Thursday, July 24, 2014

Does Stephen King Hate Christianity?

Politics and religion.  Don't talk about those, right?  Well, that is what boring people say.  They're afraid you might make enemies.  Strong people are able to talk about their beliefs, faith and politics without sinking into the mud.

Several Stephen King tweets have caught some attention recently, most notably citing Bible verses and applying them to current issues in the United States.

Jim Stinson at www.al.com/news has an interesting article titled, "Claiming Christians, conservatives are hypocrites on immigration: A tactic of Nancy Pelosi, Stephen King."

Nancy Pelosi I'm really not interested in.  And neither is Stinson.  His title works mostly to just tie King to the ultra liberal congresswoman.  Pelosi said recently that "Jesus was a refugee."  Well, Jesus lived in an occupied country; but he resisted all calls for him to lead a popular uprising and instead focused on spiritual issues.

Pointing out that liberals don't like it when  the Bible is used to oppose abortion and gay marriage in particular, Stinson then suggests that maybe Stephen King is behaving hypocritically when he in turn invokes the Bible to suggest we should be more generous toward undocumented children coming to our country.

Stinson writes, "Stephen King appears to always have a bone to pick with Christians in his novels and adaptations."   He then cites Carrie's mother, "The Mist," and the Christian warden in "The Shawshank Redemption."  (We wont' tell Stinson about Desperation, Insomnia and a few other little  novels that didn't show Christians in such a great light.)

Missionaries To Tattooeen: 

Stinson says, "It seems the real villain in many of King's works are Christians -- not murderers, monsters and psychokinetic killers."  REALLY?!  Does this guy have a persecution complex?

Okay, time to lay my cards on the table.  I'm a conservative, Christian pastor (Baptist) who reads Stephen King.  Do I get tired of the characterizations we encounter in books like Under The Dome, Carrie and so on?  Yeah, we do.  But here's the problem -- there are Christians out there who act just like those King characters do!  People can get mad at King for painting things they don't like, but the truth is, he's just painting what he sees.  It's like getting mad at the Simpsons because Flanders is such an annoying character.

Instead of being upset, I would suggest that what Christians ought to do is pay attention to the world's characterizations.  We should be interested in how we're coming across.  After all, the Gospel is at stake -- right?

If you're a missionary to a lost tribe on Tattooeen, you are very interested in what that tribe thinks of you and the message you bring.  If they object, misunderstand or misinterpret what you are saying; it is not the missionaries job to berate the hearers but to rethink the approach.  That is what modern Christianity must do in the American culture.  I am concerned that we are not clearly communicating what we believe outside of our own camp.  So we should be very interested in a Stephen King enters the assembly to tell us how we're coming across.

One person said in the articles comments that she was done reading Stephen King.  Well I guess that will show him. . . NOTHING!  How stupid to say, "If you don't agree with me, I can't read your books."  Maybe the failure to listen to each other got us Americans as polarized as it did.  To be certain, I'm a moral conservative.  I'm certainly not a fan of Mr. Obama or his policies, or his attorney General.  But does that mean I can't talk to Democrats?

One of the bridges church can make is actually a political one.  Some of my best friends in church were people who saw things completely different politically.  Yes, because of the cause of Christ, I fell in love with them.  And that lead to deep conversations in which we really challenged one another.  More than that, it became harder to just group everyone who believed different  than me in a single "bad" category. I might not agree, but I came to understand where they were coming from.  That's what is being lost!  The ability, or want, to know where someone else is coming from.

Is King hostile to Christianity?

What Mr. Stinson might ought to have done before he wrote his article is read my book, Stephen King, A Face Among The Masters.  I know, I know -- shameless self promotion here.  It would have helped him, though.
Some of King’s darkest novels include the brightest religious themes. Yet King has said that he does not see himself as God’s stenographer. He does not claim to know the mind of Christ, but makes no apology for discussing God, religion, and theological concepts in his books.
Gardner, Brighton (2014-05-04). Stephen King A Face Among The Masters (Kindle Locations 1728-1730).  . Kindle Edition. 
Is King hostile to Christianity?  I don't think so.  I think he's hostile to the behavior of some Christians.  If I had a discussion with him about religious things, we would deeply disagree on some key things; basic doctrine.  But that disagreement doesn't mean I would think he's "hostile" to the whole Christian faith.

Here's the problem: People who understand and appreciate the basics of the faith end up rejecting it because of the coldness of its adherents.  Is it possible for Christians to be liberal in love and conservative in theology?  Of course!  Because that is exactly what Jesus modeled to us and demanded of us.

When a guy like King starts to talk Bible, the last thing  believers should do is shout him down.

Getting Specific:
Stinson claims that in reality, King villanizes "tea-party Christians."

He then asks, "And while Nancy Pelosi and Stephen King worry about the proper application of Christian theology into immigration policy, do you think they will raise alarm about death threats made against Iraqi Christians by the al Qaida offshoot, ISIS?"

Let me reword that: Stinson is saying that if you want to play with our toys (the Bible,) then you have to hold to our political views on everything.  Problem with that?  YEAH!  Seems I remember Jesus saved his harshest attacks not for the liberal Sadducees but the hypocritical Pharisees.

The problem is closed doors.  When someone wants to use the Bible in a discussion, Christians should be glad for the opportunity to discuss things Biblically, not shout, "Hey, those are our toys, not yours!"

About The Border:
King tweted, "Much easier to be a Christian when the little children aren't in your back yard, isn't it?"

Ouch.  And that should sting. Let me translate for those who can't quite grasp what he's saying.  In other words, it's one thing to claim to hold to your faith when it is to your benefit.  When it 's about Hobby Lobby and the rights of a Believer.  But the sincerity of our faith is tested when we are challenged to show kindness to another.

The Bible is FULL of discussions about how Israel was to treat the "alien" among them.  Here's the problem for American Christians; you can't leave that at the feet of Israel.  The mandate is transferable to us.  It does not mean we have to let everyone in, or that the border policy doesn't need to be changed.

What it means is two fold:
1. On a personal level, Christians should show real love to the outcast.  (Gasp.)
2. On a national level, Christians should voice thoughtful, humane, ideas that go beyond just, "throw 'em out!"

The conservative argument goes like this: "Don't use the Bible for your argument unless you're ready to use the Bible as a standard for everything."  I say, be happy there's a starting place of common ground.

2 comments:

  1. I actually think you’ve hit on an important aspect of King’s fiction. After studying up on this, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that the great majority of his work is, in one sense or another, a reaction not against Christianity, but rather Puritanism.

    Here’s what I mean. I think a case can be made that what King is doing is basically the same thing that Nathaniel Hawthorne did back in his day. Both writers were and are New Englanders, both were raised in the same culture that had, as it’s background, the Puritan settlers of Plymouth. Also, both are in reaction against the Puritan ethos, and it’s effect on America at large, Hawthorne more or less consciously, King perhaps more unconsciously.

    Either way, it seems to me that both writers don’t look at Puritanism as a part of Christianity itself, and more it’s own strange off-shoot (perhaps a heresy?). King, like Hawthorne, shows an awareness of how a lot of life in America seems out-of-joint, and both more or less trace it back to the same kind of mindset that created the Salem witchcraft trials. I think it may be possible that with the upcoming “Revival”, King will place this theme front and center. A good for my thinking on this is Tony Magistrale’s “Moral Voayges of Stephen King”, in particular Magistral makes great connections between King, Hawthorne, and Puritanism.

    ChrisC

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  2. Count me a puritan. The heart of what I am saying is that puritan's ought to listen as much as they talk.

    I did think it was funny when I read conservatives actually at the border helping children ask what Stephen King was doing to help the children, other than ranting on twitter!.

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