Decomposition of Christian culture

November 22, 2008

bible / church / culture

To continue my series, I want to briefly look at Christian culture as it typically exists. It is interesting that my lack of diligence in this series allows this particular post to occur when it is, as the last few weeks have been an interesting look at Christian culture in the United States.

In recent years, there have been a good number of books to remind us of the cultural situation in which Jesus lived, and show us the comparisons that exist today. This does include politics, but it goes far beyond that, which is why this post deserves to be separate.

So, in the time of Jesus, of course the Roman Empire was the dominating daily force on society as a whole, and in Judea as a specific region. The various cultural and religious leaders of Judea defined their leadership methods, attitudes, and goals to a large extent by their relationship to that Empire. I think it is impossible to overstate the importance of this fact.

I want to look at these various leaders, and see how their influence has entered Christian culture as well. You can find more about these groups in the writings of many New Testament scholars, as well as in The Secret Message of Jesus.

The cultural mission of Jesus had things in common with, and yet stood in contrast to all of these groups. He refused to set up holy wars against Rome, refused to benefit from the Empire around him, refused to leave the people he loved without an incarnational witness, and refused outward purity at the expense of grace and mercy.

What I have tried to present here is how similar we are to the Jewish leaders who we have blamed for missing Jesus. Jesus didn’t fit their criteria for a Messiah, and he often doesn’t fit ours either. We will miss him as they did, if we do not change.

If we are to follow the message of Jesus, we cannot define ourselves by our relationship to the culture around us. In recent weeks, I have heard a resurgence of the phrase “culture war” from the mouths and keyboards of Christians. We cannot fight in a culture war. It must end, or at the least we must not be a part of it.