Monday, March 06, 2006

Culture wars

Sharon pointed me to this article from CT and I saw it referenced again by someone else, so here it is at the author's website: http://www.frederica.com/writings/loving-the-storm-drenched.html Here are some threads I pulled:

The culture appears to be an aggressive challenge to the
church, and Christians keep worrying over what to do about it...

The influence of the culture... is more like the weather. We can observe that, under current conditions, it’s cloudy with a chance of cynicism. Crudity is up, nudity is holding steady, and there is a 60 percent chance that any recent movie will include a shot of a man urinating. Large fluffy clouds of sentimental spirituality are increasing on the horizon, but we have yet to see whether they will blow toward or away from Christian truth. Stay tuned for further developments.

...God has not called us to change the weather. Our primary task as believers, and our best hope for lasting success, is to care for individuals caught up in the pounding storm.

...We are sent out into the storm like a St. Bernard with a keg around our neck, to comfort, reach, and rescue those who are thirsting, most of all, for Jesus Christ.


I applaud Frederica Mathewes-Green for not reducing the subject to simple blacks and whites, but instead she shows the shades of gray that both culture and church include. It is our challenge to not be consumed by culture, but to avoid being antagonistic. Otherwise how will our transformed lives be heard by those needing safe harbor from the storm? If we piously reject culture we make it more difficult to be taken seriously. I like what some churches and groups are doing to live out the gospel within a local cultural context. They use familiar cultural forms of media and technology and also draw on ancient traditions that speak of personal faith and relationship. More on that later. See what you think of the article.

13 Comments:

Blogger Sharon said...

I appreciate the writer's avoidance of the blacks and whites, as well. Culture is not bad and church good. It's the SIN that is in culture that is bad -- just as bad as the sin that's in the church! But it gets so very gray when right motives mix with wrong methods. I don't mean "wrong" as in tasteless but "wrong" as in Godless.

So, my struggle with F. M-G's celebration of old books is that it's not that simple, either. Old versus new isn't the issue any more than culture vs. church.

The question within any generation, any culture, any church is "is God in it?" If it doesn't mesh with God's heart and mind, well, it might not be blatant sin but it's probably not right(eous).

Oh, for a church that doesn't follow the latest trends just because they're the latest but a church that doesn't reject the new simply because it's new. A church with heart -- a people who see past the "stuff" and embrace everyone who's heart is seeking God, not the trappings that come packaged as "God" or "godly."

Attending a non-American church has caused me to once again question the things we call spiritual. What begins with a truly drawing-to-God purpose so quickly becomes something we must do to be spiritual. And relationship is reduced once again to ritual. And ritual leads to ridicule. Back once again the the church vs. culture question!

8:36 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

I've been thinking alot about "God in real life". I can't seem to get to the full integration of God, church and real life.

Sometimes I "drop in" to God, intensively - and other times I become inundated with life, and it overwhelms. I can't seem to get to the point of simultaneous experience.

It's even harder to do without a surrounding culture of integration and I often feel like I'm isolated, and that makes for distraction. On the other hand, I want to avoid too much time with "God in my head" where there is no connection to the mundane things of life. I know I am babbling, but has anyone achieved the balance that I'm looking for?

The best example I can come up with is Fiddler on the Roof, where there is God in everyday things and everyday things are in synch with God (sans the legalism). It's easier to do within a group or culture where everyone is on the same page. How do we do it when our nuclear and extended families and friends are scattered to the four corners of the earth?

5:28 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Wow, Susan, you raise some good questions. Have you read Brother Lawrence's Practicing the Presence of God (I can't get it in italics -- how do we do that, here?)? He was a monk who had found the way to walk with God moment by moment and still do the walking. His dishwashing experiences were acts of worship. But, of course, he was surrounded by others who were seeking the same thing!!!

I guess that's another reason why we need each other in the christian community so very badly.

This dates me, but does anyone remember BJ Thomas' maybe one good Christian song? The line "I'd love to live on the mountaintop, fellowshipping with the Lord ... but I've got to go down from the mountaintop to the people in the valley below ... or they'll never know that they can go to the mountain of the Lord!"

"Balance" is the watchword of Christians. It sounds so bland, so whimpy ... but it's not a word of compromise it's a word of fragility. Balancing a monastic life with the everyday things which, in actuality, aren't intrusions. Most of them are things God is calling us to do. They're appointments. Because God made the appointments, maybe He can join us there?

1:06 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

Thanks Sharon, I will look for Brother Lawrence's Practicing the Presence of God.

I am trying a few things to get my focus right, and I'll let you know how they go. One of them is to be aware that God is with me always and talk to Him about whatever is going on or in my head at the moment, particularly when advice is needed. Then I came up against the "which God do I talk to" problem. I know they are all the same, but the different aspects of the Father, Son and Spirit was getting in the way. You know with my upbringing that I have a pre-dispensation towards the Father. Jesus always talked to the Father (although he had at least one other option beyond talking to Himself). But then again, I am highly aware that Jesus doesn't call the Counselor or the Comforter those names for nothing. I guess I'm still hung up in the Trinity concept even after all these years. So, I default the Creator because it's difficult to envision the job descriptions of the Others in everyday life.

6:38 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

My inclination is to say -- just talk to God! But I know that due to your background this is a serious question. Technically, I believe we talk to the Father with Jesus as our intercessor/mediator/reconciliator (that's why some people close with "in Jesus name") by the power of the Sprit. The Spirit guides us, prompts us, ... some have a prayer language given by the Spirit.
Two thoughts after visiting Notre Dame and attending a mass, there: 1. Maybe picturing God as your Daddy/Abba would help pull you away from the extreme "Hush, God is busy running the world" view?
2. The idea of running to His arms and climbing on His lap certainly seems more intimate than the cathedral image of a cold and distant creator that we only revere and fear. The idea of a constant dialogue with Him, I think, is easier to practice when we recognize that He is inclined toward us. See Psalm 34 for an abundance of references to God's nearness. The phrase "and He heard me" never ceases to amaze me!!!

1:45 AM  
Blogger Sharon said...

So, Jenny, where are you? We need you to join this dialogue!!

8:33 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

Despite my upbringing, I do have a very wonderful view of the Father as a gentle and caring Father. That is probably because I am very lucky to have a human father who is just that.

I am not afraid to go to the Father with any little thing. This is probably why I tend to be bold in dealing with people. After all, if I'm not afraid to talk to God, who can I be afraid of? I was just wondering if I was missing something by going mostly to Him and much less frequently to the Son, or the Spirit. I understand Their connection and interaction, but I suppose not in the context of an everyday prayer life about everyday things.

9:42 AM  
Blogger Sharon said...

OK, I get it. If I remember correctly, as a child you didn't want to bother Jesus because of how he'd suffered already, right?
'glad the other stuff is settled for you.
BTW, the music in the service in Notre Dame was absolutely incredible!! Heavenly!

9:53 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

OK, back from distractions. Been dealing with the problem of pain--not theologically, but physically. Son #3 sick, too, and we visited docs, lab, and pharmacies this week. My dad's also in hospital since surgery early in week.

"He prays well who is so absorbed with God that he does not know that he is praying" - Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva (1567-1622)

I do not think the Trinity to be jealous. I see each person of the Godhead defer to one another on occasion as scripture records, though their function is distinct from one another as Sharon has noted.

In a book I'm reading: Prayer Quest by Dee Duke, he says you are most spiritually healthy when you want God so much that you are totally consumed. He is talking about passion that is fed by these desires:
-to know and love God
-for holiness and righteousness
-for wisdom
-to see people come to Jesus
-for family, ministry, church to be healthy, loving, and unified
-for much spiritual fruit and great accomplishments for the glory of God
He goes on to talk about things that kill your passion, too. I think if we want to live in God and He in us, we will continue to find ourselves transformed and our prayer life formed as we are led to Him as the One who can provide all things. All the things I want righteously and all the things I want that are misdirected cause me to pray. He can sort it all out as He knows my heart and exactly how to lead me, heal me, correct me, and even how to best provide the answer to my prayer.

4:44 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Welcome back, Jen! Do you have pain solutions, yet?

Speaking of prayer, I'll be praying for all of the physical needs mentioned.

I believe it's C.S. Lewis who said, "Bring to God what IS in you, not what OUGHT TO BE in you." It is a relief to know that I don't have to prop myself up or wear spiritual make-up in prayer. God can fully "deal with" where I am at the moment I come to Him! Truly, He's the Master Re-director of my misguided desires!!

Off to do more photography, today, all around Paris. Because things are so grey, I'm going to use black and white, I believe.

1:17 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I find photography itself to be a form of prayer. Learning to really see brings epiphanies. As with prayer, time spent in the experience increases skill in doing it. Practicing and playing a musical instrument would similarly parallel and be a form of prayer.
Let me know Sharon if your b&w photography becomes that for you.

Thanks for continuing to pray for my pain. I'm headed for physical therapy after trying massage and other remedies (cold, heat, topicals, etc.) Pain of various kinds is part of life, but I don't like the way it distracts and slows me down. (For a sketch of a different sort of "pain" see the Crash post at the fogburner blog.)

12:12 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

Jen, I am praying for you too. I know how distracting and brutal pain can be - all kinds. It's like being seasick. It is just torture, and you're trying to hold it together without hurling, but the only way to have a chance is to be still and keep your eyes focused on the horizon. The chaos threatens at every moment, but if you can keep your eyes set, eventually it subsides, and you can breathe again.

I am exploring prayer through creativitiy as I read The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron. I love her perspective of creativity and God and freedom and closeness through it all. I am shifing to a more balanced place that is not all in my head, which is refreshing because it was getting stuffy in there!

2:31 PM  
Blogger linda said...

susan and sharon, just today i was at the family christian book store and saw (and almost bought) a book called "the lost art of practicing the presence of god" by jim goll. it also includes brother lawrence's work. i almost bought it for a study i am starting with 2 women, but went with something else. i am enjoying reading through your dialog...

11:18 PM  

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