Clairee: Anne Boleyn had six fingers.
Ouiser Boudreaux: Who’s Anne Berlin?
Clairee: Anne Boleyn. She was one of the six wives of Henry VIII.
Ouiser Boudreaux: I never watch public television.
Clairee: She had six fingers.
Ouiser Boudreaux: What happened to the other four?
Clairee: She had 11 total.
Ouiser Boudreaux: Are you trying to confuse me, Clairee?
Clairee: No. I just want to expose us to a little more culture. And that’s not easy to come by in this neck of the woods.
The desire to be engaged in culture is innate, and to be considered “uncultured” is an insult. Even within these (old) pop culture references, these characters want to be “cultured.” What about Christians? How should Christians respond to culture?
- Why should we participate in culture?
In the beginning, God gave Adam a brain, “dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on earth” (Genesis 1:28), and a job. God, who had just created the earth and everything in it, gave Adam a job: “Now out of the ground the Lord had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name” (Genesis 2:19). God has given humanity the capacity to be creative. To avoid overcomplicating the topic of calling, we are called to use our brains; we should be using our brains in whatever way God has enabled us to be creative.
For those who are artistically creative, we have no excuse to be passive in regards to culture. Rather than distancing ourselves from the flawed aspects of culture, we should actively attempt to influence culture. With more Christians in a position to shape culture, we have a greater chance of returning to a Christ-centered culture. The darkness will seem less dark if we don’t disassociate the light from the dark.
- When should we interact with culture?
Second Timothy 1:7 states, “For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” I don’t believe we should shy away from secular art forms, but we should apply our sound judgment given to us by the Holy Spirit. By watching the same shows and movies, listening to the same music, and reading information from the same sources as the rest of our society, Christians have the opportunity to practice discernment.
Let me qualify this statement by explaining why I love Downton Abbey. I never thought that my favorite show would be a British soap opera. Nonetheless, it is. As fascinated as I am with the extravagant lifestyle of the Crawley family, what I love even more is the theme of consequences. These consequences for immorality sometimes last through multiple seasons. While the most recent season seems solely based on scandal and deceit, the show still presents inappropriate actions in an unfavorable light. In this way, it is easier for me to discern what would be sinful.
I’m not encouraging anyone to watch the worst movies possible for the sake of “practicing discernment.” But (in my opinion) the more we identify what is sin through observation, the less favorable the temptation will seem, if similar situations occur in our own lives. I definitely don’t want to feed my brain the lie of moral relativism. So as Christians engage in culture, we MUST keep our minds engaged.
- Why should we not remain in our own Christian culture?
As my time of study at a Christian university has progressed, the more I realize the presence of a “Christian culture.” Christians around the world do not dress the same, use the same phrases, or listen to the same music; however, most Christians in the Bible Belt seem to. Christianity should never reach the point of conversion requiring the adoption of a particular style of clothes or music. Conversion might imply changes from sinful lifestyles, but we do not become Christians to follow other Christians; we become Christians to follow Christ.
If Christians remain within the realms of our own subculture, then evangelism becomes more about inviting people to change their cultural environment than to change their hearts. Typically in sermons encouraging cross-cultural (meaning international) missions, the story of Peter and Cornelius is referenced. After being taught that Gentiles could be saved, Peter declares, “Now I really understand that God doesn’t show favoritism, but in every nation the person who fears Him and does righteousness is acceptable to Him” (Acts 11:34-35). I think God cares more about us possessing “feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace” than Chaco’s.
In conclusion, here is a portion of Jesus’ prayer for His disciples before His crucifixion:
“I am not praying
that You take them out of the world
but that You protect them from the evil one.
They are not of the world,
as I am not of the world.
Sanctify them by the truth;
Your word is truth.
As You sent Me into the world,
I also have sent them into the world.
I sanctify Myself for them,
so they also may be sanctified by the truth.”
*I figured that since I started the post quoting Steel Magnolias and Toy Story, I should end quoting Jesus.*