Over a number of years, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in the realm of Christian media. In particular, I’m talking about popular content in online venues. While I think it’s great that Christians have taken to websites and social media platforms to express ideas (theological truths especially), there are approaches which I believe glorify God and ones which don’t. Even before I begin the next paragraph, I’m already sensing that some of my readers have the phrase “old fuddy-duddy” running through their minds as they read this.
Old fuddy-duddies unite!
Before you get the impression that I’m the Christian version of Andy Rooney, trust me when I say that I’m not opposed to Christians engaging in artistic expressions of theological truths or even mixing humor into it. I like Christian comics…when they’re done right. And that’s the example I’m going to use in this post.
I’m going to single out the website Radio Free Babylon simply because I’m most familiar with them. I became acquainted with them when several of my friends on Facebook started posting their comic strip “Coffee With Jesus” on a fairly regular basis. The comic takes a somewhat novel approach. Its premise is that our Lord Jesus sits down and has coffee with a particular individual while dispensing some kind of helpful theological truth, many times in a snarky way. All of the characters look like they came out of “Ozzie & Harriet,” including Jesus Himself who is always depicted wearing a suit and tie.
So there you have it. A snippet of theology coupled with a bit of humor and rolled into the format of a comic strip. What could be wrong with that?
Over the past year or so, I came under increasing conviction regarding the Second Commandment and what exactly God requires of us as such. I’m convinced that any image of Christ, no matter the intent of the image-maker, is a violation of God’s law. If we truly uphold the deity of Christ, then we must come to the conclusion that the creating of any image of Him should be avoided. The Second Commandment contains no exceptions. Yet today we have a plethora of Christian books and other media (especially children’s books) which violate this commandment all over the place.
So the “Coffee With Jesus” comic fails that test right out of the gate. I think there are numerous reasons why attempts to depict Jesus are extremely problematic, but the Law of God will suffice for me. It’s abundantly clear what God requires of us. The Westminster Larger Catechism puts it this way:
Q. 109. What sins are forbidden in the second commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever; all worshiping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them; all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense whatsoever; simony; sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God hath appointed. (emphasis mine)
Not only does this comic strip violate God’s commandment against creating images, but I would definitely go further in saying that “Coffee With Jesus” violates the Third Commandment as well. They take the name of our Lord in vain by their crass depiction of Him and the words they put into His mouth. Apparently they think they’re bringing Christ “down to our level” by making Him look like yet another corporate employee. Jesus is your “pal” who loves to drink coffee with you in the morning and listen to your spiritual problems. He gives you a nice, pithy answer and he’ll sometimes grapple with Satan too (who is also wearing business casual and sipping java). Much of what their version of Jesus says is inane, crass, and a downright mockery of who the biblical Jesus really is.
Shame on us if we ever become so immersed in pride that we think we can depict Christ in any other way than how He is depicted in Scripture. We shouldn’t be impressed with this Hipster movement within the church which defines Jesus down to their cultural norms. And “Coffee With Jesus” is just an example of what happens when they attempt to do humor. Christians who rightly delight in the Law of God should be duly offended by what Radio Free Babylon (and others like them) have produced. It’s not funny at all.
God is blasphemed any time we depict Him in a flippant manner. Christians need to be careful about where our artistic expressions take us. We do not have the liberty to describe God however we wish or put words in His mouth. Discernment and caution go hand in hand. God is not glorified when place our “good intentions” above what His word has declared. The folks at Radio Free Babylon think they’re iconoclastic (in a good way, of course) and just adding some levity to our daily lives. In reality, they’re poking fun at the God who says He will not be mocked.
This is a reminder to all of us that we should exercise caution before hitting that “share” button. What are we endorsing? What are we passing along to others? We should not be entertained by depictions of God which drag His thrice-holy name through the profane milieu of our culture. Holiness matters.