One of the highest grossing movies of 2006 was the Will Ferrell comedy, Talladega Nights. It is a farcical look at the world of stock car racing and the fictional NASCAR sensation Ricky Bobby. In one memorable scene Ricky’s family and his racing teammate have gathered around the table for dinner and are discussing their opinions about Jesus.
Cal: I like to picture Jesus in a tuxedo t-shirt cuz it says like I wanna be formal but I’m here to party too, cuz I like to party so I like my Jesus to party.
Walker: I like to picture Jesus as a ninja fighting off evil samurai.
Cal: I like to think of Jesus with like giant eagle’s wings and singing lead vocals for Lynyrd Skynyrd with like an angel band and I’m in the front row…
It is doubtful that the movie’s writers intended to spark a theological discussion with this scene, but this dialogue does highlight a couple significant characteristics of modern spirituality that should not be overlooked.
In a world of personalization and customization it should not be surprising that many people assume God can be adapted to fit their own individual desires. The question is no longer “Who is God?” but “Who is God to me?” It seems as if, for many people, God is not an actual being but a theoretical concept that can be adapted to fit into the life and worldview of the individual. He exists only to fill in the blanks.
One of the problems with a god who is defined by the believer is that the entire idea is internally inconsistent. The idea that Jesus can be the Son of God for some people and not for others is impossible. Either He is or He isn’t. If He is not then Christians are deluding themselves. If He is, then He is the Son of God for everyone.
This type of tailor-made theology even exists in the evangelical Christian church. Jesus is quite often thought of as an unassuming shepherd who loves unconditionally and expects little from His followers. Seldom is He portrayed as the Righteous Judge who expects His followers to “pick up their cross daily.” Like the characters in Talladega Nights, we create a god that is in accordance with our own desire, one who fits our need. Quite often in the contemporary church the emphasis is not on discovering the truth but on developing a personal system of beliefs that conforms to our lifestyle.
Consider for a moment – if God is God, (and I believe He is) then He is God regardless what we may personally think about Him. He is who He is whether we worship Him, believe in Him, or ever even acknowledge Him. His existence is in no way dependant on our opinions of Him. In fact, a god who was dependant on our opinions for his existence would be no god at all. We are free to form our own opinions about Him, but if our opinions about Him disagree with who He actually is, then we must accept the possibility that we are wrong.
Our goal should be to know the truth, to know God. We should seek to adapt to Him, not to try to make Him adapt to us. He is, after all – God (and we’re not).
In His Service,