OF LIKE MIND
April 25, 2010
image: Fractal Blues (cc) Fábio Pinheiro
I've recently started playing my electric violin for worship services at my church. We've been attending Redeemer's Church in Reedley, California, and it's nice to be involved with another church that is interested in taking care of the poor, and whose leadership believes in challenging theological assumptions. It's comforting to worship with my music and spend time with people who share some of my theological perspectives.
Between the two services this morning, I chatted with some of the other members of the music team about last week's guest speaker, Bart Campolo (son of Tony Campolo, whose writings were the catalyst for the creation of this blog). One of the things that came out of that chat was the idea of a gospel message that's relevant to today's culture, and at the same time isn't trapped in today's culture. This idea was best illustrated when the band leader said that, when he was growing up, his Christian parents taught him that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was evil, on account of being black. The white-only culture in which his parents were raised dominated their worldview, to the point of poisoning the gospel message. The Christianity of his parents' time was so entrenched in the culture that it couldn't see past the expectations of white society.
It's really from this notion of cultural poison that post-modern Christianity emerged. Believers who gravitate towards an anti-establishment worldview look for a theology that's free from the constraints of relative cultural norms, while at the same time cling to the moral objectivity that's found in the scriptures. The post-modern Christian generally rejects limitations on expression of faith (electric guitars, tamborines, and interpretive dance are all acceptable), and "sinful" lifestyle choices are seen as a consequence of sin, and not simply isolated cases of sin themselves. For example, the post-modern interpretation of Romans 1:18-32 sees a people arrive at a normative view of homosexuality as a result of the rejection of God over a period of time; God's response to a culture who turns away from Him is to "give them over to shameful lusts." (vs. 26) While traditional Christianity tends to focus on the the individual's homosexuality, post-modern Christianty would suggest that rise of homosexuality is a symptom of a widespread cultural problem, perhaps starting with a previous generation of believers who failed to live by faith.
I tend to agree with the post-modern view on many issues. I will say, however, that there is a clear difference between an healthy post-modern Christianity and an unhealthy one. As one of the singers of the band said during our chat, we are just as susceptible to being chained by the norms of our post-modern culture as the people in the previous generation were to their own; the gospel of Christ has the power to be relevant to every generation, and it can also be rendered ineffective by every generation by our manmade traditions, theologies, and idols. It is critical that post-modern Christians see themselves as Christians first; that is our primary identity. If cultural expectations run against our Christian faith, our first order of business is to dump the culture; we don't redefine our faith to fit social norms.
A healthy post-modern Christianity sees a Jesus who eats and drinks with tax collectors and prostitutes, and sinners of all colors, Jews and gentiles alike. The Redeemer's Church community speaks to this, and I look forward to continuing to grow in this community.