Monday, 18 June 2012

The Stranger

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons
A few years after I was born, my Dad met a stranger who was new to our small town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around from then on.

As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family. In my young mind he had a special niche. My parents were complimentary instructors; Mom taught me good from evil, and Dad taught me to obey. But the stranger, he was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures, mysteries and comedies.

If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present, and even seemed able to predict the future! He took my family to the first major league ball game. He made me laugh, and he made me cry. The stranger never stopped taking, but Dad didn't seem to mind.

Sometimes Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other to listen to what he had to say, and she would go to the kitchen for some peace and quiet. (I wonder now if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave).

Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated to honour them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our home - not from us, our friends or any visitors. Our long-time visitor, however, got away with four-letter words that burned my ears and made my dad squirm and my mother blush.

Dad didn't permit the liberal use of alcohol but the stranger encouraged us to try it on a regular basis. He made cigarettes look cool, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished.

He talked freely (much too freely!) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing. I now know that my early concepts about relationships were influenced strongly by the stranger. Time after time, he opposed the values of my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked, and NEVER asked to leave.

More than fifty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family. He has blended right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was at first. Still, if you could walk into my parent's den today, you would still find him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.

What is his name, you ask?

We just call him: TV.

No, the preceding story is not original to me. It was forwarded to me recently by email. I have no idea as to it's original source, and so, unless I learn otherwise, I will list its authorship simply as "unknown."

Photo Credit: Matthew Burpee, Flickr Creative Commons
Yet, it made me think. It made me think of how subtly the world has influenced the church. As much as we like to think that the church is (or ought to be) a light in the dark world, I cannot help but wonder if maybe the world hasn't been the greater influencer. It seems to me that maybe the church looks more like the world, than the world looks like the church. Could it be? Is such a scenario possible? Or is it just me?

Please understand, this is not intended as a judgment call against anyone in particular. I am certainly not pointing fingers at you if you have invited "the Stranger" to come live in your home, for I have done likewise. Sometimes I regret that decision, yet "the Stranger" remains. I am also not advocating that we all throw our TV sets out the window, though I have joked about that before. I am also not suggesting that all of Christianity's woes are to be blamed on TV. I am simply wondering at how "the Stranger" may have influenced our lives, our values, and our Christian ethics.

I also wonder what the Christian home might look like if we spent even only half as much time in genuine fellowship, prayer, and reading the Bible, as we do sitting at the feet of "the Stranger."

Anyways, that's the way I see it. Peace.

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