For decades, the Sword Of The Lord has served as a voice of independent Christian Fundamentalism. This publication has fulfilled that mission by regularly standing its ground against the encroaching liberalism and modernism plaguing broad swaths of the Christian church.
One of the most interesting regular features of the paper is “The News and Views” column by Dr. Hugh Pyle that usually applies Christian plain-spokenness to a number of items of public interest. However, in the October 21, 2005 issue of the Sword Of The Lord, Dr. Pyle goes beyond his normal commonsense to draw conclusions not supported by the evidence or deducible from it.
In his Oct 21, 2005 column, Dr. Pyle laments the poor example set by many contemporary public school educators and how in times past these guides along the path of learning imbued their students with a sense of spiritual as well as academic knowledge. As proof of his thesis, he cites a feature in his local paper where an interviewed teacher responded to a survey that his favorite movie was Star Trek.
Dr. Pyle responds, “You had better give your children all the education you can at home and in a good, fundamental church and Sunday school.” From his reaction, you’d think the teacher had admitted to having a stash of girlie videos. Would Dr. Pyle have said this had the teacher admitted to liking sports
With all the nonsense going on in the public schools, you’d think that a teacher that enjoys Star Trek and related science fiction would be the least of any concerned citizen’s worries and might even be considered an asset on an academic faculty. For despite the moral shortcomings that pop up from time to time in the plots, over the course of its various incarnations, Star Trek has consistently remained one of the few expressions of popular culture to present itself as if ethical reflection actually mattered and was often essential to the story.
Dr. Pyle further laments, “Usually my teachers were well read in good and great literature, which included the Bible, and it showed up in class.” And what exactly did this great literature consist of? Shakespeare? It may come as a surprise, but the plays of Shakespeare were the Star Trek of their time because — while we consider them highbrow literature today — these dramas were performed primarily as popular entertainment. Paying homage to this tradition, Star Trek has often employed Shakespearean allusions and motifs throughout its history.
Though I cannot speak fully as to Dr. Pyle’s personal convictions about the matter, for a number of those operating in a closely related socioecclesiastical circle even literature produced by fellow Christians is not even good enough. For while most Christians were pleased about the attention given to C.S. Lewis as a result of the cinematic adaptation of The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe even if they had reservations about every last point in his systematic theology, more hardline pastors, scholars, and evangelists want Lewis roundly condemned on all counts rather than to sift the wheat from the chaff in what he has written and some come close to heaping damnation on anyone that dares crack open one of this professor’s books. One pastor in an audio sermon, in an attempt to scare Christians away from seeing the film, claims demons literally hovering in the theater might latch on to unsuspecting viewers (as if this won’t happen in most churches these days, many of the Fundamentalist ones included).
Others a bit more reasonable in their criticisms such as David Brown of the First Baptist Church of Oak Creek, Wisconsin claim C.S. Lewis is inappropriate for Christians to read since Narnia is inhabited by creatures of a questionable spiritual pedigree such as centaurs, fauns, and witches. However, such insights fail to properly analyze classic Western fantasy literature.
Just because there is a witch in The Chronicles Of Narnia does not set off the Harry Potter alarm. Unlike Rowling, Lewis conforms to traditional literary aesthetics by casting the witch in the role of the antagonist or villain.
The most thoroughgoing separationists —- the term in this sense meaning those that choose not to ecclesiastically affiliate with those of differing religious viewpoints rather than those misinterpreting the First Amendment — contend that Lewis must still be avoided since to have a witch in a story in any capacity is a violation of II Corinthians warning the Christian to touch not the unclean thing.
If that’s the case, then what are Patch The Pirate Clubs doing in numerous Fundamentalist churches? In much the same manner as Rowling has glamorized witchcraft, numerous churches have romanticized the life of high-seas piracy.
Potter critics rightly point out there is no such thing as a good witch. Likewise, there is no such thing as a good pirate.
Why not just organize Jack The Carjacker Clubs for kids since that’s what pirates essentially were in the Age of Sail. Better yet, why not update things for the current millennium and start Tommy The Terrorist Clubs?
At least Lewis had the decency to cast the witch as the villain. What’s the excuse for this strand of Fundamentalism that demands every last detail be in apple pie order or they’ll bring the legitimacy of your Christian faith into question? Pirates have probably ruined as many innocent lives and possibly even more than the average witch ever has.
If every character in every story abided by every last behavioral norm and stricture insisted upon by many Fundamentalists, frankly there’d hardly be any literature worth reading. This does not mean though that a book must be filled with promiscuity or profanity to be interesting.
To these critics, even the most wholesome classics uncomfortably push the limits of acceptability. According to Kevin Swanson of Generations Radio, Little House On The Prairie suborns lesbianism since Laura Ingalls Wilder dared to exhibit a bit of an independent streak; I guess Half-pint was too tomboyish or spoke her mind one too many times for old Pa Swanson’s tastes.
As evidence, Swanson cites Laura’s refusal to say “obey” in her wedding vows. However, it must be remembered that these are simply a cultural manifestation of a Biblical imperative and despite popular conceptions to the contrary aren’t spelled out verbatim in the pages of holy writ.
No Chronicles Of Narnia. No Little House On The Prairie. Doesn’t exactly leave much to read and from the literary theories expounded by these pious ascetics, it’s a wonder they still let the good Christian read the Bible. For while David might have been a man after God’s own heart, there’s a goodly portion of his life you’d hardly want your children emulating.
Perhaps some Christians are too quick to embrace C.S. Lewis in his entirety without casting a discerning eye on those areas where he did come up short. But if that is the case, these overly-exacting members of the clergy have themselves to blame in large part.
For if these divines find contemporary speculative fiction to be inappropriate if it does not adhere to their particular systematic theologies on every point, are they themselves doing anything to produce acceptable alternative narratives, sagas, and epics? Furthermore, are they actively encouraging the bright young minds in their congregations to pursue artistic or literary callings. Because from what I have studied of and experienced from those of this particular Evangelical perspective, most have adopted a proto-Romanist mindset that those possessing a religionist vocation are somehow more important than the rest of us and the work of such sanctified journeymen more essential to the fulfillment of God’s good purposes. That’s why in many churches, Christian schools, and youth groups one hears an awful lot about becoming a missionary to the heathen savages in some far off jungle but precious little about targeting the barbarians that are taking over this culture and trying to undue the consequences of godless thinking upon our own institutions of thought and learning.
Interestingly though, the Sword of the Lord does not hold a consistent position against all forms entertainment. For while fans of science fiction aren’t fit to teach and a Christian had better not dare go to a movie since even the money from more wholesome motion pictures is likely to flow into the coffers of reprobates, the staff at the Sword of the Lord gets as googoo-eyed around celebrities as the remainder of the population and turn a blind eye when it suits their fancy to the exacting standards of deportment usual insisted upon by the publication.
Featured in the top-left corner of the December 20, 2005 edition is a profile of outdoor sports host Chad Schearer. In his testimony, Chad tells of being invited to a NASCAR race by one of the stockcar owners. If the Sword of the Lord is to be consistent, shouldn’t this individual be chastised and disfellowshipped for going somewhere where alcohol, scantily clad women, and profanity are bound to be present?
As outcast in Christian circles these days as I am among the heathen, I don’t have much of any moral qualms about motorsports. However, I am not the one whose publication is insinuating one is some kind of deviant if one likes laser guns and spaceships and calling into question the legitimacy of one’s Christianity for occasionally associating with conservative Southern Baptists or level-headed Charismatics.
However, I guess if you are part of the “in crowd”, you don’t necessarily have to abide by the rules and standards derived from a particular interpretation of God’s Word the common believer in the pew is expected to adhere to. For you see, Chad’s pappy is pals with the editor.
Furthermore, if Christians are suppose to stay away from works of imaginative speculation such as Star Trek and The Chronicles Of Narnia, how is it that these pastors and evangelists know so much about them? Unlike some things one knows to be inherently wrong by their mere existence, to nitpick these narratives on a nuanced doctrinal level one is going to have to sit there and study them for awhile.
Therefore, if preachers are going to address the issue from pulpit and pen, doesn’t the admonishment to be a Berean compel us to do our own first hand research since in the Protestant tradition one is not to blithely accept the ruminations of the clergy without some kind of collaboration through the application of one’s own critical thinking skills to what has been postulated by those holding ecclesiastical office. If anything, by speaking out against imaginative literature, pastors should rather be pleased then when members of their congregations go to research these works for themselves.
By Frederick Meekins