Country singer John Conlee has produced some great songs. I don't like all country music just like I don't like all gospel music. The lyrics and beat have a lot to do with whether I like a song regardless of the genre.
"The Old School" is a Conlee song that tells the story of high school love that is lost as she goes for a career after graduation and marries for money while he drives a truck and raises a family. Her marriage fails. His thrives. Reunion time comes. She asks for a dance. As they glide across the floor an exchange is sung this way by Conlee...
"It could be like old times..you ask if I understand you..well yes, I'm afraid I do..you say everyone does it. I don't care if they do.
I'm of the ..old school."
In that sense the "old school" is the old-fashioned way of viewing immorality and the keeping of marriage vows. I say 'hooray' for the old school and for John Conley. [Although he's just singing about it at the moment.]
But if you move the "old school" idea out of the realm of morality and placed it along side the "new school" comparing it to new ways of thinking about things that are merely cultural or things the bible doesn't speak with total clarity on, it isn't that simple. The "old school" isn't always right because it's old and the "new school" isn't always wrong because it's new.
Also, in the issues where the scriptures do speak, often new insight into the meaning of Greek words, a better understanding of the context of a passage or better understanding of the historical situation may enable one to move from an old school of thought and embrace a new school of thought and be honest, biblical and correct in doing so. [And it not be heretical at all]
With that in mind, I want to look at what I perceive to be "old school" "new school" ways of thinking about several issues and try to track why I personally may have moved from one school to the other or, in fact, stayed with the "old school."
Take a simple thing like manners. The "old school" of thought has caused me to open doors for women, rise when a woman joins us at a table or our group and remove my baseball cap inside a building such a restaurant or church facility.
The "new school" of thought is different. At a Starbucks recently I held the door open for a young woman and she glared at me as she said "I can do it for myself." It was obvious to me she had felt the indignity of inequality heaped upon her by our culture in the home or workplace and certain actions shouted out to her that she was considered less as a person, helpless and feminine in gender to boot.
Add it all together and the sweet little helpless thing needed a man albeit momentarily. [And don't forget it was a male who was saying it by this door action. But she was not having any of that.] My response to her was literally an embarrassed 'sorry, I'm of the old school.' I don't think she cared where I went to school or how long ago it was.
The fact that my gesture had a different purpose and intention behind it was fine for me to know.. but it didn't help my moment of interaction with her.
Now. I could say that I was right [old school] and her new way of thinking [new school] was destroying manners in our society. The truth is it was a cultural moment and no right or wrong way of doing or thinking was involved at all. Just different ways of doing and thinking.
If I had gotten angry or had shown my displeasure with her or projected myself to the head of the table [above her] in my assessment of character based on that exchange, I would have effectively declared war on her and her culture of new thought and that declaration of war would be known by all because my attitude would leak...profusely. For me to ever impact her and her culture with the gospel would be practically impossible were I to persist in that attitude of war.
One more example. Removing your baseball cap. I'm of the "old school." I still find it difficult to wear one inside a cafe, I do...but it has taken a while to experience freedom in doing so. I still can't keep it on in a church building. I think it shows respect to remove it in a church gathering and there may even be some sense of a scriptural atmosphere in it's removal although no clearly stated command to do so can I find. But it feels right to me. It's my generation I'm sure. We're "old school" you see.
Young people today are of a "new school" of thinking. A baseball cap is like their pants, no matter how dirty, they are never to be removed except at night to stand them in the corner til the next day. When a young man leaves his cap on in church I can tell him to "take it off in the house of God" as one deacon did to one teen-ager who responded, "sir, this cap is ON the House of God." [Better theology than the deacon's don't you think?]
In elevating an "old school" of thought on manners as that deacon did to an ought/should/must, it may be that another declaration of war is sounded on the enemy [new school/cultural thinking] and a door is heard slamming shut to the gospel being effectively shared with a young man and much of his generation.
I'm not saying we can't establish boundaries and even request young men to remove their hats in church, but it might be wise to do so on a cultural or personal basis rather than a right/wrong moral basis. If we're angry, judgmental, or condemning of their actions...it leaks...as I said.
I might request that for the worship hour hats be removed out of respect for our gathering unless there is a personal reason or conviction against removing it which would be understood and respected as well. In such a case, feel free to not remove it.
Were I to do this, I probably would do it regularly as a teaching moment when someone's hat isn't an issue much as I do my statement "crying babies are like good intentions, it would be a help to everyone if they are carried out immediately." Or I might choose to not make a big deal about it at all. But, as I say, it's hard for me not to. "Old school" remember.
Someone may be wondering why I even mention such mundane matters as manners. It is to establish a principle of relating to people who are different in cultural attitudes. They are not the enemy. If I consider them to be, that carries over into major things rather quickly. People are important and my view of a lot of things is not the right view because it's mine and is of the "old school." It has to pass muster with whether or not my view is, in fact, something clearly biblical or whether it is my "old school" cultural thinking and is still just that.. cultural. If just cultural...things have a way of changing and it may be legitimate to move from the "old school" to the "new school" of thought and not bankrupt your christianity.
Caps on in church is mundane perhaps. But styles of worship? Marriage? The pulpit and politics? Preaching exegetically or topically? Do we tend toward making sacred certain things that are not.. in fact.. and may even be just cultural? [Just a different one than the present.] We may be unnecessarily declaring war on our culture if we are not careful and hinder the gospel because we wind up being more committed to an old school of thought than we are to Jesus and His message.
In other words, I could be baptist in a certain view of things and think of it as christianity and it not be biblical at all. Just some of my "old school" baptist thinking that is, in fact, only cultural. Old culture.
Bottomline? I would say.......
People are important. Maybe more important than old baptist culture even.
We're not at war with people and their ideas automatically even if they aren't christian and we are or they aren't baptist and I am.
It is possible to be "old school' and more cultural than christian and not even know it.
While accusing others [splinter in the eye] of embracing culture into their christianity, some of us may have a 2by4 in ours. More later..