Monday, March 10, 2008

Countering Culture

The comments from the last post got me thinking about the question that's been gnawing away at me for the last couple years. Here it is: What does a follower of Jesus look like in an affluent society?

Here's what I'm getting at:

• I’m becoming convinced that Christianity is not what it appears to be in mainstream America. We don’t make choices that resemble those of believers throughout the world or in the early Christian church. We look and live pretty much just like the rest of society. Why? What have we lost? How can we regain a true passion for knowing and following God?

• Most people (including Christians) in American society spend their lives working in a job they don’t like, for a boss they don’t respect, with people they don’t get along with, to earn money to buy stuff that they don’t even need. And if they do this long enough we call them a success. Self-indulgence, materialism, greed are giant blind spots in American Christianity. How can we reshape our attitudes and lives, in the midst of a materialistic and consumer-driven culture, to reflect the beauty, truth, modesty, wonder and glory of living as children of the King?



Susanna said...

As Christians, it is so easy to take our faith for granted... we don't have to fight for it, we don't have to stand up for it, not really. It's easy, the only enemy we fight is ourselves.
We don't 'have ' to depend on God for our next meal, our next new shirt. Oh we say we do but do we really?
I am in such a state these days. I want to be a passionate follower of Christ but I know I won't do it whole heartedly so I barely do it at all and yet whatever 'I' give God he uses to reach and bless others. It's a strange economy...
But I want to give more. I want what God has given me to count for something.
To have the faith that says I know my will supply all my needs
To know that HE is GOD in every situation, that even if I face death, He is the reason I live.
I am grateful I was born canadian and have lived a life of ease but somewhere in my soul I want to live and be like those who love God because well not because of what he has given them but becuase he sustains them day by day, moment by moment. But wow wouldn't that be a terrifying way to live? Not sure I'm up for the challenge.
Guess I didn't really answer your question but those are my thoughts on this night when I am confused about God's purposes and plans....

Susanna said...

oops that one line was supposed to read to know that MY GOD will supply all my needs.... proof read susanna, proof read

Amber said...

I don't know that I have an answer to your question but it is a question that has bugged me for a long time as well.

Something that I think helps to counter our culture is to experience other cultures. Going on mission trips and/or humanitarian trips to other cultures has helped me to see that the Body of Christ is much wider than American Christianity and has given me a chance to see that other people who have far less than we do serve God in breathtaking ways. I go thinking I'm helping them but come home having been given something far more valuable than any "help" I offered.

I don't think this is a cure-all because I still have a long, long way to go, but it has helped open my eyes to what is possible.

Eric said...

Whoa! I had your blog in my blog reader, but it wasn't showing up. I hadn't checked in for a few months since you dropped off the face of the net last summer. Glad you're back!

Are you going to the "Can Christianity Be Defended?" debate tomorrow night at ETSU. Here's some info . . .

We also have a post about The Pawn at my new internet startup It hasn't officially launched yet, but we have some folks on using it.

Take care, friend!

Steven James said...

I'm impressed by the thoughtfulness of these comments. The question seems to have many answers, like a prism, each giving more clarity to the others.

Abbey said...

As christians, I use that with a small 'c' because I also assert that 'we' are essentially so broken as a comm’unity’ with an emphasis on a lack of ‘unity’. That unity is what the early church was founded on. In John 13:34-35 Jesus says to the disciples “A new command I give you: Love on another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” I don’t know about you but I believe we are failing. Not exclusively one another in our lack of love, but most importantly crushing the heart of the father. Those verses go on and Peter says he can drink the cup Jesus is about to drink, though he does not realize it’s your sins and mine that Jesus is about to take up a hill to a cross. As Easter rapidly approaches I think that I arrogantly assume I can drink the cup, that I don’t need to give my sin to Jesus. Often that sin is that I come to my brothers & sisters in Christ with re-heated leftovers of love. I try and pour out love on a hurting world and I feel I have nothing for the community of believers that I should be loving on. It’s often a great challenge to love those in a broken institution who maybe someone has hurt you in. Maybe like me you’ve put your heart and soul out there for validation in complete vulnerability to have a heel brought down smashing who you are and you feel alienated by the exact people who should be helping you mend. I suppose all of these ramblings are to say that it begins with loving one another. Forgiving others: because Jesus gives us the strength. If we polled the nation about the top 10 things that make you sure you are interacting with a believer in Christ, I’m pretty sure loving one another wouldn’t be in the top 20. It’s sad really. So no answers, just possible digression of pleonastic thoughts, I think that the answer is Jesus (it usually is in Sunday School), and to assume I had the answer, well, I guess I’d be trying to drink the cup again. We’re broken people in a broken world. We weren’t supposed to have the gift of knoledge of good and evil but our 1st ancestors took it and here we are.

Barnaby said...

I am glad to see you blogging again. This is the first time I have checked your blog in a while. Please keep it up.
Seriously Story is my favorite book of all time. I constantly buy extra copies to give out. You have know idea what an incredible ministry tool it is. I know a lot of people who have been burned by churches and are very resistant. Story makes a great gateway to them picking up a Bible.

karla said...

The blog written by anonymous on the last post has led me to a lot of prayer time. I pray that God would give me the lens to see the need around me. I pray for the heart to give.
My husband and I have opted for a simpler life. We have jobs of service that we love. Our clothes, furniture, etc. are rarely new, but most often someone else's castoffs. We have no cable, satellite, video games...I'm reading/writing this at work, because we don't have the internet.
Yet God gives us abundantly more than we need, and our children possess a peace, joy and contentment that I find rare today.
And yet I read anonymous' blog, and hang my head in shame, because I know that I hold too tightly to my time, talents, money...
When deciding how to live and give, my husband likes to quote King David from 2 Samuel, "I refuse to offer a sacrifice that costs me nothing."
Thank you, anonymous, for your courage and honesty in telling your story. It needs to be heard, and you need to be seen.

Wendy said...

I totally believe we have failed. I work in the Criminal Justice/Correction field and I am constantly dealing with unloving people. Unfortunately it often makes me callous and cold to everyone around me. But it also makes me very aware of how much the world needs Jesus. Investing our whole selves into people is exhausting, scary and often we just don't seem to see the results we want so we stop. I don't think we can change society by looking at the whole society....we have to start at home, at work, with our family, with our friends and invest ourselves in these people. That way I believe we will not be so exhausted and we can give our best to them not just a little here and there.

My biggest prayer for myself is that my heart will break for the lost just as Jesus' did. Once that happens I know I will totally change how I see people and how I interact with them.

BTW...I read Story last month on a plane to Dallas....loved it!!! Now I plan to read all the stuff you have written.

God bless!

Anonymous said...

Yes, because mainstream Christianity is (part of) the whore of babylon on the back of the beast. See revelation 13-18.

Love ya Steven!

Anonymous said...

Ha ha. I bought your book Story (along with a few others) at the bookstore about a month ago. I haven't read it yet, but am looking forward to it. Anyway, I stumbled across your blog randomly and have been reading bits of it now and then for the last few weeks, and I just put two and two together and realized you are the author of the book I bought. Random.
Like many Christians, I have been troubled at times with the appearnce and aparent behaviour of the North American Church (I'm Canadian so I have to add that ;-)
But it occurs to me that not everything is at it appears. Many Christains (not all, but many) DO give in secret, and do all kinds of good things in our society and in the world without drawing attention to themselves.
Just a thought...