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Monday, November 25, 2013

Bible Studies Built Around Mayberry: The Danger and Fallacy of Moralizing

Lifeway Christian Resources, a Southern Baptist entity, recently hosted the Life Lessons From Mayberry: It’s All There in Black and White Conference at its Ridgecrest, North Carolina headquarters. According to the Baptist Press, the event’s purpose was to highlight Bible studies structured around the 1960s sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show. Boasting 500 attendees from 18 states, Lifeway reports that the conference has doubled in the last three years.
In a statement to the Baptist Press, the conference producer, Debbie Wisenant, said "God has provided this means for us because the show has such practical lessons. It's not a lot of deep theology, but it's how to treat your fellow man. It's how to treat people right. I think what most people need is just inspiration to live a better life based on biblical principles."
The Baptist Press was quick to point out that episodes of The Andy Griffith show don’t have an ‘overtly Christian message,’ but that it had themes connected to Scripture like pride, gossip, vanity and so on. Wisenant went on to assert that Griffith insisted each show have a ‘moral’ and she believes that ‘God must have had his hands on some of those writers and scripts, even though some or maybe all of them weren’t Christians.’
I’m not sure about God having his “hands on those writers” working for The Andy Griffith Show as Wisenant suggests. I am positive, however, there are some writers that God did have his hand on. They wrote the Bible. Lifeway markets several versions, so I’m sure they’ve heard of it.
Again illustrating that this run-away entity of the Southern Baptist Convention has more interest in what sells than what is solid, the nation’s largest protestant denomination is hosting a conference promoting unashamed moralism. The truth of the matter is that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints could very well have hosted the Life Lessons from Mayberry Conference. The message is simple; be moral. As so-called ‘life lessons’ replace the Gospel of grace and behavior modification replaces spiritual regeneration, we see profitability in the SBC become prioritized over substance.
The true Gospel proclamation always has and always will struggle against the natural precept of the human mind that is set on works or personal improvement, which manifests itself in religious moralism. Some operate under the fallacious presumption that if we can make people moral, we can turn them into Christians. The fact is, morality is not the payment for sins which God requires; that is the shed blood of Jesus – which the last time I checked, wasn’t proclaimed by Andy, Barney, Otis or any other of the colorful characters in Mayberry.
What’s just as disturbing as a conference undergirded in moralism instead of Gospel, is what was turned to by the very publishers of the Holman Christian Standard Bible to teach non-salvific morality. It was not the glorious Word of God and the incorruptible seed through which we’re born again (2 Peter 1:23), but a sitcom. If the Scripture is sufficient for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16) and we have a nearly unlimited number of teachable examples provided for us in inerrant Scripture, then why turn to a show created and starred-in by errant men?
Andy Griffith might be considered a saint by many evangelicals, but Griffith belonged to the left-leaning and almost doctrineless Moravian Church, was foul-mouthed in real life and in later television series, and was a staunch democrat who supported liberal social policies and financially supported politicians like John Kerry. And quite frankly, it doesn’t make me enjoy or detest The Andy Griffith Show any more or any less. He was an actor in a television series. And that television series was not – unlike the Bible – inspired by God to cut like a two-edged sword, dividing soul and spirit, joint and marrow and neither is it living or active (Hebrews 4:12).
What the evangelical church does not need is a wagging finger toward the world with the message, ‘be moral.’ The world is not moral. And quite frankly, neither is the church because no one is good (Mark 10:18). When the 500 attendees of the Life Lessons from Mayberry Conferencefail to uphold the standard of honesty set before them by Aunt Bee or standard of kindness set for them by Opie (and more importantly, when they fail to uphold God’s standards set forth in the Ten Commandments), what Mayberry character will save them on that day of judgment?
Does Lifeway (and by extension, the Southern Baptist Convention) believe that the Scripture is sufficient? Does Lifeway believe that moralism can save us? Does Lifeway really think the power of the Gospel message lies in a series of life-lessons? Do you need a blood-soaked, bruised and battered Savior for this? These are questions that Southern Baptists need to answer, and if necessary, turn the ship.

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