Wednesday, July 13, 2011

CHRISTIANS AND THEIR CULTURE

It is really difficult to talk about Christianity and culture. This is because there is such diversity of thought about how they are to relate if, in fact, they are to relate at all. There are those who see the culture in which we live as the enemy of Christianity and so have nothing but disdain when addressing the subject. 


Others see no problem with adapting to the culture when speaking of methods and believe to do so makes for giving our gospel message a better hearing. The consequence has been an introduction of media, atmosphere, entertainment, facilities and a myriad of other cultural tools that are an attempt to draw people to the gathering of the Church for that hearing of the gospel. 


Whether or not the final verdict is in on the effect all this is having on Christianity is also debatable perhaps. But one person has offered his opinion on that effect. I'm speaking of Ken Meyers of Mars Hill Audio and author of the book entitled "All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes"  


One of the best quotes in that book is this,  .."I believe that the challenge of living with popular culture may well be as serious for modern Christians as persecution and plagues were for the saints of earlier centuries. . . Enemies that come loudly and visibly are usually much easier to fight than those that are undetectable. . . But the erosion of character, the spoiling of innocent pleasures, and the cheapening of life itself that often accompany modern popular culture can occur so subtly that we believe nothing has happened."


If you think Myers has joined the 'abandon culture because it's the enemy' Christian group, you would be mistaken. He ALSO said this in speaking about Fundamentalists of the past...."Rather than attempting to understand what was happening in modern culture, they retreated to a cultural ghetto." Meyers did not mean that as a compliment by the way. 


What Meyers did do rather effectively is to show that culture is complex. In his book he divides culture into three categories. Those categories are Folk culture, High culture, and a somewhat new phenomenon he calls Pop culture.


According to Meyers, High culture is generally a society attempting to elevate the thoughts and emotions of the people and has as its' goal an ability to reflect seriously on things that transcends the present and bringing people along in that thinking. 


He sees Folk culture as a unique worldview of a particular place, community, or group of people. It is the communal sharing of traditions and values. Folk culture holds the people accountable to the community for those traditions and values..


Pop culture, however, is the leveling out of the High and expanding of the Folk in an attempt to appeal to all peoples. It winds up being an attempt to appeal to the masses by taking on a marketing style approach and becomes, as a result, strongly individualistic rather than community. 


It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that when Meyers criticizes the Church for embracing it's culture it is the Pop culture that he is referring to. A quote from one who critiqued his book says this..."One of the key issues that Meyer is seeking to address is the wholesale embrace of the methodology of pop culture by the church under the banner of contextualization. He points out that the church has long been the bastion of High culture, elevating minds and hearts and focusing people’s attention to the transcendent, and folk culture, instilling communal values and cultural heritage. Now, however, the church is often simply imitating the worst of pop culture and mixing in a little Jesus."


Now reread the quote from the opening of this post and it will make a little more sense I think. 


"I believe that the challenge of living with popular culture may well be as serious for modern Christians as persecution and plagues were for the saints of earlier centuries. . . Enemies that come loudly and visibly are usually much easier to fight than those that are undetectable. . . But the erosion of character, the spoiling of innocent pleasures, and the cheapening of life itself that often accompany modern popular culture can occur so subtly that we believe nothing has happened."


Maybe the book might be worth the reading! What do you think?


Paul B.

7 comments:

Aussie John said...

Paul,

Sounds like a much needed read, and that he has put his finger on the pulse of much of what is happening in the church scene.

"Rather than attempting to understand what was happening in modern culture, they retreated to a cultural ghetto", is certainly true of a large part of the traditional evangelical scene in this country.

The difficulty I see here is that, broadly speaking, The Old Covenant still rules in the lives of the adherents.

I'd be rather sure that there is very little, if any, folk culture affecting church groups. Some rural churches may have a folksy appearance, but would largely fit Meyers' first category.

Pop culture has been very successful establishing itself in the church scene. From my point of view,behavior without consequences, a symbolic Jesus, combined with the mantra of cultural contextualization, is more often than not, very much to the fore, with rebellion as solid ingredient.

From conversations I've had, it seems to me,that addiction to personal sensual stimulus is, far more, the driving force of the latter.

Meyers hit the nail on the head when he said, ".....the erosion of character, the spoiling of innocent pleasures, and the cheapening of life itself..." is very evident.

Tor Hershman said...

The Human CULTure, what a sadly ill parody of civilization.

Josh Deerinwater said...

A really smart dude, who I can't remember to give credit to, said: fundamentalism tends to condemn and criticize culture, and liberalism leads to copy and blind consumption of it. But God is the Creator and Cultivator, and we (Christians) should be creating culture and redeeming or cultivating those parts of culture that could bring glory to God and help us explain the Gospel to the lost. Whatever is good, noble, and right... Through folk and fine we speak to every tribe and tongue.

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

This..".From conversations I've had, it seems to me,that addiction to personal sensual stimulus is, far more, the driving force of the latter"...is pretty insightful.

Tor,

But inevitable when you have multiple humans.


Josh,

Interesting quote. Thanks for stopping by.

Johnny D. said...

I have experienced all sides of this issue. I won't explain, because if folks want to know, they can read my past blogs.

To answer your question, yes, I'd like to read the book.

I think that lost people are looking for something genuine. And I think that if we Christians are seeking after God with our whole hearts, no matter where we are perceived within pop culture, or any culture - lost people will be drawn to what we have. Christ offers peace with God and peace with ourselves. That can't be bought, and it can't be cultured into existence. "My yoke is easy and my burden is light," can't be bought. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, with prayer and petition, make your requests known to God, and the peace of God will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" can't be cultured in.

The challenge is in us being genuine, vulnerable and caring. I think a perfect example of what I mean can be found in your son's recent blog about how he dealt with gays when he met with them.

I love you Lord Jesus and thank you for the peace you have given me.

Paul Burleson said...

Johnny D.

I could not agree more with what you've expressed. Welcome and stop by often.

Anonymous said...

Aussie John, I agree with your “hit the nail on the head” “,,, the erosion of character… " as being the most tempting sins that Christians face.

As Myers said, “Enemies that come loudly and visibly are usually much easier to fight than those that are undetectable” fit Peter as he slashed off an ear but warming his hands by the fire…the cock crowed.

We see on TV how the main characters get in a tight spot and try lying their way out. They make it look funny. That’s the devil’s trick for us to laugh at lies until we accept it as normal.

Johnny D, the Scripture you quoted: "Do not be anxious about anything…” is a goal Christians should live by. Once, I received and email that said, “I panicked and lied.” Do you see the resemblance?

Yale University decided to stop the wrestling that was damaging furniture in school dorms. The vote was tied to kick the ring leader (my father) out of school. Voting the tie off for him to stay was based on: “He will tell the truth when it gets him in trouble; and that gives us something to work with.”
Rex