Spent my lunch hour in the dining commons and delved into the latest issue of Relevant magazine. Much to probably many people’s demise, I was most interested in reading the article featuring Chuck Palahniuk, the author of Fight Club–the book that inspired the ultra-violent blockbuster film that became one of my personal favorites (not for the violence of course, but for the underlying messages…).
Palahniuk is fairly fascinating. Devout Christian? Unlikely; doesn’t seem like it. But does that mean what he has to say isn’t worth listening to? Certainly not. He has insight into culture that most Christians are afraid to approach, and that attitude sickens me.
Fight Club was his first book. He’s since written many, all of which are “caustic satires mocking the quiet desperation and open absurdity of America’s postmodern society.” Though I’m only familiar with Fight Club, I’m sure the rest are equally brutal and over-the-top.
Here’s some of his rationale for why he writes the way he does:
In this world where so much upset, danger and fear is constantly coming at us, I’m trying to write in such a way that I don’t approach issues directly. At this point, people needed to be served some form of entertainment rather than get hit over the head, so I’m trying to be more clever, more terrifying or more funny. People have quit hearing really shrill messages. In the same way that George Orwell [1984, Animal Farm] masked his social commentary in ’40s and ’50s, I thought it might be time to do some social work in a genre.
While I don’t plan on modeling my life purpose after Palahniuk’s passion, what he says resonates with my personal mission statement of “communicating truth creatively.”
How often is the message we try to deliver as Christians laced with as much thought, strategy and creativity as Palahniuk’s? He’s communicating messages about society just as Jesus communicated the good news: through story. Both were very intentional and very effective with making their point.
We can be as holy (read “religious”) as we want, but if we don’t know how to communicate with our audience effectively, we end up sounding like the “resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” 1 Corinthians 13 talks about. And the products of today’s culture aren’t just ignoring those gongs and cymbals. They’ve already muted the frequencies and don’t even know they are there to ignore.
At the back of Relevant is a “Last Word” page with an insightful quote. This issue’s is by A.W. Tozer and reads: “It’s not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it. The motive is everything.”
I feel that Tozer is right: God honors a pure heart. Many gongs and cymbals have good motives behind them and God won’t condemn that. But he doesn’t promise his blessing to resound in it either.
I feel coming to your audience in love means you care enough about them to deliver your message as creatively and effectively as possible rather than forcing them to decrypt a prepackaged declaration.
Being a gong or cymbal isn’t necessarily wrong; it’s just ineffective.