I don’t have the answer to this but I found myself wondering about the effect and purpose of culture in society as I read Jason Clark’s post about Cultural Neutering. Our desire to be culturally relevant is born out of a desire to reach people where they are at and to affect the culture that we find ourselves in for the better, to become a part of the society without being absorbed by it. It is an ‘in the world but not of the world” sort of thought, at least for me.
Perhaps my reading of the post is unbalanced but it appears to address the separate nature of the church subculture as a wholly negative state for the church and I simply can not agree with that. Whereas the church’s subculture needs to be reminded that it is designed to engage the culture at large there will always be a measure of healthy separation in the Christian subculture, no matter the society the church finds itself in. The Kingdom of God must be distinctive as well as relevant in order for it to have any use in this world. It’s a both/and situation in my book and should be presented as such lest as we focus on the need for change in how we engage the culture to the determent of the distinctives that the Kingdom of God offers the individuals of that culture to enter into a deeper, more meaningful and beautiful way of living.
The Kingdom of God will always offer a different way to look at the world we find ourselves in, a separate perspective and approach that should bring life into the world. If we are closing ourselves off to the world in our expression of separateness then we must change because we are in danger of loosing our saltiness, but the same would be true if we were to capitulate completely to the whims of society in our effort to be relevant.
I love the thoughts and ideas of the emergent conversation because they challenge and compel me. It has been rightly identified that the church has built up walls around itself for protection and comfort that have closed us off from the world, that is wrong and needs to be changed. I just do not want us to throw the baby out with the bathwater and distain our distinctives wholesale in response.
I would also argue that ‘to everything there is a season’, meaning, sometimes it is healthy to withdrawal into the safety of Christian community. When we are hurt and wounded, weak and tired, struggling to just keep our heads above the water, sometimes we must disengage for our health. Jesuits have a concept called the retreat, and have times every year where they separate from the world and immerse themselves in the story of Jesus, meditating on itâ€™s meaning and effect on their life. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, originally created the retreat to be thirty days long. A whole month devoted to nothing more then getting closer to God, separating oneself from the world and examining their place in eternity.
At this point I could go into the need for a distinct Christian culture for people to retreat into for such times of healing, but I am already growing weary of typing this post so I will just throw out the idea and leave it to you for discussion.