Boogity, Boogity, Boogity, Amen!
Praying the NASCAR Way
I'm not much of a YouTube watcher so I don't really spend much time viewing "viral" offerings, but I did get one the other day that gave me a good laugh and a momentary pause to wonder what that video might mean. It's a prayer offered at the opening of a NASCAR event by a Baptist preacher who has everyone in stitches with varied expressions of, "Did I just hear that?"
The prayer at the NASCAR event went something like this:
Heavenly Father, we thank tonight for all your blessings; for you said in all things give thanks. So we want to thank you tonight for these mighty machines you brought before us. Thank you for the Dodges and Toyotas. Thank you for the Fords and thank you for Roush and Yates partnering to give us the power that we see before us tonight. Thank you for GM performance technology and RO7 engines. Thank you for Sunoco racing fuel and Goodyear tires that brings performance and power to the track. Lord, I want to thank you for my smokin' hot wife, Lisa, and my two children Eli and Emma or as we like to call them, the little E's. Lord I pray you bless the drivers and use them tonight. May they put on a performance worthy of this great track. In Jesus name, boogity, boogity, boogity. Amen.
Check out several versions at http://shaungroves.com/2011/08/boogity-boogity-amen/
Of course, this viral offering brings out differing opinions from folks. Varied responses range from chagrin over the less than pious tones of the prayer to the polar opposites who respond with their suggestions of "Dude, just chill! I love NASCAR, love Jesus, and this was way cool!" To NASCAR aficionados, the "boogity, boogity, boogity, amen" is an acknowledgment of one of their patron saints, Darrell Waltrip. The prayer also conjures up images of Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights. To others, it's another clear indicator that we have passed the point of no return on the slippery slope to the oblivion of Christianity lite.
The varied opinions about this prayer event are predictable in this era of divergent opinions expressed loudly and vigorously. I admit, I smiled at the YouTube piece, but I have a mixture of feelings about the prayer once my smile faded. After taking a deep breath, I really think this is a pictureof the enduring tension between the Gospel and culture. It is the continual balancing act of living in this world with a connection to eternity. In our best attempts to balance Gospel and culture, we sometimes slip up; in some instances, where our vigilance is lacking, we get skewed versions of what it means to follow Jesus day by day. Those skewed versions of Christian life leave open wounds and memories that seem to be locked into the past by painful experience. This tragedy occurs largely because the critique of Christ's Kingdom is lacking. These out of whack expressions of Christian faith give the cynics a field day and fuel late night television and cable talk mania.
Christian history is replete with examples of what happens when Christians poorly juxtapose the content of their faith with the context of their experience. From the Judaizers whose perspective prompted the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, to the efforts of the Holy Crusades to recapture Jerusalem, to the syncretistic Christianity that all too often demonstrates itself in Christian media, we must be honest enough to admit that sometimes we don't represent Jesus fairly.
So the question is, "Does the NASCAR prayer represent an out of whack case study in Gospel and culture?" Opinions will vary, but the words of Jesus provide a helpful lens: "I have not come to be served but to serve and give my life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). Evaluating the NASCAR prayer requires serious consideration of at least two questions that need to become part of the fabric of every follower of Jesus who wants to represent our Lord fairly in this world. In regard to our daily activities, we must regularly ask, "What is my purpose?" Jesus' statement in Mark 10:45 gives an implicit response because His life was marked by an agenda that was not His own. Second, we must ask the question, "What is the source of my power?" In other words, what resources am I relying on to carry out my purpose? Jesus' ministry was not faithfully completed in His own human or personal ingenuity. His ministry was carried out by His reliance on God's empowering Spirit. In the midst of asking these two questions, the Holy Spirit can critique our connection to God's purposes on this earth.
An attempt to evaluate the appropriateness of the NASCAR prayer requires the humility to acknowledge we all too often allow personal opinion to rule the day. We also need to admit that without the discipline to engage in constant evaluation of our motives, we will end up assuming that what we attempt in Jesus' name implicitly carries the imprimatur of His blessing. When we fail to acknowledge the primacy of Jesus in our lives, we will inevitably create religion that is in our own best interests as we try to get God on our side by every means possible. Jesus' humility to do the will of the Father and serve all humanity not only redeems us, but continues to critique all of our attempts to create life that merely uses Christian faith as a prop for our grand schemes of life.
Byron D. Klaus