September 26, 2007
The American and Canadian Idol series capture the attention of those I consider to be serious minded Christians. I'm befuddled by this. No judgment here, for I watch sports. But I'm confused.
Culture is our womb, our social, linguistic sea in which we find life and meaning. It is a gift.
But that doesn't mean it's always good or right. Culture, like humanity, is fallen. The accumulative effect of people living together ends up creating all sorts of good and evil.
One matter should concern us: the danger of falling into the assumption that the Christianity of North American society is closest to what Jesus has in mind. This blending makes us vulnerable in sanctifying our own sins. (The Brits did it in the nineteenth century and Americans/Canadians in the twentieth century.)
We too easily get absorbed by attitudes fueled by the materialism and hedonism that give shape and meaning to this culture. There is so much good that arises within our North American world. We can point to all sorts of policies and opportunities that are outgrowths of this Gospel-influenced society. And that is good. But surging underneath our social experience are instincts and preferences that attempt to lead us as far from Christ's kingdom as they can. Instinct is the ability to know what has enmity with Kingdom values. And of all the skills that leaders need, it's instinct.
An example. In the current debate over church worship patterns, both sides—traditional and emerging—are in danger of bowing to the culture. Traditional worship holds to what grew out of classical and popular culture of past generations, and emerging worship utilizes popular contemporary cultural forms. Both are in serious danger of lacking critical examination by being caught in their respective cultural views.
Countercultural thinking helps see what most miss. In the business world, IBM worked at hardware while Bill Gates focused on software.
We are called to think in ways that are opposite to cultural norms. Not only does that allow the Spirit to help us see what most miss, but it provides an environment of creative ingenuity.
Jay Kessler (YFC, USA) listened beneath the noisy waves of a radical culture brewing in the1960s and 1970s. He deciphered that generation with back-door thinking. While most intuited the world from the front door, he looked for the not-so-obvious. Leadership requires discipline to avoid assuming that the most obvious is correct.
Great Spirit of Jesus, hold us in your word and Word, within the mind of the Father, and keep us from the trap of believing that either popularity or conventionality best shapes our witness of You. Amen.
A restless countercultural instinct to keep challenging the status quo was built into Jesuit heroism.