O Me of Little Faith

From the overflowingDear Christians, This Is a Bad Idea” files, let me pontificate upon two new celebrities in the world of Christian culture:

1. Tyler Frost, the boy who wanted to go to prom. Poor Tyler just wanted to go to his girlfriend’s prom. Only Tyler is one of 84 students at the Heritage Christian School in Findlay, Ohio. It’s a fundamentalist Baptist school, so therefore it prohibits dancing, rock & roll devil music, and inappropriate contact between boys and girls. (Hand-holding? True love waits, Tyler.)

So when 17 year-old Tyler announced he would be attending his girlfriend’s prom last weekend at Findlay High School — apparently, a hothouse of evil — the officials at Heritage showed him the love of Jesus by announcing that he would be suspended. And given an “incomplete” on all remaining assignments. And forced to finish his exams separately in order to get his diploma. And prohibited from attending his graduation.

Now he’s become a secular media sensation, appearing on CBS’ The Early Show, ABC’s Primetime, and elsewhere. He’ll probably have his own dance-based reality show by next fall.

When I hear or read stories like this, my immediate thought is: How does this make Christians look to non-Christians? How does it appear from the outside? What is the mainstream takeaway?

Mainstream takeaway from this story:

a. Christians are so weird about this stuff.

b. Everyone loves an underdog. Root for the nice Christian boy rebelling against overly strict, controlling, no-fun authorities!

c. It’s like Footloose but for real!

d. What does this have to do with Jesus?


2. Carrie Prejean, the beauty queen martyr. Otherwise known as Miss California, Carrie Prejean lost out on the Miss USA title because she spoke out (and not very well) against gay marriage. This annoyed pageant judge Perez Hilton enough that she lost his vote. She was quick to claim that her answer cost her the pageant win. So, as might be expected, within days Christians fell in love with Prejean because she had openly declared her faith (kind of) and was being persecuted for it (if losing a beauty crown can be described that way). Martyr!

Within days Prejean was appearing at the Gospel Music Association’s Dove Awards, signing with A. Larry Ross Communications (a big-time Christian publicity firm), and no doubt starting work editing a devotional Bible for beauty queens. Why? Not because she said anything much about her faith, but because she opposed gay marriage and lost because of it.

But now? The conservative Christians and Republicans are starting to feel some buyer’s remorse, as topless modeling photos of Prejean are beginning to show up, along with revelations that California state pageant officials paid for her to receive breast implants (read all about it here). It’s gettin’ dirty real quick, but that hasn’t stopped her from appearing this week on Dr. James Dobson’s radio show.

Mainstream takeaway from this story:

a. So a beauty pageant runner-up becomes a conservative evangelical poster girl not for proclaiming her faith, but for opposing gay marriage? That is so weird.

b. It is hilarious that the conservative evangelicals got so excited about the gay marriage and persecution thing that they ended up with someone forced to defend her breast implants and tawdry photos. So awesome.

c. Again, what does this have to do with Jesus?


Final thought: As a Christian, I think I’d rather have Tyler Frost as a Christian celebrity than Carrie Prejean. But, honestly, why do we need celebrities at all?

Let’s all steer clear of dancing, hand-holding, pageant pronouncements, and racy photos today. Better yet, let’s just stay out of the news altogether.

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