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Tag Archives: culture
In his book, The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America first accurately diagnoses the problem facing Christianity in America and then offers an excellent 10-point outline of characteristics that are common of the Christians he believes, and rightly in my estimation, are going to be the best bet in turning that tide.
Many reviewers of Gabe’s book seem to get hung up on the opening line of the book where Gabe makes the case that it is often socially awkward if not downright embarrassing to be identified as a Christian in America. I wonder if these reviewers have had many lunch encounters like I have. There we are, sitting around the table laughing and cutting up and generally having a good time and then someone goes and makes a comment to the effect of “oh come on guys, its not like ANYONE believes ________ anymore”. You can fill in that blank with just about any Christian position but the one that I’ve seen most frequently cited is intelligent design which is commonly confused by non-Christians as merely an alias of young earth creationism.
I mention that not to take a pot shot at YEC but rather to demonstrate the insight found in Gabe’s conclusion that things are rapidly changing and we, Christians, must adapt to the prevailing social landscape.
After outlining the cultural shifts that face us, Gabe tells the story of meeting with a Hollywood movie producer who, after noticing the success of Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, wanted to gain some insight into the Christian market. As a side note, I wonder if this meeting, with Lionsgate executives, is what influenced to brought about the movie “The Book of Eli”.
Gabe describes to them, and us, two major groups and their immediate subgroups. They are:
- Culture Warriors
Gabe outlines each group and what characteristics differentiate them from the rest. This grid is valuable and might be worth the price of the book by itself. As some reviewers have noted, The Next Christians is a further contribution to the Christ and Culture series started by H. Richard Niebuhr’s “Christ and Culture”, and then Craig Carter’s “Rethinking Christ and Culture”, which are great if you want further reading on how Christians relate to the culture they’re in.
At the end of this section Gabe introduces a third overall archetype of Christian which is the main focus of his book, The Next Christians. Overall we can classify these Christians as “restorers”. Christians who aren’t interested in either separation or immersion in culture. They are, in short, culture makers. Subversive agents who seek to use culture where appropriate and transform it gradually to be more Christlike.
Gabe shares numerous anecdotes to illustrate his points. Gabe introduces us to ministries like “To Write Love on Her Arms” which gives a good example of how the Next Christians are characterized by rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty in the brokenness in the world. This isn’t altogether different than how Jesus, his earliest disciples, and many Christians throughout the ages have approaches the cultures in which they live.
Throughout the book Gabe gives good examples of how Christians should tactfully engage the world around them. Navigating the current cultural current by not being too abrasive nor being too complicit. But allowing Christ to work in them to transform hearts and minds.
To that end I was thrilled when Gabe made the observation that the next Christians are people who see every aspect of their lives as sacred. A great example Gabe gave on this point is a couple who moved out to California from the south and decided that since no Christian community existed where they moved that they would create one.
I believe Gabe hits the nail on the head when he writes about how the Next Christians are not interested so much in inviting their friends to church to sit through an event. Not that doing so is horrible per se. But the Next Christians are more interested in bringing Christ to the culture around them. Of being the church in the world.
Overall I found Gabe’s book to be a blessing. It is encouraging to hear how Christians are recognizing the changing landscape, are planning ways to deliberately confront the culture in more winsome ways, and finally, how they are throwing off the shackles of unbiblical traditions which have been dragging us down for quite a while now.
The Next Christians serves as a great field map to help us keep our cultural interface in check so we can more effectively engage with people around us.
And for anyone looking for encouragement about the future of Christianity in America, his book provides it in spades.
And whenever the tormenting spirit from God troubled Saul, David would play the harp. Then Saul would feel better, and the tormenting spirit would go away. -1 Samuel 16:23
There are several things to note about this passage.
The spirit from the lord was a tormenting one
Much ink has been spilled about this passage with regards to the nature of this spirit. It is called in various translations a tormenting spirit, an evil spirit, and a harmful spirit. Based on the context I’m more inclined to view this spirit as something God sent to convict Saul of his evil ways. However, regardless of how we interpret the spirit that was sent, it is important to note that the spirit was from God and was sent to make Saul uncomfortable.
The music of David’s harp counteracted the effect this spirit had
Whether the soothing was achieved through distraction or through Saul’s enjoyment of the music David played, a combination of the two, or some other factor, the fact remains that the music David played was able to produce a spiritual effect.
Implications for us
If music is able to sooth Saul’s torment which was caused by God. It is not unreasonable to think that music is able to induce a spiritual condition not caused by God. This means that people can certainly be led to the alter to confess their sins and repent wholly apart from the inner prompting of the Holy Spirit.
In Scripture we have an example of a communications medium, music, having a conscious and spiritual effect.
We should be careful, then, what do with communication mediums like music. If we are using them to sooth us, we should ask ourselves whether or not we ought to be soothed. If we are using it to rile ourselves up, we should ask whether or not we ought to be riled up.
To give an example, I have recently taught myself to appreciate classical music on my relatively short commute to and from the office. I did this primarily to help transition between two “worlds”, work and home. Music, in this case, helps create a space.
Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak. -William Congreve
Update: A recent paper indicates that music has intoxicating effects. I wonder if the SBC will pass a resolution against music now.
We are now a culture whose information, ideas and epistemology are given form by television, not by the printed word. To be sure, there are still readers and there are many books published, but the uses of print and reading are not the same as they once were; not even in schools, the last institutions where print was thought to be invincible. They delude themselves who believe that television and print coexist, for coexistence implies parity. There is no parity here. Print is now merely a residual epistemology, and it will remain so, aided to some extent by the computer, and newspapers and magazines that are made to look like television screens. Like the fish who survive a toxic river and the boatmen who sail on it, there still dwell among us those whose sense of things is largely influenced by older and clearer waters. the third point is that in the analogy I have drawn above, the river refers largely to what we call public discourse–our political, religious, informational and commercial forms of conversation. I am arguing that a television-based epistemology pollutes public communication and its surrounding landscape, not that it pollutes everything. In the first place, I am constantly reminded of television’s value as a source of comfort and pleasure to the elderly, the infirm and, indeed, all people who find themselves alone in motel rooms. I am also aware of television’s potential for creating a theater for the masses (a subject which in my opinion has not been taken seriously enough). There are also claims that whatever power television might have to undermine rational discourse, its emotional power is so great that it could arouse sentiment against the Vietnam War or against more virulent forms of racism. These and other beneficial possibilities are not to be taken lightly.
We’ve been trained to react to certain words, like Pavlov’s dog. So we hear “diversity” and we are supposed to automatically think it is a universal good.
So says Thomas Sowell in this interview where he also outlines the other problems with the popular stance on diversity.
In a longer interview from the Fixed Point Foundation, we are given a more detailed presentation of How Cultural Diversity is Destroying America.
Here are the combined highlights from both Thomas Sowell and the Fixed Point podcast.
- Diversity by its very nature is divisive
- Far from being a universal good, diversity by itself is destructive without social cohesion (ie. multiculturalism is a deadly poison for any society that dares to drink it)
- Humans from various races are not interchangeable. That is actually demeaning to the people involved.
- It is often claimed that a population is not diverse through poor or deceptive sampling techniques. For example, diversity statistics often do not count
Diversity advocates are fond of creating and passing around posters like this one which are intended to show that America is still very divided racially. However what these advocates often fail to account for, as Thomas Sowell is fond of pointing out, is that the simplistic solution of “we just need to mix people up more” is not only not a suitable answer (never has been historically) but that it actually makes things worse. Without a central culture for people to adhere to, forced diversity only produces strife and animosity.
The chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, has made news recently for saying that Germany’s multiculturalism strategy has failed because it did not emphasized cultural integration. Rather, they accepted immigrants and foreign workers without expecting them to cohere to a set of centralized cultural values and customs.
In short, when Germans stop practicing German customs, then Germany stops being Germany.
I only hope America wakes up and learns this lesson before our mad dash towards diversity at all costs ends up destroying our once great nation.
Oh, and to my liberal friends: When people like Sarah Palin (whose very name manages to evoke an almost comical albiet visceral reaction from her opponents) talk about “real America”, they are likely referring to the set of ideals around which our society cohered for a very long time.
Cultural literacy is nothing more than being aware of popular cultural references. It is not, contrary to popular opinion, the same thing as being intimately aware of all the current trends of culture. Why is it important to be at least minimally aware of current trends in culture? Well, as any good marketer knows, the timeliness of a message is just as important as the message itself. And as Christians, our goal is to tell others about the good news of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. To do that we can and should use as many cultural references that we can.
Here’s a helpful story by way of illustration:
Whenever I go to back to my parent’s house to visit I generally try to go to their church if I’m going to be there on Sunday morning. One Sunday I went with them and decided to visit their young married Sunday School group. During the lesson the wife of the leader mentioned how they watched Twilight recently and how she regretted it somewhat because it was “a complete waste of time”. To that I responded that an underlying theme of Twilight is the refusal of one of the main characters, Edward Cullen, to marry or have sex with Bella, the love-sick (and stupid) teenager. Part of the culture’s fascination with this story is due to the illogical purity and deep and abiding love that is portrayed in the Twilight series. From that simple plot overview, it would be relatively easy to strike up a conversation with a Twilight fan and lead them rather quickly into a conversation about ethics, morality, and ultimately, Jesus Christ and His passion for His bride, the Church.
Cultural literacy is all about maximizing the communication surface for our message. And any attempt to artificially limit that surface is detrimental to the spread of the gospel.
[HT Wintery Knight]
“[A]s long as the family and the myth of the family and the myth of maternity and the maternal instinct are not destroyed, women will still be oppressed…. No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.” ~ Simone de Beauvoir, “Sex, Society, and the Female Dilemma,” Saturday Review, June 14, 1975.
With the above quote in mind, here is an excellent essay outlining why people like myself and my wife are wholly opposed to the radical feminist movement of our era.
The highlights include:
- Feminism is anti-child, leading to a marked rise in abortions worldwide.
- Feminism is anti-male, being almost wholly based (like the NAACP) on the perpetuation of class hatred, the perception (not reality) of inequality.
- Feminism is anti-family, being radically opposed to any gender distinctions it views motherhood as a problem to be solved and not a blessing to be embraced.
In the West we tend to have a particularly hard time saying “no” to any new technology that comes along. This is rather unfortunate on our part. New technologies carry with them fundamental changes or shifts in our culture. And not every shift or change is well thought out, anticipated, or even beneficial.
In 2006 the Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hun Sen, decided to ban the use of camera phones after his wife inadvertently received pornographic pictures on her new phone.
I have written to the Minister of Telecommunications to delay the use of certain mobile phones. We can wait 10 more years until we have managed to improve morality in society. -Hun Sen
Of course, Hun was ridiculed at the time by almost every news outlet in the West. Who wouldn’t want a camera phone? What a Luddite…
But with sexting becoming such a problem among teenagers I am left wondering. Was Hun Sen’s decision really so outlandish? What if Hun Sen was able to understand something we in the West desperately need to learn.
Namely, when to say no (or not yet) to new technology.