Rivers Run With Wine

"That is the power that exists in secular allusion, intentional or not.  Fairy Tales say that apples are golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found out that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water." —GK Chesterton

The vicar’s wife at our church approached me at Bible study one day to make a date to discuss outreach.  She and the vicar have made a concerted effort to reach out to the community and expand their church.  For that effort, they have ended up with a congregation full of American expats.  There are Brits, devout Brits, in the congregation, but the Americans might out number them.  (At one class a few years ago, half the people in the small group were not only American, but Houstonians, from the same home church.)   The Brits are curious about and envious of full American churches.  I’ve had many a discussion regarding the topic and spent time in and out of church observing British attitudes on religion.  

British churches are empty because the ever dwindling number of faithful makes little effort bring others to God.  In the past, they didn't have the need.  The Church of England is the state established church.  For a long time, they depended on the culture of Christianity, not persuasion, to keep people in church.  [Insert free market allegory here.]   Therefore, Brits don’t evangelize, not one to one. It isn’t done. It is not British. 

(Not to get into a long side track here, but the American church was and is about persuasion, from our founding to, numerous, Great Awakenings, to present day.  Needling this topic recently, Yasha said, “Americans are the apostles. Brits are the martyrs.”  The analogy holds for more than religion.) 
Once the culture of Christianity in Britain collapsed under the weight of relativism, British Christians were left socially helpless to reverse the tide.  How can one persuade another when discussing the topic is off limits?  I appreciate that Brits would not evangelize the way Americans do, but if they are going to fill their churches and turn back the secularization of British culture, they need to move to man to man offense.  Hence, the vicar’s wife approaching me for a chat after some comments I made in small group.  
Brainstorming how Brits can be evangelical in a British way—Brits will never go for the fellowship first, cold call style often used in America, which they seem to universally loathe—I realized that Brits had already mastered one method, Christian allusion in pop culture, although they don’t use it to full advantage.  
There are two reasons they don’t use it, and one builds on the other. First, many Christians don’t like the pop culture approach.  They don’t want to taint, as it were, God’s message with secular allusion, mere Christian metaphor.  I have little patience for this argument.  When persuading, use what makes sense to the person you are trying to persuade.  Second, since Christians often don’t want to use secular allusion, they don’t look for it.  As a result, they don’t see it.  My small group had recently had a discussion about the dearth of Christian allusion in pop culture and whether we even needed it.  There is no dearth. Christian allusion is all over and we need it desperately.  

Christian metaphor is everywhere.  It is not always explicit and often unintentionally Christian, but it is available.  Find it. Share it. Discuss it.

Does it matter if it is unintentional? A friend asked in the comments to my original post on this, “Does God use the artistic product of those who don't believe in Him to speak to those who do?”  Unequivocally. Not only does God use their artistic product to His purposes, but also atheists sometimes present the most striking pictures, especially of things like anger, loneliness, and despair.  For example, I can no longer fully recall the loneliness, the fear in my life before my husband’s faith restored my own.  Intellectually, I remember it, but it no longer stings.  Even if I were a poet, I doubt I could write loneliness with the power someone still lonely could.  As the saying goes, 'God makes good use of broken vessels.'  

The second reason Christians are reluctant to use pop allusion, some think that tales should be Biblical to be powerful.  They might want to shun secular allegory for fear it might overshadow the real story.  They are right, to a point.  Many are moved more by the death of Aslan in The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe than the story the Passion.  There is a simple reason for this, however. Most of us hear the story of the Passion and know how it ends, long before we can understand it.   We see paintings, stained glass, crucifix with the bloody feet and hands everywhere.  The tale is often stale until, every so often, something comes along to remind a Christian exactly how horrifying the Passion was or to remind a non-believer the foundation of the faith.  Sometimes that thing is an allusion.  The story of Aslan shocks us more because it is unexpected.  Instead of then worrying that we care about the story of Aslan more, we should use that shock to remind ourselves of the reality of the Passion.  

To this end, I am starting a Christianity in Pop Culture series.  (Yasha tells me this blog is schizophrenic.  He understands why I have chosen to write on so many divergent topics, but he still laughs.)  I’ve already got a few posts, song lyric interpretations to stick in this series.  Christian allusion, however, is one of my favorite topics.  
To start, links to some of the better known Christian metaphors, which ironically come from the pens of wildly successful British authors, JK Rowling and CS Lewis.  Harry Potter is basically the story of Christ, the boy who had to willingly sacrifice himself for the life of others.  (Note her statement that "These are very British books...")  The books are littered with Christian themes.  Chronicles of Narnia, though not direct allegory, is a story with all the same themes that CS Lewis wrote specifically to give children a better understanding of God.  The use of Christian allusion that I recommend, a Brit wrote the book on it, literally.  Lucy and Edmund to Aslan, Lord of Narnia, on their imminent return to earth:
"It isn't Narnia, you know," sobbed Lucy. "It's you. We shan't meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?" 
"But you shall meet me, dear one," said Aslan. 
"Are -are you there too, Sir?" said Edmund. 
"I am," said Aslan. "But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there." 
 C.S. Lewis (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader)

Christianity in Pop Culture posts