Culture Defined

Culture is the outward manifestation of a people’s inward beliefs.

Culture is Theology incarnated.

Because the above is true culture is never neutral. Culture descends from and is reflecting some God or god concept. Cultures are hopelessly religious. Christians thus living in cultures that are not particularly Christian will therefore have a difficult time fitting into their culture.

Dueling Ministers

There are at least two kinds of ministers.

One kind ministers in such a way so as to help his people fit their Christianity into the culture in which they live. The thrust here is to help people fit in and navigate their culture while being Christian.

Another kind of minister ministers in such a way so as to help his people understand that Christianity can’t fit into the culture in which they live. The thrust here is to encourage people not to let the world around them squeeze them into its mold.

These two ministers won’t typically understand one another very well.

Trying to solve Evangelism — Thinking Out Loud

Typical Evangelism seeks to pick people off one by one while paying little attention to the context in which people are living. This is like going to a group of Pirates, resplendent with all the appropriate scenery, gear, and pirate habits and urging Pirates to convert to becoming Cowboys without providing them any kind of context in order to understand the Cowboy life vis-a-vis their Pirate lives. The consequence of this kind of evangelism, when successful, is to have a few Cowboys walking around in a Pirate culture not really making much of an impact since everything is understood in terms of Piracy. The consequence of this kind of evangelism, when unsuccessful, is to have a bunch of pirates walking around who fit right into pirate culture but who constantly insist that they are Cowboys, or perhaps even going so far as to say that Cowboys are really Pirates, only better.

Indeed, I would contend that much of our evangelism today is the type that doesn’t really confront people with the idea that conversion means understanding, and so living life, in a measure and in a way that is dramatically different then what is considered common-place. Our Evangelism has largely forgotten the anti-thesis that insists that the thinking of Christians must be overwhelmingly different then those who are not Christians. This has resulted in whole Churches and denominations, and thus Christians, that are devoted to aping the culture in their Worship services.

It strikes me that the solution to this is to start asking ourselves if an Evangelism that picks people off, one by one, without paying any attention to the context in which they live is proper evangelism. This is especially true given that we live in an anti-intellectual age while ours is a Gospel that requires one’s thinking to be radically altered in order for adult conversion to be genuine.

But maybe there are other means to see genuine conversion apart from demanding people, living in an anti-intellectual age, to engage in struggling directly (and ‘directly’ is a key word) with the propositional nature of the Gospel. Perhaps, instead of expecting individuals one by one, here and there, to do intellectual labor and so be converted we might pursue an Evangelism that seeks to change the whole scenery and context so that people are converted because they indirectly do the intellectual labor unto conversion by means of seeing themselves fitting into a different cultural and contextual storyline.

Imagine trying to convert Little Red Riding Hood. All she knows is her story. But if you change her story (her scenery, her preoccupation with the wolf, her sorry Red Riding hood) and suddenly she might be able to hear the new message that there are other story lines where she isn’t forever having to flee from carnivorous wolves.

People are chameleons. Most people are eclectic or conglomerate thinkers who do not think about their convictions but pick them up like the common cold by being infected and affected by the cultural backdrop against which they live. In our culture most people (including Christians) are pagan humanists, not by choice, but because, being chameleons, they have blended in with the worldview scenery. One can’t help but wonder whether or not if one changes the scenery, or if one provides an alternative scenery for people to live against, the consequence wouldn’t be large scale genuine conversion as chameleons change their colors to fit against their new backdrop.

This would require our Evangelism to be stocked with another arrow in our quiver. While we would retain the arrow that presses the propositional nature of truth that thinkers could engage and so be converted via the Holy Spirit’s awakening of their intellect via direct challenge, we could add the arrow that creates a beautiful living context that people would be invited to so that they might be genuinely converted via the Holy Spirit’s awakening of their intellect via an indirect challenge. An indirect challenge that invites them to exchange the storyline they are living in from a culture of death to a very different storyline where they can find a culture of life. This is, it seems to me, a covenantal approach to evangelism, if only because what people are being asked to do is not to individually arrive at the truth, but rather to experience, in a covenantal context, the goodness and the beauty of the Christian life. To pick up the metaphor that we used earlier, we would ask them to quit being pirates and come into a different story line that is more appealing. (“Just imagine…no more swabbing the deck, no more being hung from the highest yardarm or walking the plank or being keelhauled, or having parrot poop on your shoulder.”) We would quit expecting people to embrace a naked, solely intellectually driven Christianity, and offer to them a Christianity that doesn’t demand every single individual to understand all the propositions of Scripture but does provide a story line that implicitly contains all the propositions of Scripture as the scenery against which they can understand their living.

This would require the Church to start (it’s already happening in some places) to build alternate communities. These Christian faith communities would be parallel but not isolated communities. They would be parallel enough to provide a contrast to the life of non-Christian communities but not so isolated that those living in faith community would cease being salt and light to the larger community.

Failing this approach, but still harmonious with the thrust is the suggestion that perhaps our Evangelism needs to be done in this culture by means of writing good stories. Once again, the foundation of the thinking is that people, being chameleons, are more prone to draw meaning out of a good story about the true and the beautiful quite apart from holding direct conversation with themselves about what is true. In an non-intellectual age perhaps giving people the means by which they can be drawn into a narrative they find appealing, even if they can’t articulate why, is a way of doing sound evangelism.

The common strand here is the idea that most people don’t live the life they live because they have sat down and had a conversation with themselves about what is true. Most people don’t build their worldview houses with propositional sticks and stones but rather move into houses that they think look nice that other people have built before them. Now the houses they move into do indeed have a propositional structure but that is not what they are seeing when they move into them. Rather what they see is that the worldview house they are moving into fits the context of the storyline they are living. Change the storyline and they will want different houses, perhaps not even knowing why.

Nobody is advocating dispensing with individual evangelism that focuses on the propositional nature of truth. That still needs to be done because people who convert in that kind of context are the people who can help build the proper cultural storyline. What is being advocated is embracing, for those who are not thinkers (and legion is their name) a way to offer Christ that still includes all the propositions of Scripture but serves them up in a embodied context.

Huckabee Campaign Rally

It’s true.

I attended a Huckabee for President campaign rally in St. John’s Michigan last Friday Night. Please don’t hold it against me as it was Huckabee who invaded my space and not my going out of my way to swoon over his rock star like status. My Son was competing in a Homeschool basketball game and the Huckabee campaign decided that the venue would be a great photo op and rally site. Now, I could have decided to just miss the game since it was being converted into a ‘All ignorant Jesus lovers vote for me’ rally but since I am an assistant coach for Anthony’s team I though I would grin and bear it.

However, since I was forced to be there I do have an observation about those gathered, a observation about Huckabee and an sociological observation regarding social behavior towards those who refuse to drink the kool-aid and who scream loudly that others shouldn’t drink the kool-aid.

First concerning the gathered lemmings — it was as if I was transported to a Tom Jones concert of 40 years ago. You know … the type where all the women would throw their undergarments on the stage along with their hotel room keys in hopes that Tom would pick them. The swooning was surreal. Before Huckabee arrived their were announcements on the PA about how the Huckabee staffers were nervous that the crowd would swarm him and pleas that everyone would let the candidate approach them and not approach the candidate. The people in charge of the campaign kept giving us minute by minute updates on the coming of Huckabbe. “Governor Huckabee is 10 minutes out. Governor Huckabee is 5 minutes out. Governor Huckabee is 2 minute out.” And on and on it went. The last time I’ve seen a person tracked this closely was Santa Clause on Christmas Eve. Every time an update was given the 500 souls in the gymnasium would swoon like teenage girls being asked out on their first date. Then we had practice cheering runs. “Let me hear what kind of noise you’re going to make when future President Huckabee shows up.” I found myself wondering how Royalty was ever treated any differently. These people were wetting their pants over getting to be in the same room with a guy that makes Tricky Dick and Slick Willie look like amateurs.

And then when Huckabee shows up it was more of the same. The Huckster’s speech was boiler plate political vapid. There was no there ‘there.’ My 18 year old daughter characterized it as ‘bushwah.’ And yet people were screaming their lungs out as if Huckabee was serving as the prophet of Allah making pronouncements revealing Allah’s will.

To be honest I was ashamed of myself. Ashamed because despite all my skepticism and cynicism I had underestimated the ability of those who call themselves Christians to be totally deluded. Those 500 people present, most of whom no doubt would label themselves ‘Christian’ have no idea who Mike Huckabee is or what policy he has pursued, and further have no desire to know. It is enough for them that Mike says he is the Jesus candidate. I used to think that these people were being manipulated by their Pastors but having spoken to a few Huckabee Pastor types I realize that the fog in the pew is because of the mist in the pulpit. In short, their Pastors are just as deluded as the rank and file. Somehow a lemming avalanche for Huckabee got started and once the avalanche begins no amount of reasoning will thwart its kinetic energy.

I know this because I got snowed over by the avalanche. When it was announced that Huckabee was going to be in St. Johns and when I realized it was the homeschooling organization that I am loosely a part of that was pushing it I sent a e-mailing out to those in the homeschooling group simply explaining some of the liberal and Statist tendencies of Mike Huckabee and providing links for people to look closer at this wolf in sheep’s clothing. Given the response I received you would have thought that I had committed blasphemy by touching the Lord’s anointed.

So here is the summary of the first observation. People, including Christians, so desperately want heroes that they will turn off rational thought once they decide, for whatever reason, that some person is going to be that hero. Secondly, the Christian community is no different from the non-Christian community when it comes to shallowness, practicing thought by emotion, and sheer unmitigated gullibility.

The observation about Huckabee is that he is slick the same way that Clinton was slick except that he has added Jesus coating to his slickness. This is the my chief reason for disliking Huckabee. It is my estimation that he is cynically using Jesus to get elected. Let’s face it if it weren’t for Huckabee’s ministerial ties and willingness to invoke Jesus at every turn he would be running neck and neck with Duncan Hunter. Recently, I am blaming him less and less for this and increasingly I am blaming the ‘Christian community’ for being such willing fools. Huckabee’s ‘I am the bible’s candidate’ spiel came out again in the few minutes that he spoke where he appealed to people to help him slay the giants he was facing in the Michigan primary the way that David slew Goliath. More identity politics and more red meat for the Jesus fools.

Here is the summary of the second observation. Huckabee will ride this ‘I love Jesus’ train as far as he can. What is unfortunate about it is that he is getting away with what so many ministers in our Churches get away with and that is constantly having Jesus on their lips while preaching a Theology that is not particularly Christian. The goods are out there on Huckabee in terms of his leftist, Statist and non-Christian agenda but Christians just don’t care because it is enough to invoke Jesus.

My final observation is sociological and has reference to the way people treat those who are unwilling to drink the kool-aid. During the 36 hours when all this was unfolding I was told it was inappropriate for me to e-mail people to warn them about Huckabee. My Son was told by someone that they ‘felt sorry for him that he had the Father he had,’ and the most benign look I seem to get now is one that is quizzical as if somebody is looking at a hunchback cannibal with the remnants of dinner still wedged between his teeth. Like the human body, a community protects itself by attacking foreign elements that it perceives does not belong there. Much of the Christian community has decided that Huckabee is the man and woe unto those who suggest that a vote for Huckabee is a vote which is, in reality, precisely against their best interest.

So yes… I attended a Huckabee rally.

And my worst fears were realized.