Engaging society in a Post-Christian culture
Culture has changed, and there’s a lot of people who are pretty ticked off about that.
In our attempts to become Christlike many well-meaning Christians are lulled into a isolation. They begin with the reasonable thought of shielding their family from culture. The premise is that society no longer has prudent boundaries on what’s appropriate, especially for children, and since they feel so helpless to fight the trend they simply disappear. I can appreciate some of this. I was recently at a very graphically violent movie and someone a couple rows back had their 5 year-old kids with them. While protecting children from experiences that are not age-appropriate may be valid responding by isolating oneself from culture degenerates into a form of arrogant superiority that is both myopic and unhealthy.
This is not a new problem, in the first century there was a group of people so disgusted by the culture surrounding them that they fled to the desert to start a new, purer form of culture, the Essenes.
Jesus was fully human and fully God. Sometimes in an attempt to establish His divinity we cover up His humanity. When Jesus met the people of His time that religious people sneered at He did not hate them, He did not retreat; in fact He engaged them, He broke bread with them and went into their houses and shared a meal. This is a very human act, and one that if more people simply shared a meal with someone different from themselves might find out they have a lot more in common than they supposed. The Christian defense of “be IN the world, not OF it” was never intended to mean not being WITH people.
A key difference between the 1st century Jewish sects and the Christian isolationists of today is that the Essenes lived in a Jewish nation (albeit occupied by a foreign power) and today most Christian leaders do not recognize that we live in a post-Christian America. They are angry that society moved on without them and they aren’t sure what to do to get back to shaping culture. Instead of attempting to control society through political jockeying, shame tactics or religious bullying why don’t we pursue genuine relationship without an agenda? Until Christian leaders can demonstrate LOVE for those around them we have no rights to attempt to influence anyone.