus. He is whoever we want him to be — so malleable that people who’ve never read the Bible often say — with complete sincerity — that they’d like Christians better “if only they were more like Jesus.”

Talladega Nights theology tempts me every day. In my fallen nature, there are aspects of Jesus far more appealing than others (I tend to prefer Texas Ranger’s ninja version to Kyle Naughton, Jr.’s party animal), and my challenge — our challenge — is to understand Jesus in full and conform our lives to His will and example, regardless of the cost. In our present cultural moment, it seems quite convenient for many to enlist Jesus in the sexual revolution, rationalizing and spiritualizing base personal indulgence and self-fulfillment. Other cultural moments have other challenges, and each of us is a mess of conflicting desires and profoundly limited knowledge and wisdom.

So when we lash out at fellow Christians, let’s ask ourselves: Are we worshipping and serving the Jesus who is, or — like Ricky Bobby — the Jesus we prefer?

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