Friday, July 10, 2009

Part 2: The culture that surrounds religion
Defining Christian culture

Before I really begin I'd like to clarify what our friends said about our christianity (see previous post for context):

I'd say "more thought out"/"more rational", something like that maybe. I'm sure if I had a few drinks in me I could find something more eloquent. A. French

I'll begin this series with my definition of 'Christian culture' in America. Then I'd like to hear what people think and have some help defining this term before moving on. I hope everyone that ever reads my blog knows that I am a student at heart and hope to nudge others toward a spirit of learning with me. I look forward to an open dialog.

For a rundown that takes no effort from me, check out these two blogs (granted there is some cynicism involved in these blogs, but never the less, there are some good descriptions of how this culture is played out day to day)

Stuff Christians Like
Stuff Christian Culture Likes

A note to my readers. I am not judging the merit of the following things in your life specifically. If one of the things on the list below resonates with you and is a true expression of your belief then more power to you. I am simply stating the fads, the cultural representation of what it is to be a "christian" in America.

Christians in America have a way of defining themselves as Christians. It often doesn't have much to do with the pursuit of the existential, but more to do with proving, in an instant, they are followers of Christ, a bumper sticker, a <>< fish at the end of an email, a wwjd bracelet, a purity ring...These things are culturally important but hold no biblical significance, and yet these are the things that are supposed to define us?

The use of Christian-ese: The language christians use in conversations that identify their christianity with words leaving less need for actions
Examples: I'll be praying for you, Signing a letter In His Service or IHS or any other numerous spiritual salutations, calling the prayer chain, referring to a quiet time. It is a verbiage and a language all their own.

Dear readers, at this point I want to express how difficult this is. It's Very Difficult. The last thing I want to do with this series is come across as though I'm poking fun at these cultural behaviors. Rather I want to draw a contrast between what we as a nation think Christianity should look, sound, and act like, and what the bible actually says we should look, sound, and act like.

I want this series to be less about the action and more about the character of the inward pursuits and motivation behind these actions. Christians can be very sincere in these pursuits, and they can also be very insincere. Again, my point is not to judge any one individual, but the culture as a whole as compared to the cultural change that christianity has undergone.

I think it's time I open the concepts I've introduced for discussion. I'd also be interested to hear in a nutshell how you define American christianity. (I know I'm asking a lot, as you can see this was very difficult for me to do and I only brought up two such cultural aspects of American christianity, but we can all work on baby steps.)

So let's do this, I'm so ready for some additional insight.


k.elizabeth w. said...

Hmmmm. This will be interesting. I've basically grown up in a Reformed-read-the-Bible-in-Greek-look-at-ancient-literary-structures-take-the-Bible-seriously-and-err-on-the-side-of-eradicating-most-emotion-from-the-church-worship-service model. The christianity cult(ure) you are addressing is so out of my experience. I'm one of those people who can only generalize because I do not know what it's like. I'm not sure how prevalent certain views and attitudes are...I don't know when reports have been exaggerated just so someone can make a point about Those Baptists, etc.

So, like I said, this will be interesting. Tally ho!

meg said...

To set your mind at ease, I grew up with in this culture, so my thoughts aren't exaggerated in the least. And I didn't grow up Baptist...guess I should first to a post about me and where I came from to clarify.

sufferingsummer said...

this is actually the first time I've seen someone (on the net) introduce these ideas in a way I feel I could engage with. Not that I've frequented a lot of blogs that even begin to give the medium an opportunity just that when I have come across it the ideas seem to be so extreme one way or the other that it seems rationale has gone out the window.
That said. I too grew up in this culture and don't see anything you've presented as the extreme at all and I have definitely seen both genuine and entirely insincere representations of all you've mentioned. One concept that has intrigued me is the idea of evangelism. I'd be very curious to hear both your thoughts and those of your readers on this concept. I too am a continual student and do not know what I think the Bible is actually saying about it, though I have my suspicions. I do not like the current cultural christian adage that says we should be out "saving" people. I don't even know what that means. I do know I don't think the Bible even begins to say that another person's heart is even on the radar of our responsibility.
ok. this is difficult. I feel like the more I engage the more questions I have, the more I could ask...
I think in a round about way I'm trying to say I think that American Christianity in my perspective is so very far from Biblical Christianity that I don't entirely know where the two even meet, if at all.
I think, like in everything, there are exceptions but if you are asking for a generalization I'd say Christian Culture in America is more of an emotionally driven self help group than a following of Biblical truth.

RC said...

I think a lot of times in American, American Christians want to find ways to be bold and take a stand --- I think this is best done through trying to live out the words of Christ --- although, I think we mix American ideas about symbols and certain actions to "stand out." This is probably okay, I think Christians should also stand out in their compassion, generosity, hope, and love.

This probably harder then putting a fish at the end of an e-mail or wearing a WWJD braclet.

meg said...

Summer - I like your end line regarding your definition of christian culture in america. As far as your other question regarding evangelism. Stay tuned, I already have a blog in the works on this topic.

RC - Thanks for the input. I also have a blog pointed at the idea of consumerism and how we as Christians have bought into this as a way to express our faith.

thank you everyone for the discussion. This should be a fun series to explore with you all.

Marianne Elixir said...

Just to pipe in and mention that I am listening, and of course, love conversations (even web conversations) on such matters.

I, too, have an evangelism post in the perhaps I'll try to wrap that up sooner than later.

My own background is probably closer to k.elizabeth's, however, I also grew up as one of Those Baptists (non-charismatic, but we might have raised a hand or clapped occasionally). Oh the fun we could have dissecting the modern church!