The Danger of Identifying with Ambient Culture

obamaFrom a provocative piece on President Obama called “Showered with Praise” from The Weekly Standard:

“Obama is the candidate for those who believe that the New York Times Book Review defines civilization, and Obama will be their revenge. He is Metro, not Retro. He is not from Texas, and doesn’t talk southern. He does not have a ranch, which he does not cut brush on. He has never run anything, but they haven’t either. He does talk and write, which are their professions. He doesn’t look like the men on Mount Rushmore, but then, they don’t either. (Instead, he looks like a catalogue model, or someone in the window of Barney’s or Saks.) He was endorsed, not by the NRA, but by the fashion industry, whose members designed whole collections around him. Not only the Times, but Condé Nast, loves him. He is Woody Allen’s Manhattan to Gary Cooper’s High Noon.”

We all votes for candidates we like, of course, but there’s something in this piece that chills my blood when I think about the Christian church.  Many people who keep their eye on the American cultural elite and avant-garde voted for Obama because, well, the elite and avant-garde were doing it.  I expect this voting method of people with little philosophical and theological orientation.

But it occurred to me in reading this piece that many Christians–people, ostensibly, with a profoundly philosophical and theological orientation–voted for Obama because the elite and avant-garde were.  This does not chill my blood merely because of Obama’s views on abortion, stem cells, and the like.  It would alarm me if the candidate were conservative as well.

In a celebrity, media-driven, personality-celebrating culture, many of us care more about whether someone has an iMac, drives a flex-fuel car, and likes our favorite magazines and cult blogs than whether they stand for life and truth.  This seems true of many Christians.  We’re voting and living based more on mood, on feeling, on impressions, on personality, than we are on lasting, durable, rock-solid things, things that have shape and form and character.

Are we doing the same thing in our churches?  Are we bowing to ambient culture and letting “the cool” or “the impressive” lead us simply because they are cool or impressive (or whatever else)?  If so, we are in danger.  We’re not to identify with passing things, but eternal things; not shifting sands, but foundations that stand all of time’s tests.

Furthermore, it is not the cool who need us (indeed, we should not and do not need them, by definition of our calling), but the poor, helpless, defenseless, and lost.  These people should draw our attention, not the cool.

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  • faithculture

    The Christian church seems to be in no danger of excessive coolness. And come to think of it, neither were the disciples at any time!

    But Christians often unnecessarily overreact and then become proud of their corporate lack of appeal. Things are cool for the wrong reasons, yes, but people and things are sometimes cool because they’re compelling, new, imaginative, controversial, energetic, and dynamic.

    Come to think of it…Jesus’ ministry was all of those things.