Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Counter-cultural or just culturally retarded

Many years ago while I was still an Evangelical Protestant, a disturbing thought crossed my mind. I ignored it rather than dealing with it. Even after all these years, it seems just as relevant.

We know we aren't supposed to be "worldly" but do we just settle for promoting the worldly ideas of forty years ago over the worldly ideas of today? We also know we aren't supposed to be bound by the mere "traditions of man" but do we just settle for promoting the traditions of forty years ago over the traditions of one hundred years ago?

I heard of a generation of Christians which forbade dancing to rock music (it was current) and alcohol, allowed square dancing (it was a bit old), didn't insist that all people baptized as infants be re-baptized (that was even older). Then came the another (containing me) generation which allowed dancing to rock music and drinking alcohol (it was now a bit old), didn't promote homosexual lifestyles (it was new), and left square dancing behind as a like a bad memory.

Or take the generation of Christians that resisted modernist demands that the Christian faith provide scientific evidence for its faith claims (modernism was new). Then came the generation (containing me) that met the modernist demands for scientific evidence (modernism was a bit old), rejected the post-modernist relativism (post-modernism was new), and criticized the previous generation for running away from the challenges of modernism (pre-modernism was old). And now, are things very different?

I read of a new generation which answers the challenges of post-modernism (which is now a bit old) and criticizes the previous generation for clinging to modernism (which is now old). And so the pattern continues of being about forty years behind the world. We're not worldly because we're not current. We're not into the traditions of man because we reject stuff from a hundred years ago.

And in my case maybe I'm two steps behind rather than one step behind like the other Christians.


~m said...

you are right on. excellent point.

Calvin said...

Richard, good thoughts and I thought about this for a day. Anyhow two things came to mind.

1. The church is called to not be "worldly", but this doesn't mean that the world doesn't creep in. The changing landscape is going to have an effect on the church no matter what. We should still swim upstream when the culture is making bad choices.

2. There is a need to separate core beliefs from social trends. I think what you really are noticing is the generational change-up of cultural values, and good old-fashioned resistance to change. I'm not sure it says a lot per se about whether the church is worldly or not.

kris said...

I agree with that but I also disagree. In terms of accepting trends, fashions, etc. church people generally have a short memory and a closed mind, imo. My grandpa wore bell-bottom pants in the 70's and now wears Arnold Palmer (like everyone else in the 70's and everyone currently in their 70's) but he thinks my brother is worldly because he wears his jeans half way down his butt.

I think what most people I know think of as worldy isn't really what the Bible is referring to. It seems to me that worldliness refers to the values and priorities of the world.

The contrast between worldly and godly is a contrast between selflessness and selfishness.

You can't tell if someone is being worldly just by looking at them.

kris said...

PS - when I said "I agree with that..." I was referring to the original post, Calvin's comment wasn't there when I started my post :-)

I like the direction Calvin is going in though.

~m said...

i thought i'd expand:

there is an attitude in the church that says, "this is worldly - hence, dangerous - because it's trendy."

there's a reactionary group within the church that responds with the reverse: "we must embrace this and harness it for God's glory because it's trendy."

we are going about it backward, in either case: we're beginning with the world and trying to drag it to God. shouldn't we be striving to bring God - uncompromised and undiluted - to the world?

instead, we're focussing on being relevant to a culture that's never static, and spending time educating ourselves in post-modernism (which i don't believe exists, anyway!).

what happened to loving people as individuals, educating ourselves in who they are and what matters to them?