The Church and Cultural Redemption (Part II of Culture: The Driver of Politics)

Recap from Part I:

As William Wichterman states, “culture is upstream from politics,” and as such, the Church must move to change CULTURE… no amount of political change will ever change the hearts and minds of the people around us. Only Jesus Christ can do that. Until we redirect and redouble our efforts to influence, impact, and imprint our culture for Jesus, our efforts will be effectively wasted. The job of the Church? Cultural redemption.

What would cultural redemption look like?

I think that I would love for it to look something like the cultural changes that happened in Wales during the 1904 Welsh Revival:

[“People were changed in so many ways. The crime rate dropped, drunkards were reformed, pubs reported losses in trade. Bad language disappeared and never returned to the lips of many – it was reported that the pit ponies failed to understand their born again colliers who seemed to speak the new language of Zion – without curse and blasphemy – even football and rugby became uninteresting in the light of new joy and direction received by the Converts.” http://www.welshrevival.com/]

But I don’t want a one time change or revival that lasts a few years (the Welsh Revival was fading by 1906, though the waves of influence rippled through society longer)… I want to see the landscape of the Church change. And I’m super curious about how other people think that can and should happen. I think it means we shift our focus to being salt and light as individuals… that we move our focus from the political to the spiritual and that we begin to fulfill the role that Christ Himself gave His body in Matthew 5:13-16

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”

 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

What does it mean for us to be salt and light? I find myself turning back to one of my favorite passages in Scripture:

Isaiah 58:6-10

  6 “Is not this the fast that I choose:

to loose the bonds of wickedness,

to undo the straps of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free,

and to break every yoke?

  7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry

and bring the homeless poor into your house;

when you see the naked, to cover him,

and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

  8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,

and your healing shall spring up speedily;

your righteousness shall go before you;

the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

  9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;

you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’

If you take away the yoke from your midst,

the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,

  10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry

and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,

then shall your light rise in the darkness

and your gloom be as the noonday.”

 

Wow! Verse 10 – what a promise! But we have to fulfill our part – pouring ourselves out for the hungry, the afflicted, and those in darkness. I read Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love this summer and am still struck by Chan’s characterization of Christians and the “sleeping church.” Chan says, “taking the words of Christ literally and seriously is rarely considered. That’s for ‘radicals’ who are ‘unbalanced’ and who go ‘overboard'” (Chan, 68). 

I think that the Church, both local and universal, is being called to be radical and unbalanced in the way that we love the world around us… and to go overboard in service, effort, and commitment. No more should we sit on the fence and worry about being “overcommitted.” It’s time for us to really become obsessed with Jesus and the people He loves – “People who are obsessed with Jesus aren’t consumed with their personal safety and comfort above all else. Obsessed people care more about God’s kingdom coming to this earth than their own lives being shielded from pain or distress” (Chan, 133). 

This is by no means a finished post or topic for me. I’m sure I’ll be mulling it over for days and weeks and years. It’s my favorite topic to discuss right now – if you find yourself around me for any length of time these days, I’m likely to engage you in a conversation on the Church – and all that I dream about and all I think God has called us to do. I long to see the body of Christ become the catalyst for radical cultural change and I want to throw my whole life into making it happen.

Culture: The Driver of Politics

I’ve had a lot of people asking questions about the link between politics and culture recently… and I’ve been meaning to write about this for a long time, but I just haven’t had a chance. So, today I’m taking the chance to put into words something that I’ve been in the process of realizing for the last year or so.

A close friend called me on Sunday morning with a question – she wanted to know why so many people she knows were upset that there had been a Muslim prayer gathering on the National Mall. I emphasized the importance of that freedom and that opportunity and reminded her that if the Muslims didn’t have the right to express their devotion to Allah on the National Mall, we wouldn’t be able to host gatherings such as The Call, National Day of Prayer ceremonies, worship sessions, etc. on the National Mall either. Our country was founded in part because the Pilgrims felt the need to worship freely and that freedom is still something we hold dear today – to deprive another religious group of that right would be to deny them something that we ourselves hold as being supremely important.

I came to DC with such huge aspirations. I believed that politics would be the perfect way to change our nation. I’ve been working on the Hill for over two years now and have realized since day one how wrong I was. Don’t get me wrong – we still need more Christians than ever in the political sphere, but not for the reasons we have long thought.

I think that we as the American church have an incorrect view of the value of the political sphere, and it’s becoming more and more dangerous.  We tend to think that donating money to campaigns, knocking on doors, putting political signs in our yards, and voting are the ways to take back our culture and transform America. We also tend to believe that if we could just get a Christian in the White House or if we had a majority of believers in the U.S. Congress, that everything would change.

 The fundamental problem with this belief is that the nature of our political system is such that every four years there is an election for the office of President, and every two years we’re replacing or reelecting the entire House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate. As a country we embrace political change. And additionally, the system allows presidents and congresses to change and revoke the policies of their predecessors. In short, as in war, nothing in politics is ever final… no war is ever forever won.

[“Much of the moral and social breakdown in America is being fueled by cultural influences. The great challenge for this generation is both to think more seriously about culture and to develop initiatives and reform movements for positive change. Contrary to the common belief that major problems in our culture – moral license, sexual promiscuity, divorce, the loss of shame, shock, and manners – can be corrected through political action, the remedy […] is to promote cultural renewal through cultural means – to replace bad culture with good culture.”]

As William Wichterman states, “culture is upstream from politics,” and as such, the Church must move to change CULTURE… no amount of political change will ever change the hearts and minds of the people around us. Only Jesus Christ can do that. Until we redirect and redouble our efforts to influence, impact, and imprint our culture for Jesus, our efforts will be effectively wasted.

The job of the Church? Cultural redemption.

and look for Part II soon 🙂