Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Community and Why the Church Needs to Be Weird

by Ben Howard

Community is the best show on television that you aren't watching. Except neither part of that sentence is entirely true. First, if you've found your way to this particular corner of the internet you probably are watching Community (in French with English subtitles off a Vietnamese website). Second, it's not currently on TV (except maybe the TV in your heart which is the only TV that counts).

Season Four of Community was supposed to debut about two weeks ago on October 19th, but due to some weirdness in the schedule NBC decided to delay the show's debut until February 7th. Four months is a long time in the world of obsessive sitcom compulsives. Its painful, like being forced to watch an episode of Whitney.

Thankfully the cast and crew of Community came to the rescue with a short video explaining to all of their fans that October the 19th wasn't a date after all, it was a state of mind. Any and every day can be October 19th in your heart, especially February 7th. February 7th is October 19th.

This may all sound totally ridiculous and weird, which is good because it is. It's also one of the reasons I love Community. The creative minds at Community have always understood their place in the world. They're a weird, niche sitcom on a network that has no idea what to do with them. This is a show that owns the fact that they've both killed a supporting character in a meth lab explosion and dedicated an entire episode to the obscure 80's film "My Dinner With Andre."

When Community posts a video saying that October 19th is a state of mind, they understand that they're the misunderstood black sheep of the network. When they introduce season three with an over the top dance montage that promises that the show is "gonna get more calm and normal" and be "less crazy", they understand that everyone gets the winking joke and that they don't plan on changing anything.

This kind of self-awareness is vitally important in all aspects of life, but it's especially important in churches. I think churches need to understand how their perceived, but I also think they need a sense of humor about how they're perceived.

I've hinted at this a lot, but I don't know if I've ever said it explicitly. Churches need to laugh more. I don't mean we need preachers who tell more jokes or give more "funny" illustrations straight out of the 1950s. I mean that churches need to embrace the insanity and the tragedy of life and turn it into comedy. They need to redeem some of the brokenness we're a part of, some of the bizarre things we've done, with humor.

Embrace the fact that church is weird and counter-cultural because it is. It is weird that a bunch of strangers would come together to worship a deity and try to become family even though they aren't. Praying is weird and counter-cultural. So are hymns. So is the Eucharist. Embrace it.

Churches have gone out of their way to make everything comfortable for seekers and for the unchurched. Why? It leaves nothing to the imagination and dilutes the power of the message the church wants to convey. If you're weird, then be weird. Own what you are.

Of course you want others to be a part of your developing family, but you don't want to rob them of the experience of becoming part of that family. When we act like Christianity is totally normal we miss out on the beauty of the Christian story. We miss out on what makes Christianity different from the dominant forms of culture.

Like Community, the church doesn't need to apologize for being weird and crazy. That's why we're there in the first place.


You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenHoward87 or email him at benjamin.howard87 [at]

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