Once upon a time, Al Pacino was a great actor. This was before the mass amounts of hard liquor and years of smoking massaged his higher tones into a gravelly slur. This was when cultural phrases like “Attica, Attica” and “Say hello to my little friend” were still culturally relevant and carried some significance. Now such phrases are uttered in basements, as we slip the special edition DVD into the blu-ray player, away from the limelight.
It is sad to see such a catalog of memorable movie moments from Mr. Pacino’s career sliding into that realm of existence beyond classic films, and into the small area of Hollywood where even the best digitally remastered copies won’t make a splash. This is the back-slidden rooms of Hollywood and consumerism otherwise known as “Cult Classic’s”. I would like to point out the word “Cult” at the beginning of the term “Cult Classic. This is because of its correlation to the “Occult” who are known to be diehard fanatics. I am convinced that movies that slide into this ubiquitous realm, do so for two reasons. First, because it is an underground low-budget sensation that was wonderfully acted and directed. Second, and I will say the sadder more likely case, is because the actors who starred in them ceased to have that special something. The leading man or woman no longer hold’s the sway over the audiences that they once had. Hence, movies such as Scarface are left to be quoted by rappers and Jr. High students. Yes, Jr. High, mainly, because the movie poster is for sale at Spencer Gifts, and Wal-Mart. (Another Testament to Mr. Pacino’s backsliding career). To further exacerbate this problem, such actors try to retain their former glory later in life by doing roles similar to the ones that launched them into stardom a.k.a.”Righteous Kill”. Mr. Pacino, in his own right, is a still a legend. An actor who is extremely talented, has had an amazing career, and still pulls out a great punch or two in his declining years such as Scent of a Woman, and Heat. Also, there is no denying his legendary status as “The Godfather” Micheal Corleone. This role alone will stand the testament of time, and most likely be noted as one of the greatest characters ever to have ever been played. Unfortunately, even these accomplishments have not allowed him to be relevant in today’s film industry. I would suggest this is because Mr. Pacino is a one trick pony. His characters are limited to the same emotions, same style, and really the same character traits.
Allow us now to take a look at the Church in North America.
Once upon a time, The Church was a powerfully influential force. This was before the mass flood of scandals, tele-evangelist crooks, and televised hypocrisy of some of our most influential leaders. This was when Men like D.L. Moody were the most well-known names throughout the modern world. When hymns like “Amazing Grace” and “In Christ Alone” rang out with authority to an organist. Now, such songs are sung with a synthesizer, remixed for the modern ear, and the glory of these once virtuous songs resides only in the memory of the saints who faintly recall what it meant to be the local church.
It is sad to see such a catalog of great men and women for God, and historically and culturally profound songs sliding into the realm beyond cultural relevance, and into the dim back-alleys of what once was mainstream american culture. Now , she is only to be looked upon by the youngest generation as hypocritical, fundamental, and un-loving. This is the unfortunate demise of the North American Church, who is for now solely and unfortunately coined “irrelevant” by the general public. I am convinced that the north american church has fallen into this cultural lense for two reasons. Frist, because it has been poorly represented over the last 40 years by the very people who are proclaiming its relevance. Second, and the sadder more likely case, is because even the people who claim to be christians are to a significant extent lacking that special something they once had. I would refer to this with one word “ZEAL”. To further exacerbate the problem The North American Church is clinging to remakes of the orignal classics that once launched her into her former glory. Instead of Billy Graham, we are finding emerging leaders, and cultural icons that we can point too and say, “Look, we still got one or two punches in our bag, don’t count us out of this race yet!”. Now, the North American Church is in her own right a legend! Who can argue against the profound ways she has helped shaped this nation, helped the poor, and let us not forget has seen literally millions of people come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ! (People are still coming to Christ everyday, and I truly believe this is our sole purpose and biggest hit. This is our “Godfather”, and the role that will always stand the test of time because Christ has promised even hell cannot keep this from happening). But, just because people are coming to faith, doesn’t mean we are doing our Job. Instead, we are playing roles similar to the role we always tried to play and as a result aren’t pulling people in, but turning people off. I would suggest this is because The North American Church is a one trick pony. We play the same part, with the same emotions, the same style and really the same character traits.
So, the question stands. Is the North American Church becoming a “Cult Classic”? A place where only the diehards are getting together to share their favorite songs, sermons, and salvation? Could it be, that this is the driving force behind the low attendance, the lack of conversions, the annual closing of 3,700 churches, and general apathy toward her own faith? I wonder, is it because we have been asking “What Would Jesus Do?” and not, “Why Don’t we Do like Jesus?”
My Conclusion: The North American Church know’s what Jesus would do, but we are too scared to do like Jesus did.