Us vs. Ourselves


When I was young my parents made a list of TV shows we weren’t allowed to watch; The Simpsons, because Bart was a jerk, He-Man and The Smurfs because they used magic, G.I. Joe because it was too violent…  When I got older a youth pastor gave me a poster that has a list of popular bands on one side and the “christian” alternative band on the other; If you like such and such you should listen to so and so…  For my 15th birthday I got a t-shirt that had the Abercrombie & Fitch logo that actually said ’A Breadcrumb & Fish”…   Is this what the Bible means when it says to be in the world but not of it?
Stand back and take a look… the Christians and non all look the same,  the music, the clothes, the magazines, books… Christians and non all drive the same cars, live in the same houses, eat in the same restaurants, think the same thoughts, download the same porn.  As Christians we tell ourselves that we are living the life because we have bible verses on our t shirts and a jesus fish on the mini van.  After a while we build our own christian sub-culture, we look at the “sinners” around us and say to ourselves “if they like it, it’s wrong” and we rid ourselves of it in the name of holiness.  We only listen to “christian” music, read “christian” romance novels, wear “christian” t shirts, and look down our “christian” noses at our poor lost neighbors and think, “if only they would start wearing t shirts like mine…”
Jesus used the phrase “whitewashed tombs” to describe folks who think their efforts make them holy; clean on the outside, crumbling and decomposing on the inside.  The Pharisees of Jesus day had their t shirts as well, they had their list of TV shows and musicians to avoid, the foods they were all to proud to not be eating.  When it came right down to it, their “churchy” subculture did nothing more than feed their pride while the naked hooker, crying in the dirt at the feet of Jesus was heart-wide-open before the very throne of God.  Nothing hidden. Nothing fake. Beyond the rescue of lies and fig leaves.
When we talk about The Church and The Culture we are talking about this glorious tiny point in space and time where holiness meets profanity, where the bride of Christ stands up and starts brushing off the dirt, where she drops the filthy, tattered rags she wore on the street corner and puts on a dress so white it blinds the world!
It isn’t the job of the church to run from “culture”, or to make our own little bubble within the world where we’re all home schooled, make our own clothes and churn butter; it’s the churches job to accept the harsh reality of what we were, what we are, and share this gospel, the fantastic life-changing truth with those who are still far off, those who have not heard that there is a dress waiting for them,  a Grace,  ice cold rushing water that can wash them clean and stand them before the almighty God, blameless and full of joy!  Culture isn’t to be avoided, embraced or mimicked. Culture is this process of who we are, becoming who we will be.  The Church isn’t outside of the culture, she is completely entangled in it.  Christians aren’t better than the rest, no matter what their t shirts say. Christians are people. All The Church has to do to change the world is to remember that we are all in this together.

When I was young my parents made a list of TV shows we weren’t allowed to watch; The Simpsons, because Bart was a jerk, He-Man and The Smurfs because they used magic, G.I. Joe because it was too violent…  When I got older a youth pastor gave me a poster that has a list of popular bands on one side and the “christian” alternative band on the other; If you like such and such you should listen to so and so…  For my 15th birthday I got a t-shirt that had the Abercrombie & Fitch logo that actually said ‘A Breadcrumb & Fish’…   Is this what the Bible means when it says to be in the world but not of it?

Stand back and take a look… the Christians and non all look the same,  the music, the clothes, the magazines, books… Christians and non all drive the same cars, live in the same houses, eat in the same restaurants, think the same thoughts, download the same porn.  As Christians we tell ourselves that we are living the life because we have bible verses on our t shirts and a jesus fish on the mini van.  After a while we build our own christian sub-culture, we look at the “sinners” around us and say to ourselves “if they like it, it’s wrong” and we rid ourselves of it in the name of holiness.  We only listen to “christian” music, read “christian” romance novels, wear “christian” t shirts, and look down our “christian” noses at our poor lost neighbors and think, “if only they would start wearing t shirts like mine…”

Jesus used the phrase “whitewashed tombs” to describe folks who think their efforts make them holy; clean on the outside, crumbling and decomposing on the inside.  The Pharisees of Jesus day had their t shirts as well, they had their list of TV shows and musicians to avoid, the foods they were all to proud to not be eating.  When it came right down to it, their “churchy” subculture did nothing more than feed their pride while the naked hooker, crying in the dirt at the feet of Jesus was heart-wide-open before the very throne of God.  Nothing hidden. Nothing fake. Beyond the rescue of lies and fig leaves.

When we talk about The Church and The Culture we are talking about this glorious tiny point in space and time where holiness meets profanity, where the bride of Christ stands up and starts brushing off the dirt, where she drops the filthy, tattered rags she wore on the street corner and puts on a dress so white it blinds the world!

It isn’t the job of the church to run from “culture”, or to make our own little bubble within the world where we’re all home schooled, make our own clothes and churn butter; it’s the churches job to accept the harsh reality of what we were, what we are, and share this gospel, the fantastic life-changing truth with those who are still far off, those who have not heard that there is a dress waiting for them,  a Grace,  ice cold rushing water that can wash them clean and stand them before the almighty God, blameless and full of joy!  Culture isn’t to be avoided, embraced or mimicked. Culture is this process of who we are, becoming who we will be.  The Church isn’t outside of the culture, she is completely entangled in it.  Christians aren’t better than the rest, no matter what their t shirts say. Christians are people. All The Church has to do to change the world is to remember that we are all in this together.

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About Ryan

I'm nothing special. Im typical. Profane. Sub-perfect. I'm an epic of fault and disappointment, occasionally interrupted by short, subtle flashes of insight. I'm the average, nondescript that you would never notice or remember. I'm 1 of 7,000,000,000 people currently weighing down the Earth. I'm small and relatively weak. All things being equal, I will live for about 50 more years and have little or no impact on anyone or anything around me... ...however, things have never been equal... so hold onto something. Bio. Ryan is the author of The Beautiful Ending blog. He has spent time in professional ministry, supporting ministry, and "real world" ministry and is an occasional worship leader for conferences and retreats. He has written a thousand songs nobody has ever heard and written several books nobody has ever read. He is a musician, poet, writer, painter and world traveler. He's a crappy preacher and a mediocre teacher but he LOVES loves Jesus!!...along with coffee, books, magazines, art, music, food, wine, imported cigars, his family and good friends. If you want to follow him on Twitter or the Facebook or any other network that attempts to replace real-life relationships, you're welcome to, just remember that people should follow Jesus, not him.

Posted on 05/19/2009, in church, music and entertainment, the culture, worldview and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. billyjohnsonlive

    dang.

  2. word.

  3. culturalawakening

    So true.

  4. culturalawakening

    Mind if I “borrow” some of this for my lesson Sunday?

  5. have at it

  6. this reminds me of a story.
    A friend of mine took my wife fishing. She isn’t too fond of touching slimy fish, but she finds it relaxing to just cast and reel, cast and reel. So we are sitting in the boat, she is casting and reeling watching her little lure “swim” and after abut twenty casts she gasps and pulls her lure out of the water proclaiming, “A fish almost got it!”

    Sometimes we get so into our religious patterns that we forget that there is a purpose and a reason to religion, not to repeat a pattern, but to see through that and catch a relationship with God.

  7. I think the purpose of religion is to make us feel better. We’re too proud to receive grace for free, we want to feel like we are earning it. I agree with much of what popular secular writers are spouting these days; religion is the worst thing that ever happened to the world. It turns us into calloused, disconnected, auto-piloted idiots who put our hope in our works instead of in the completely priceless and undeserved love of God.

  8. I hear that opinion a lot Ryan. The problem is not religion it is a heart condition problem. People use religion as an excuse. The same religious ceremonies and rituals could actually be very spiritually awakening a vital if done with the right mind and heart. Religion is good, people’s apathy in the presence of God is why religion fails. Don’t blame religion for people’s inability to come to the feet of Jesus with a broken and humble heart. After all wasn’t it God who set up the festivals and ceremonies in much of the bible? Obviously the ritual started out good and only the people’s love of God has changed.

  9. Very few religious practices have anything to do with a heart condition, they are about earning grace or 70 virgins or your own planet, godship, enlightenment, or whatever your particular religion promises as a reward for your actions. Religion doesn’t produce humility, it produces the crusades, the holocaust, September 11, etc. Early Jewish traditions had their place and time but they were flawed from the start, hence the birth death and resurrection or Christ. Traditions of them selves are fine until they become our hope, which is too often the case…

    Jihad!

  10. there are also examples of great religion:
    Communion
    Offering
    Sining as worship
    Bible study

    Lets don’t throw the baby out with the bath water

  11. I explicitly said traditions themselves aren’t bad. I said the acts of religion easily become our hope and then it’s nothing but a competition to see who can make the biggest CLANG when the plate comes by.

  12. kathy hullinger

    i have a friend that is very strict with tv watching, movies and music. and then justifies her soap opera watching to a T. I do believe the garbage in garbage out theory but i also believe we (Christians) are too quick to justify something as of the world and something else is “christian”. Thank you for this post. It makes perfect sense.

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