From 1947 through 1960 America’s kids would plunk themselves in front of the television set for the 5:30 PM viewing of the Howdy Doody show. For 30 minutes each weekday they would be entertained by the lovable puppet and a cast of characters including Buffalo Bob Smith, Bob Keeshan (later to become Capt. Kangaroo), and Gabby Hayes.
The most amazing thing about the Howdy Doody show is how the script writers and executive producers weaved an entire storyline of half-truths and outright deceptions whenever circumstances threatened to disrupt the program.
For example, when an argument resulted in the creator of the original Howdy Doody puppet taking his creation and leaving the studio, it was decided they would tell the kids in the audience their beloved Howdy Doody was on the campaign trail running for President of all the children of America. They even told the kids that while he was out, Howdy would be getting some plastic surgery done to improve his appearance. This provided cover for the brand-new puppet that would be created by a television studio employee.
Here’s what fascinates me about Howdy Doody: the children sat mesmerized by this show, behaving as though it were real. This, despite the fact that they knew Howdy Doody was a puppet. The daily program became a fantasy, yet even the fantasy wasn’t real. The Howdy Doody puppet represented a fantasy of a fantasy, so to speak.
Unfortunately, I see the same thing now dominating the modern American church. Many of us go to church on Sundays to see a show; a show that is really nothing more than a fantasy of what we want Christianity to be like. But the show itself isn’t even real. Just like Howdy Doody, it’s a fantasy of a fantasy.
Love God, Love Your Neighbors
Jesus said that the two greatest commandments are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. ” (Lk. 10:27)
That’s something we can all live with, right? But define what it means to “love.” In our fantasy driven world, love is often defined as this wishy-washy, tolerate everything, challenge nothing apostasy. We’ve been conditioned to believe that any word or action perceived as negative – even in the slightest way — does not equal the love of Christ. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Biblical love is an action word that manifests itself in the Christian putting what’s best for others first. In some cases, doing what’s best for someone does indeed involve gentleness, meekness, kindness and grace. But other times, what’s best for a person is to have the fear of God put in him.
You see, God is a dual-natured entity. On the one hand he is gracious, kind and merciful. On the other he is holy, righteous and just. If you throw out one nature, you have an incomplete God who is not the same God of the Bible.
Worship the Lord
Scripture clearly dictates that we are to worship the Lord. But in this area, we again find ourselves believing a fantasy of a fantasy. What do I mean? The explanation can clearly be seen in the definition of the word “worship.”
Psalm 96:9 is as good a place as any to get a definition. It says: “O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth. ”
If you look up the Hebrew meaning of the word worship you will find it means, “prostrate (especially reflexive, in homage to royalty or God; bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship.” (Strong’s Lexicon)
Furthermore, the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines the word as follows: “reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also : an act of expressing such reverence ; a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual ; extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem.”
It’s clear that worship is supposed to be about God, who he is, and what he’s done. Yet just take a look at most of the modern songs we now sing in church. Count how many times the words “I”, “me”, and “we” appear. Take a long look at your favorite songs and ask yourself, “is this really about God, or is it about me?”
Indeed, the modern church is wrapped up in a fantasy of a fantasy with ourselves as the center of our worship. Our belief system has become one centered around how we feel about God rather than who he is. It is a faith based on emotion rather than humble submission to the Almighty God.
Out of this fantasy comes this ridiculous belief that we are supposed to “fall in love with Jesus.” I don’t mean to be abrasive here, but can anyone show me a Scriptural basis for this belief? I’ve been searching for years and can’t find it. To say I need to fall in love with Jesus is to reduce my faith to human passions which are subject to human sin.
I don’t need to fall in love with Jesus, I need to follow him as an obedient servant.
Be Like Jesus
Lastly, Scripture clearly tells us of God’s intention that we be like Jesus. Romans 8:28-29 says,
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
To be “conformed to the image of his Son” is to be transformed by the Holy Spirit so that we do what Jesus did, say what Jesus said, go where Jesus would go, and so on. But is that what we really want?
Jesus had no place to lay his head. Jesus was constantly ridiculed and threatened. Jesus spent a lot of time in prayer and meditation. Jesus did always those things that pleased the Father. Jesus learned obedience through the things he suffered. (Heb 5:8)
Once again my friends, I fear we are believing a fantasy of a fantasy. We think we are living like Jesus because we smile a lot, say “God bless you”, and enjoy positive emotional responses in the presence of our Christian friends. We may even believe we are living like Jesus because we send our kids to a Christian school or, even better, school them at home.
It’s a fantasy. It’s not real.
How well do you know the Word of God? This is an important question because Scripture is our only means of knowing who God is. In fact, it’s our only method of knowing God. Jesus said that those who have seen him have also seen the Father. But who among us has actually seen Jesus? None of us. We can only see him through the Scripture.
Furthermore, John chapter one tells us that Jesus is “the Word made flesh” who dwelt among men. If Jesus is the Word, yet we don’t study the Word, how will we ever truly know Jesus?
If diligent study and application of the Word is not a normal part of your Christianity, the simple fact of the matter is you do not know God as deeply as you need to. If you don’t know God beyond the superficiality of modern Christianity, there’s no possible way you can:
- love him
- love your neighbors
- worship him
- be like Jesus
Without the diligent study and application of the Word your faith is nothing more than Howdy Doody Christianity. You are being entertained by an actor with a made-up persona, playing with a plastic puppet and making up story lines to convince you that everything you’re seeing is real.
It’s not. It’s a P-U-P-P-E-T
What time is it church? It’s Howdy Doody time!