More Cowbell

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Saturday Night Live, the one-of-a-kind comedy show that launched its 48th season earlier this month, has aired more than 10,000 sketches.
Critics and fans agree that if there’s ever an authoritative Top 10 list of the best skits, it will have to include the April 8, 2000, sketch that’s come to be known as “More Cowbell.” 
In a parody of Behind the Music, cast members portray the underground rock group Blue Oyster Cult during the 1976 recording of their hit Don’t Fear the Reaper.  Famed producer Bruce Dickinson, played by Christopher Walken, guides the band through this signature moment.  As they begin to lay down tracks, a band member named Gene Frenkle (a fictional character portrayed by Will Ferrell) loudly keeps the beat with his cowbell.  The other band members are annoyed.  They ask Dickinson to reel in the abrasive sound.
To their surprise, the producer doesn’t recommend less cowbell.  He wants more.  “Really explore the studio space this time,” he advises Gene.
The result is musical chaos.  The band keeps asking for help.  Dickinson reappears and utters the now-famous line, “Guess what?  I’ve got a fever.  And the only prescription is more cowbell.”
Ferrell, who wrote the sketch, had submitted it seven times over a number of months to the SNL powers-that-be before it was approved.  No one guessed it would become one of the show’s greatest hits.  Ferrell now jokes that it ruined Christopher Walken’s life, since no one asks the celebrated actor about his numerous major awards.  All they want to hear about is cowbells.  You can check out the original sketch here:  More Cowbell – SNL – YouTube
“More cowbell” has become a cultural meme.  If you’re someone of a certain age who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “meme” (and aren’t quite sure whom you should ask) it’s an idea, behavior, or cultural reference that spreads rapidly through conversation and social media. 
These days, if you’re worked up about something, the prescription just might be more cowbell – piling on a good thing until you’re way past the saturation point. 
Cowbells came to mind yesterday when I began to get responses to my reflection about how people on both the Left and the Right want to claim Jesus.  It always interesting when emails begin with the words, “I usually like what you have to say, but today…”  It was time to take a deep breath and retrace my steps across the minefield. 
Readers had suggestions.  I should have written that what those liberals really need is to take Scripture seriously.  Or I should have pointed out that conservatives need to quit thinking that sins of the flesh are so much worse than sins of the spirit. 
Some people could not imagine that those on the other side of the theological divide can even comprehend what it means to love Jesus.  How did I ever get taken in by their phoniness?    
So what we need is more Bible study.  And more lines in the sand.  And more theological litmus tests. 
We need more cowbell.       
Actually, what we need is to remember that those with whom we disagree are, just like us, people of unsurpassable worth.  They are image-bearers of the Creator.  Jesus died for them on the cross.  They, like us, have been called to follow Jesus into a grace-powered life of purpose and meaning. 
How we choose to hear each other and love each other – frankly, to give each other the simple gift of listening before we choose to pull the lever on the dump truck of our own convictions – will say volumes about our own walks with Christ.  “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). 
I’m an evangelical who has experienced his entire ministry within a liberal mainline denomination. 
I feel the tension on both sides.  I have firsthand experience that there are both progressives and conservatives in this world who really do want to please God.  There are high hopes and great visions on both sides, as well as fearfulness and foolishness.  All of us can do better. 
Above all, we can’t afford to give up on the hope of finding common ground in Christ.    
 No, that doesn’t mean surrendering our deepest dreams, nor the convictions we know we must never surrender. 
But it does mean, as a first step, asking God to help us rediscover our mutual humanity. 
That’s a prescription our Father in heaven will be more than happy to fill.