connecting with the culture

Newbigin in the quotes from my post below says that we, as Christians, should try to understand the culture from the point of view of the Gospel. In other words, we should be countercultural and have a different framework for viewing information than that of the rest of the world. Newbigin recognizes the partially subjective nature of what we know, and he encourages us, as Christians, to shift our viewpoint to that of the scripture.

The result will be for us to be in a position to challenge cultural assumptions from a coherent platform. The result will also be that the words we use will sound “absurd” to the rest of the culture remaining within the framework. Jesus telling the woman at the well that he could give her a drink such that she would never be thirsty again. Jesus telling the crowds that unless they eat his flesh and drink his blood, they could not follow him. (His own disciples thought this was a “hard saying.”) Jesus telling the crowds that in order to follow him, they must hate their own family and even their own life. These propositions sounded absurd to the listeners. Only from a different, gospel based, viewpoint do they make sense.

So how do we connect with a culture completely and totally dominated by another framework for viewing facts and events? This is where the insights of Jason Steorts come into play.

Jason is talking about how to make conservatism relevant to this culture, but I don’t think we do great violence to his prose or his ideas by substituting the Gospel in place of conservatism. The problem is the same. Taking a framework or viewpoint that is alien to the dominant culture and trying to make a connection so that people trapped within the other viewpoint, take a chance on trying out a sneak peak at the world from our different point of view.

Here is Jason’s diagnosis of the problem:

The question what one should do springs from the presupposition that choices are free — even of the reason that seeks to determine them. From this point of view, ethical propositions are only conditional imperatives. “If you choose to pursue this good, perform (or not) that action.” “If you choose to act rationally, do (or not) thus and such.” A yawning gulf sunders reason from action, and reason alone is powerless to cross it. It merely stands on one side, a collection of lonely little shoulds evoking pictures of possible realities and conjoining them with the implicit statement: “Here’s a way we might make the world. Take a look and see what you think. But it’s up to you. I told you at the start that you didn’t have to heed me.” *

As a culture, this is where we are. Ethical moral propositions are reduced to merely a cacophony of competing shoulds trying to get a little attention and airtime. They might be lucky and get a temporary testing trot out depending solely on the subjective value system of the individual hearer.

and here is why Jason brings any of this up:

I would like us [christians] to understand this, because I worry that we occasionally waste time giving people the wrong pictures. This is not to say that our pictures have no use, or correspond to no reality (when they imply claims about reality). It is not to say that we should no longer offer them. It is rather to say that a picture is no good when someone is not prepared to accept it.

[Christians] have two very good reasons not to shy away from moralistic and religious pictures: First, they believe in them; second, so do many of the people who have traditionally formed part of the conservative coalition dominant Christian culture. But that fact of history guarantees nothing about the future, and “moral relativism” is the regnant doctrine among the most important shapers of popular opinion: Hollywood, the music industry, the media, and the otherwise übercool.

The world is full of those in thrall to the übercool. These people tend to be skeptical of moral absolutes. They tend to have nowhere to go of a bright Sunday morn when the birds sing sweet and the carillon doth chime. And they tend to say: “I’m sorry, but I don’t see the rules your way. I don’t think your 18th-century professor got it right. Or your 13th-century monk. Or your very dead Greeks and your even deader Hebrews. Of this, at least, I feel sure. And I feel pretty sure that your rules are silly and old-fashioned, and can’t be proved unless you assume part of what it is you’re trying to prove. And I’d like you to shut up now, because I’m going to close my eyes and listen to my iPod.”

Instead of telling them to go to church or review their Kant, we may find it more effective to say: “Sure, no rules, you win. Go to sleep now. But don’t forget that you have preferences about what you see when you wake up.” These words are admittedly no reason to do what we should like to call “moral”; but if deployed the right way, they point very clearly to the absence of any reason to do what we should like to call “immoral.” And we might be surprised how far that can go.

emphasis added and I changed “conservative” to “christian” and I changed “conservative coalition” to “dominant christian culture.”

So what do we do to reach the bored young person with their iPod who has personal preferences about the kind of world to live in, but exists in a framework that leaves them at the mercy of persons with no subjective personal values; vandals like the Joker?

How do we communicate the gospel to that person?

maybe more importantly, how do we get the earbuds out of his or her ears long enough to get two sentences heard?

What two sentences do we then give?

What challenge do we issue to them to get them to at least think about it?

Paul said that since we know what it is to fear God, we seek to persuade men. He implored/begged/pleaded/ with his audience to be reconciled to God through Christ. Paul said that he was willing to become all things to all people so that by all means, some might be saved. Paul’s message was simply Christ and him crucified.

what are we doing for fear of God? how are we seeking to persuade our fellow men? What lengths are we willing to go to in order to make a connection with the culture? What message do we have when we finally get somebody to take out the earbuds for a couple of minutes?


One Response

  1. […] connecting with the culture […]

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