Monday, May 08, 2006
Why Fred Flintstone Can't Sing
Here's one from the archives. From the Easter 1996 issue of Gottesdienst. Brings back memories . . .
A week at "Lutheran" camp is enough for me, thank you. But I must say, the weather was grand, the beach was clean and sandy, the sailing was superb, fishing was relaxing, the kids and their parents (my wife and I) had a splendid vacation a couple of summers ago.
Add to this the fairness of the cost, and one wonders how I could even think of complaining. An all-expenses-paid week at camp in exchange for being the Pastor of the Week there, which includes various and sundry clerical duties, amounts to a rather fair exchange, all in all.
But there was nothing I could do about Fred Flintstone.
The camp has this custom of doing little camp songs, as is common, I suppose, in "Christian" camps who have come to be known for such pap as Noah and his arky arky. But it gets to be a bit much to hear what they've done to table prayers here. Never mind what wonders a week of constant exposure to Luther's table prayers and such could have done for these malleable little minds; the expectations here are geared to the taking of familiar tunes from television and the big screen, and making of them prayers. Like, for instance, singing grace to the tune of The Flintstones theme song. Instead of "Flintstones; meet the Flintstones; they're the modern stone age family" we're supposed to sing, by the same tune, "Praise God; O Praise God; And we thank him for our food" and then bang our hands on the table; thence continuing with similar words in place of "From the town of Bedrock, etc." At the close of this "prayer" the campers shout (what else?): "Yabba dabba doo!"
Similar adaptations were made to the theme song from The Addams Family (didididum *click click* didididum *click click* didididum didididum didididum *click click* . . .), the Kentucky Fried Chicken ad ("It's so nice, nice to feel so good about a meal, so good about our Father's many blessings"), and several others.
Now what's so bad about that? Just a little fun, right?
My trouble was that I couldn't help but think, during the Flintstone thing, about a big bronto-burger hanging out the window of my car, and that silly little polka-dot getup that Fred always wore more religiously than I wear a round collar. Or worse, that the kids here might start actually behaving like Junior Addams. And my old fuddy-duddy backwards thinking mind kept asking me, "Is this prayer?"
The answer is clear, of course, which is why I chose, like an old stick-in-the mud, to refrain from singing along. Perhaps no one noticed, but then again, perhaps it would have been good if they had; if they had seen that the pastor here doesn't pray like this.
But why not?
The greater question is, I have come to realize, why they do seem to insist on praying like this. The answer, I have also come to believe, is a rather unsettling one.
Christian freedom, they would undoubtedly affirm.
We, they would likely add, are free in Christ; free from the law and its constraints. Therefore when the law tells us that we must behave a certain way, we demonstrate our freedom from it by behaving in a way that is inimical to that way. See, we are free! such behavior would seem to say. And look what fun it is to pray this new way: we can bang on the table, sing fun little ditties, and have a ball, all the while saying that this is our version of praise to Jesus.
It all sounds increasingly familiar in our midst, in varying degrees and called by various names.
It is unsettling because it is frankly not Christian freedom at all. I was troubled not only by the preponderance of focus on the law and commandants in the little songs, as always happens with fundamentalist guitar songs, but also by the rather clearly evident indications that these people were not really praying here at all; they were just having fun. Thus freedom is freedom from prayer, freedom from the Word, freedom from Christ. Such freedom is not Christian.
But someone may say this assessment is unfair; perhaps there were some who were earnest about their thanks and praise in such an unlikely format. If so, what does this say of the God to whom they are praying? What are the not-so-subliminal implications here? That God is no deeper than Fred and Barney; that Christianity is finger lickin' good and nothing more. There is an element here which is seriously malevolent to the Christian faith. It is the spirit of antichrist, says the apostle John, which denies that Christ is come in the flesh. The flesh alone, as we all know, is complicated. The incarnation is beyond comprehension. That the infant Child feeds the ravens when they cry calls for no other response than the bending of the knee, as the magi did. If at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, who are we to substitute the snapping of every finger? Or were the magi fuddy-duddies too?
The bottom line here is that Fred Flintstone cannot sing the praises of God; he was not created in God's image. He is a cartoon character, created to entertain. And we, who have all seen his two feet peddle his coupe across our screen, were not created to be entertained. Being entertained is, to be sure, part of what we affirm as Christian liberty; but Christian liberty springs forth from the Gospel and its liturgy, which are from God. Let Christian liberty invade this territory and it will finally be lost.