I’ve tamed my tongue. I’ve holstered my rhetorical fire and ire. I’ve kept my thoughts to myself. But I can’t see another ‘Chuck Knows Church’ video ‘liked’ on Facebook without venting my own deep-in-the-bowels dislike of Chuck and the things he likes about the Church.
Up until now, Church Knows Church has been akin to Farmville or people’s personal Spotify playlists: something slightly annoying for which you could care less but your social media peers persist in posting with evangelistic fervor.
But like Farmville, if not Spotify, Chuck Knows Church is a cloying annoyance that ultimately warrants a smackdown.
In case you don’t already know, Chuck Knows Church is a PR campaign produced by the United Methodist Board of Discipleship. It’s a series of online, informational videos ‘about stuff in the church.’
The ‘stuff in the church’ is explained to us by ‘Chuck,’ the host with a floppy head of hair and the harmless, vacant expression of Huey Lewis.
Some of the urgent ‘stuff’ in the church Chuck feels the need to explain includes: the symbols on paraments, candles, collects, stoles, robes, doxologies and (prepare for to vomit in your mouth) ushers.
While this isn’t an exhaustive list of things Chuck knows about the Church, it is representative. So my question is a fair one:
Notice anything missing in that list above?
In this respect, Chuck Knows Church is similar to the multimillion dollar ad campaign the United Methodist Church pushed a few years ago: ‘Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.’ In addition to being a campaign that verged on false advertising (I can think of plenty of friends who don’t think we’re that open-minded and my church has all but door #3 locked), it spent millions pushing the institution of the church without ever making mention of Jesus and his movement.
Providing further evidence that mainline Christians never met a cultural trend they weren’t safely and inoffensively behind, Chuck Knows Church begins with an opening montage that hearkens back to the lead credits and theme song of Friends (albeit with hints of Chopped).
The viewer is then greeted by Chuck, who, despite looking like a naif, appears to know quite a lot about things in Church that don’t matter.
In truth, it’s not Chuck’s fault.
He’s assigned his topics and fed his lines by the people behind the camera.
This Charles isn’t really in charge; he’s just a professional actor.
You read that right.
More false advertising.
Though we’re led to believe Chuck is real life preacher man, he’s really a (apparently down on his luck) thespian. So the stuff Chuck knows about Church that doesn’t matter is chosen by other real life pastors and church professionals who don’t know what matters about Church: Jesus.
I guess that shouldn’t be surprising. That United Methodist pastors are collectively such poor communicators a professional actor is required for 3 minute online films is all the indictment the Church needs.
I mean…a video explaining everything we need to know about stoles? This when 2/3 of the nation know not Jesus?
A video about ushers?
Usher isn’t even a religious category. The Kennedy Center and Nationals Park have ushers.
It’s a matter of function not faith.
And maybe that’s the most revealing thing about Chuck Knows Church and what irritates me so. It’s concerned with the function of church but not its faith.
Chuck Knows Church majors in the minors precisely at a time in the life of the Universal Church when millions are choosing other majors.
Chuck Knows Church works to explain why people should be interested in our institution and its habits rather than exhibiting any evidence of having reflected on what we can do (different) to interest people in Jesus.
As scores of business experts have written, once an institution needs to explain and justify its practices (rather than offer the product) to customers, the institution is already in the throes of irreversible decline.
And as Stanley Hauerwas likes to say, once you need to translate a language into modern terms (doxology, collect) its a sure sign the language you’re speaking is a dead one.
Chuck may know Church but, so far at least, not many people seem to know Chuck. The only people I see ‘liking’ him are pastors and church nerds. People who already know everything Chuck knows and most likely are excited by the unchurched getting to know Chuck.
But I don’t think that’s happening.
And I can’t decide whether that’s a good thing or not.