Saturday, March 17, 2012

Thoughts on culture and biblical engagement...

I attended a men's breakfast this morning. Good food! After the meal one of the leaders of the church usually gives a short presentation about something 'manly.' Today's topic came from the experience of one of the co-pastors. He shared about his son's graduation from basic training and how these young men and women were being equipped to take their place in the defense of the U.S. He spoke of the discipline, honor, and respect required of each individual and group. These young people are well prepared to focus on their task. There is much we can learn from this type of training in our spiritual lives, as well. But, that's a topic for a different time.
This pastor took the topic in a direction that many fundamental evangelicals like to go. He described the siege that we are a part of in the West in general; America in particular. According to him, the church has given back whatever "territory" it has held to Satan. This capitulation will, then, inevitably lead to a conflict in which the church will suffer persecution and loss. He has, in so many words, described one of the 'refuge responses to culture' that Reggie McNeal wrote about in A Work of the Heart: How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders. He wrote that one response to what is a perceived hostile culture is "withdrawal-reactionary." Leaders with this perspective see the culture as "the world" that should be "avoided as a dangerous sphere of human activity that threatens the Christian culture." Now, this particular pastor will disagree that he advocates dissociation with the culture. He has stated that we must engage the people in the culture with the gospel. However, the gospel that is presented does not speak to the culture. Many, in fact, simply view it as irrelevant.
But, the end-game is the same. Because we have 'lost ground' and capitulated to an 'enemy,' we must then take up the battle and try to 'restore' the 'good, christian values' that once reigned supreme. In this battle there will be casualties. In fact, these are to be expected, and apparently, embraced. These will be martyrs to the cause of the cross.
I have problems with this on more levels than I can articulate now. If we are in a battle, who is the enemy? For many of these folks the enemy is anyone who is not 'with us.' They are 'other.' If they want to become something acceptable, they must become 'us.' This disqualifies any liberal thinker. Forget about the environment. It's not important because it's going to be burned up in the end anyhow. And, it's more important to make sure that the pews in heaven are filled than to live for justice in this world. I think what scares me most is the pseudo-martyr attitude that is becoming more prevalent. We've seen what this has done in radical Islam. In fact, we've seen it in radical fundamentalism in Christianity. Shootings in churches and bombings of abortion clinics ring loudly in the ears of many.
Yes, I agree with him that we are in a battle. And, it's a fight to the death. Our enemy, however, is not the abortionist or Barak Obama. Our enemy is unseen. He fights with deception and stealth. He has been likened to a ravenous lion searching for people to devour. He is the power behind the systems that oppress and imprison. Greed, poverty, hunger, war, hate and intolerance. He can only be defeated by prayer and a willingness to be light and salt in this; now. I know I have not done justice to this topic. There are so many dimensions and nuances to Biblical cultural engagement. But, this is important. We are not fighting people. Humans are the image-bearers of their Creator. They are all, each and every one, significant and important to Yahweh. They need to be honored and respected as such.

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