You may know actor Bill Murray from his role in Ghostbusters, or his work in sixty-two other movies, or his antics on Saturday Night Live. What you don’t know Bill Murray for is saintliness. Though one of his sisters is a nun, he is famous for his assertion that “religion is the worst enemy of mankind.”
But The New York Times tells us that Murray is now our “secular saint.” You can buy Bill Murray T-shirts, coasters and coffee mugs, a “Saint Bill Murray” prayer candle, and even what the Times describes as “a baby mobile with dangling felt dolls representing his movie characters.” People are tattooing his face on their arms and calves. Said one fan, “People connect to Bill because he has a charming irreverence.”
What does it say about us that there is a “Saint Bill Murray” prayer candle?
Frederick J. Parrella teaches religion at the University of Santa Clara. His essay “Spirituality in Crisis: The Search for Transcendence in our Therapeutic Culture” is insightful. He notes that we have “separated religion from the public and political sphere,” so that modern Westerners rely “ever more heavily on science, technology and psychology to aid them in ordering and interpreting their world.”
But we know something’s missing. Even though we claim that God is whatever we believe him to be and we canonize irreligious actors, our souls long for more. We can take Christ out of Christmas, but he refuses to stay on the sidelines. His Spirit pursues us even when we refuse to pursue him. He is a Father who seeks his prodigals until we return home.
Yesterday a friend noted that “Christmas” is now “Me-mas.” What are we going to do about the creeping secularism of our day? We can condemn it, criticizing lost people for acting like lost people. We can capitulate to it, separating Sunday from Monday and religion from the “real world.” Or we can find creative ways to call people to the One their souls long to know.
Consider the Christmas yard sign story making headlines today. Pastor Jimmy Terry in Clarksville, Tennessee has printed thousands of signs that read “Christmas is all about Jesus.” He plans to distribute them across each of Tennessee’s ninety-five counties. He told reporters, “We’re hoping that this movement in Tennessee can influence the rest of the nation. We are praying for such an impact this year that we can start to influence others around the country.”
Jesus told his first disciples, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18). The latter results inevitably for the former. If I follow Jesus, I will help others follow him. If I am not helping people follow Jesus, I’m not really following him myself.
A critic told evangelist Dwight Moody, “I don’t like your evangelistic methods.” Moody replied, “I don’t like them much, either. Tell me about yours.” The critic said, “I don’t have any.” Moody: “I like mine better than yours.”
How will you help someone follow Jesus today?