Saturday, November 10, 2007

Christianity 451

While I am still in this fit of borrowing dystopian science fiction to illustrate my theological arguments, please allow me to talk about one of the most salient commentaries on American Culture.

I am talking about Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. If you have not read it, I would venture to guess that you are part of the problem that is outlined in the book. The creepiest part of this fiction is that it was first published in 1953... and has managed to remain relevant as a social commentary for the next 60 years. Bradbury saw then the place where we are at now. This book is still ahead of the curve.

Most people assume the book is about censorship, totalitarianism and book burning. To a certain extent, they are right. But...... they miss Bradbury's main point: that Fahrenheit 451 is actually a story about how television destroys interest in reading literature. It is about how fluff and "factoids" smother out knowledge, wisdom, and real truth. Fluff almost never does this killing intentionally, but there is no middle ground between truth and half-truth. Ideas can either be shallow or deep. There is no in between.

I first read this book in middle school. I have read it several times since then. Each time, it gives me a greater vision of the cultural reality behind all of our whitewash and spin. Last night, I watched the 1966 film adaptation with Oskar Werner and Julie Christi. My eyes have been opened yet again.

The cultural holocaust of shallow, inoffensive fluff reaches into Christ's church. Read this book (or watch the movie if you are lazy) as a Christian. Ask yourself, "What is Ray Bradbury saying about church growth and the theology of glory?"

Fahrenheit 451 is not about book burning. It is about those who would sell their souls for entertainment and comfort. It is about what people will sacrifice to feel at ease and empowered. It is about what happens when people are so impressed with pleasantries that they will sacrifice the brutal truth of reality and buy total garbage to preserve an absolute fantasy that protects their sensibilities. It is about the crime of self-delusion.

If you read some of the arguments put forth by the firemen in the book, they echo some of the public statements of Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, and Joel Osteen almost word for word. Firemen are the caretakers of our society. They protect us from unpleasant things so that we can look at the good; the inoffensive. The book paints a clear picture about what happens when you embrace multimedia presentations, empty music, shallow teaching, nonsequitur reasoning, and the careful censorship of all substantive sources.

You can almost smell the kerosene. It is really terrible.

If we do not preserve the truth, what value and purpose can our life really have? Stop looking for what you get out of everything. It is better to ask yourself, "What am I unwittingly about to throw away?"

Book burning and censorship is always purpose driven.

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