Thursday, July 17, 2008

Christian Culture

Awhile back, at a conference in Nashville I heard a preacher complaining about Church billboards. Then I recently read an article in relevant about the same thing. So, I want to write about it, as it has been on my heart! I will quote the article and blatantly rip it off often J. Here is an example I was given about church marquee signs: "Give Satan an inch, and he'll be a ruler". I wish I could remember more. The minister from NashVegas collected hundreds of them. I live in a small town with smaller churches, so I don't get the pleasure of reading such humor regularly.

But, I do wonder what the witty authors of such silly signs hope to accomplish? Is this where the Church in America has come to? We would MUCH rather communicate our faith through a sign, or better yet a T-shirt, then through our actions! Why is this? The rest of our personal beliefs aren't worn only on clothing and signs?

I struggle with Christian bookstores like the local Evangel. I need them but loathe them at the same time. I recently have begun buying religious books at "regular" bookstores instead. Because, Christian bookstores are taking on the feel of a Super Duper Mega Mart, full of "Jesus Junk" like "testamints" and crucifix lollipops at the counter. I wonder if this wouldn't be a "temple cleansing" if Jesus were around?!?! Clothes, video games, toys, comic books, food, and music has been changed just enough for it to appear on the surface as Christian. I could go on and on with the silly things you could find there. Yet, I also find many a good resource there too. It is a constant battle.

Having Christian clothes, toys, comic books, and video games aren't bad things in themselves. But does it make Christianity relevant to the rest of society? That is the intent I believe, but I am afraid what it is doing is making us more distant, creating a counter-culture that hides in its own safe corner rather than engaging the lost world.

to quote that article: "In essence, the church has separated itself from America and created its own culture by putting a slight Christian twist to clothing, video games, toys, comic books, food and music. It has stated through its actions that it doesn't want to be a part of culture, but rather create its own culture. It has become a "Christian pop culture" that is disconnected from the rest of society."

Surely this cannot be healthy and surely this does not fit the Great Commission.

So, a Christian culture is one in which the language, politics, customs, and beliefs are only Christian. Although it may not be wrong having Christianity mixed with these things, there is something innately wrong when Christianity exists in a culture by removing itself from that culture and creating its own culture. Isn't there? Am I just crazy?

I am afraid in attempts to "reach out the world" we are cutting the world out of the church instead.

I just don't know that Jesus would wear these silly shirts that I own. Can you imagine healing a blind man in a t-shirt saying "1 savior + 3 nails = 4given"? I am not trying to make a point of fashion here; I am trying to make a point of reaching out to a lost world. The point is that it is unmistakable that Jesus' life on earth was motivated by love!!

The article quoted one of my favorite stories from Mark 6:30-44. In this account, Jesus sees a crowd of people that has just run from several surrounding towns in order to see him. Upon seeing them he is moved with compassion. Jesus' disciples, told Jesus to just send them home. The disciples said this with it already being late and right after they had just spent solitary time with Jesus. They had been by themselves all day and without even spending a moment with the people, they tell Jesus to send them off. Not only did Jesus not send them away, but he met their physical need and spiritual need. He taught them and then he fed them.

The writer than challenged us to consider who we are in this account? Jesus or the disciples? If you say you're Jesus then we are doing it wrong, because if Christians imitated Jesus' example in this account then there would be an attraction to Christianity in America, rather than what we have. When was the last time you saw Christians being depicted as loving??? Christians have been depicted as protesters, politicians, and moralists, while atheist celebrities are the ones being depicted as loving. This is WRONG!

We have a great challenge to love as Jesus did! I think the 1st step to doing so may involve leaving our safe little boxed in culture and going out to the world where love is directly needed! Let us be a people who reveal ourselves fully and better yet, reveal Christ fully, but through love and not only a t-shirt!

T-Shirts by Derek Webb

they'll know us by the t-shirts that we wear
they'll know us by the way we point and stare
at anyone whose sin looks worse than ours
who cannot hide the scars of this curse that we all bare

they'll know us by our picket lines and signs
they'll know us by the pride we hide behind
like anyone on earth is living right
and isn't that why Jesus died
not to make us think we're right

when love, love, love
is what we should be known for
love, love, love
it's the how and it's the why
we live and breathe and we die

they'll know us by reasons we divide
and how we can't seem to unify
because we've gotta sing songs a certain style
or we'll walk right down that aisle
and just leave 'em all behind

they'll know us by the billboards that we make
just turning God's words to cheap clich├ęs
says "what part of murder don't you understand?"
but we hate our fellow man
and point a finger at his grave

they'll know us by the t-shirts that we wear
they'll know us by the way we point and stare
telling 'em their sins are worse than ours
thinking we can hide our scars
beneath these t-shirts that we wear

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