Sunday, August 3, 2014

Christianity Is Its Own Culture ...

It seems that for too long Christianity has been in search of a culture. There was a time when it was inconceivable that Christianity would not be seen as its own culture but all that seemed to disappear along with a great many other good things in the 1960s and beyond. Somehow or other we got the strange notion then that Christianity was culture-less and that it was either compatible with other cultures or in need of an infusion of culture from the world around it.

Certainly this was impetus for the strange liturgical innovations of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Certainly this was the mission ideal of churches who sought more to reconcile the culture of the people they were evangelizing with Christianity rather than introduce the culture of Christianity to those who did not know it. Now, so far from that time, we have ended up with an evangelicalism that has sought to reinvent Christian culture but has chosen to model that culture after the world around us. Even the world is not so stupid as to see this for what it is. So the world is not so impressed with a faith that borrows heavily from everything else while offering little more than the name of Jesus and the promise of happiness as its own unique Christian contribution.

Both the Western church and the Eastern church have been building a Christian culture for two-thousand years. While there are some distinctions and differences between East and West, there is also remarkable convergence. Music, the visual arts, architecture, liturgy -- even literature -- are all a part of this emergence of a Christian culture that is at one and the same time exclusive to the Word and Sacraments and inclusive to those from various cultures. Christianity has a language and a culture -- the way we address the faith to the world. All of this includes how we see God but also how we see ourselves, creation, our place within creation, and our baptismal vocation in service to God within the world.

So, when churches reject this churchly culture of the faith, they are left when only two options. Either adopt the culture of the world around them or invent a new culture of Christianity. Some have insisted that this is exactly what must be done. They have falsely judged the culture of the Church as being out dated, irrelevant, and incompatible with the modern world. In this respect it is fair to say that worship wars or culture wars has been about a high culture versus low culture -- not because the Church has framed it this way but because those who reject the culture of Christianity have characterized it in this way. It is not valid and only trivializes the Gospel but that is indeed how much of evangelicalism has framed the issue.

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