Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Cultural Winds
From an article by Frederica Mathewes-Green
The influence of the culture on all those individuals, including Christians, is less like that of a formal institution and more like the weather. We can observe that, under current conditions, it's cloudy with a chance of cynicism. Crudity is up, nudity is holding steady, and there is a 60 percent chance that any recent movie will include a shot of a man urinating. Large fluffy clouds of sentimental spirituality are increasing on the horizon, but we have yet to see whether they will blow toward or away from Christian truth. Stay tuned for further developments.

As Mark Twain famously remarked, everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it. I think much of our frustration is due to trying to steer the weather, rather than trying to reach individuals caught up in the storm.
J. Long used culture as weather imagery way back when he first wrote Emerging Hope. I find it to be quite an apt & useful metaphor.
. . . when Christians gather, there's less talk about humility, patience, and the struggle against sin. Instead, there's near-obsessive emphasis on the need for a silver-bullet media product that will magically open the nation to faith in Jesus Christ. Usually, the product they crave is a movie. Now, I'm delighted that Christians are working in Hollywood; we should be salt and light in every community that exists, and so powerful a medium clearly merits our powerful stories. But it's telling that the media extravaganza so eagerly awaited is not a novel or a song, something an individual might undertake, but a movie: something that will require enormous physical and professional resources, millions of dollars, and, basically, be done by somebody else.

This focus on an external, public signal is contrary to the embodied mission of the church. Christ planned to attract people to himself through the transformed lives of his people. It's understandable that we feel chafed by what media giants say about us and the things we care about, and that we crave the chance to tell our own side of the story. It's as if the world's ballpark is ringed with billboards, and we rankle because we should have a billboard too. But if someone should actually see our billboard, and be intrigued, and walk in the door of a church, he would find that he had joined a community that was just creating another billboard.
Ouch. That nicely puts language around on of my greatest fears in creating culturally relevant evangelism &/or worship services. Not that this isn't a good project, just that this is clearly one of the occupation hazzards of the project.
One excellent way to see how much our culture's passing weather patterns have influenced us is to read old books. If you receive all your information from contemporary writers, Christian or secular, you will never perceive whole concepts that people in other generations could see. Every Christian should always have at his bedside at least one book that is at least fifty years old-the older the better. C.S. Lewis has a wonderful passage on this phenomenon in his introduction to St. Athanasius' "On the Incarnation":"Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books."

The "old books" can help us discern the prevailing assumptions of our cultural moment, not only concerning the content of our discussions, but their style.
Here at K&K we never pass up an opportunity to broadcast the signal: You Should Be Reading More & Deeper!

No comments: