Doing Theology With SNL (Guest Post)
Denver stations want to know: did you find the Saturday Night Live (SNL) sketch about Jesus appearing in the Denver Broncos locker room after a big win in Chicago, funny or sacrilegious? If you aren’t a fan of SNL or haven’t seen the sketch it can be viewed at any number of websites including the Denver Post, ESPN, Westword, USA Today, etc.
If you don’t want to go on-line to see it because you already know the tone and direction the sketch will take, it probably is your best choice. Who knew that SNL would make fun of (read: ridicule) Tim Tebow, his faith, Christianity, and of course, Jesus Christ?
The premise of the sketch attempts to answer the question “What or who is responsible for the Broncos’ comeback wins in the fourth quarter?” Yep, it’s “Jesus.” Only, this “Jesus” restricts his “help” to the fourth quarter when the team is behind. Because the Broncos’ played so horribly for three quarters, “Jesus” must intervene in the fourth. With a “C’mon guys” coaches whine, “Jesus” complains that the team has to put out a little more effort because he’s got some important things to do, like celebrate his birthday in a few days. “Jesus,” you see, is just your regular guy hanging out with a bunch of pro jocks.
And first and foremost, “Jesus” really wants Tebow to “take it down a notch” on the devotional stuff. Just to prove that “Jesus” is “just like one of us” (remember that silly song?), he thinks more of a big deal ought to be made out of kicker Matt Prater. After all, Prader kicks fifty-nine yard field goals to tie in the final three seconds of a game and fifty-one yarders to win in overtime. This “Jesus” is really into football because he even prays to Matt Prater! Prater takes the compliment with a sense of “gee whiz” awe.
All-around good-natured fun or an offense of sacrilegious proportions? To ask the question gives insight into our culture’s thoughts on Christianity. Tebow’s faith polarizes people. Nothing new there to the perceptive student of the New Testament; so did the real Jesus and so did the apostles. Every time Christ was preached as the exclusive and only God, people got angry. It was perfectly allowable to have Jesus as part of the pantheon of gods, but not the supreme and all-sufficient God. How many angry mobs did Paul’s preaching generate? How often did mobs stone Paul and leave him for dead? How many places was he dismissed as a “babbler”? (Read the book of Acts for the answers).
The same conditions exists today. Every time Christ is preached as the exclusive and only way to the Father (John 14:6), people get angry, hostile and downright impolite. “PC” tolerance is thrown to the wind by the gnashing of teeth. That violent and hateful reaction of preaching an exclusive Christ for salvation is the heritage of the true church.
No, the SNL skit was not all-around good-natured fun. In fact, it had a hidden agenda. The obvious agenda laying on the surface of it all was to “poke fun” (read: ridicule; didn’t I already say that?) at Tebow, Christianity and Jesus. I really think theology ought to be left to those who know how to read, especially the Bible. The SNL systematic diminishing of Jesus was a theological statement. It may come as a surprise to you, but everyone does theology; everyone has some thoughts about what God is like and why Jesus is to be revered or ignored. That is doing theology.
The SNL theological position is that the Son of God is just no big deal. He was just a regular guy and the real problem is that his advocates (read: the church) have made him out to be more than he was. Tebow is exhibit number one.
This is not a new idea. In the early church, after the apostles left the scene, the early church fathers, during the Patristic period, had this same theological battle on their hands. There were some who taught that Jesus was merely human, denying his divinity. (There were some who thought Jesus was not human either. But that’s for another heresy). The name identified with this heresy, that Jesus was not divine, is Arius (d. 336). Arius believed Christ was a created being and capable of sin. He adamantly rejected Christ as “of the same substance” of the Father, therefore Jesus Christ could not be God in spite of what the Scriptures taught. He also denied the Trinity. For these teachings, he was excommunicated from the church. As an explanation and defense against his heretical challenge to the teachings of Scripture, the church fathers created the Nicene Creed in A.D. 325, still used in many worship services today. Arianism lives on today among the Jehovah Witnesses.
The second agenda item of the SNL skit came with the last line, and may have also been a political jab at Christians. As “Jesus” is about to exit the locker room, thus ending the skit, the blackout line was the punch line. “Jesus” turned to everyone and said, “Oh by the way, all that Mormon stuff. It’s true. Every word of it.” Blackout. Cue the approving applause and laughter.
Get it? Don’t make a big deal out of Mormonism (read: Mitt Romney). It’s just as valid a “truth” as historic Christianity. PC religious tolerance demands a level playing field, even if there are glaring contradictions in theological positions.
This is how we want our discussions of religion to go. Anyone who dares to make an exclusive truth claim will be put on notice (again): if you say that Christianity is the only true revelation of God to man, you will be ridiculed and dismissed as an overly zealous hypocrite who may be dangerous or insane; unless you are a Mormon, or a Muslim, or . . .
Be of good cheer and I will see you “outside the camp bearing his reproach” (Heb 13:12, 13).
Bob and Nita have been married for 34 years and have two children and four grandchildren. Currently serving as pastor of Faith Baptist Church (Parker, CO). Recently received a Doctor of Ministry degree in Biblical Spirituality from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, KY). Hobbies: likes theology, camping, traveling and hanging out with the family — especially those grandchildren. (If I knew how much fun they are, we would have had them first!)