Recently, a young man in Russia posed for a picture, with him sprawled on the ground. His feet were near the bottom step of a very expensive private jet. This was a joke, pretending to be richer than Solomon, and owning a fabulous private jet. Most of the world would never know about this small joke, except that it went viral and became a meme, in China.
Now, China has a fad of ‘falling out of your car.’ Typically, a young woman, in expensive clothes will pose for a picture, sprawled on her face. Around her head will be an arch of expensive things that only rich people have, like high-end phones, make-up, jewellery, and wads of cash. Her feet will be near the open door of a very expensive car, as if she fell while getting out. All the hardware and clothes show that she lives the life of a fabulous movie star.
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I predict this meme will travel around the world, and we will all have a good laugh.
But humor does not live alone. When you see a common joke or meme, ask yourself what serious idea started it all. There is a process among us, sometimes called ‘profanation.’ If we believe something with devotion, like a religion, we can begin to make jokes about it. This is called the ‘carnival’ stage, and it might happen to a younger generation, like the kids laughing at Grandma’s old-time religion. For example, Mardi Gras used to be a serious holy day for conservative Catholics, but it has been made into lewd entertainment, carnivalized into a carnival, in places like New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro.
The ‘profane’ stage comes later, when we reject the old idea and criticize it. This is the angry atheist stage, when people grow tired of old ideas and reject them. This includes Christianity.
If you wonder where the concept of ‘profanation’ comes from, Mikhail Bakhtin is one of the great thinkers of the 20th century, and someone most of us have never hear of. He was a devout Christian who lived through the Russian revolution, and he survived communism by working at obscure jobs like bookkeeper and college instructor. Most of his friends suffered, but he lived to an old age, from 1895 to 1975.
After his death, many of his papers were discovered and published, including his ideas about ‘profanation.’ Imagine what the communists would have done to him; if his ideas are true, Communism would be sacred, and then a joke, and then a failed and hated system.
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He called that right. Ideas get old, which is why Christians need revivals. Every new generation needs to find faith in Jesus for themselves, “God has no grandchildren.”
So thank you Mr Bakhtin; and now back to China. Why are they falling out of cars? The young generation is making fun of the devout beliefs of older generations. Around 1980, after decades of struggle under Communism, the Chinese, people and government, adopted the proverb “To get rich is glorious!” We don’t know who said that first, but the whole country lived it, and today they have a world dominating economy. And now the younger generation is joking about those sincere and devout beliefs in the almighty dollar.
That god grew old quickly.
Jesus said it first “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19 to 21)
The gods of this world are harsh masters, and they always leave us.
Call this a prophecy if you want, but what Jesus promised will happen. Worshiping and serving treasure down here is a loss; first a joke, and then a disappointment. Where I live, most wealth is debt, and the pile is growing higher. I see people all around me borrowing and spending, as if it will never end, and possibly it already has ended. I don’t know when the bubble will burst, but that is the end of all bubbles. Many materialists are going to be bitterly disappointed with their god.
He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous shall flourish as the green leaf. (Proverbs 11:28)
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)