I live in an area that has more churches per square foot than any other area in the world. I worked for ten years at a Christian bookstore. I now work at a Christian publisher that is part of a worldwide ministry. I attend church every Sunday. My friends are mostly people I know through work (Christians) or church (probably Christians) or my writers group (also Christians). Blah blah blah.
Christian culture has a way of closing itself off from the rest of the world. It isn’t always intentional. Sometimes it is, but not with me. It just happens that my social sphere is dominated by Christian people. So what do I do with that?
Engaging culture has to be one of the toughest thing that Christians can attempt. We come to the table with a ton of cross-embroidered baggage. We are known for imposing our moral code on others instead of our love. Somewhere along the line, we started making “clean” versions of “dangerous” mainstream media products. I know; I worked in a Christian bookstore and I work at a Christian publisher.
In truth, Christians are just people. I don’t know why Christians like putting the cross on everything (to make it faith-friendly?), or why the standard for Christian rock music is set lower than the mainstream. People are weird sometimes. My wife doesn’t like Dr Pepper and I don’t like pickles. But I don’t think that these preferences should stop us from going to restaurants that serve one or the other.
As for engaging culture, I think the thing that hangs up a lot of Christians is that they feel called to be different from the world. The easiest way to do that, I guess, is by sticking a cross or a Jesus fish or a Bible verse on something and telling everyone that that thing is different. But when Jesus said that His people were to be set apart, I really don’t think that this is what He meant.
I think he meant that we should do things like love our enemies when the easy thing to do would be to hate them or avoid them. And sometimes, we don’t have to do much to avoid non-Christians. I certainly don’t. So maybe I should be doing more to put myself in places where church people don’t normally go. Not because I want to blend in with them and not because I want to clash with them (or judge them), but because a room full of lights doesn’t do any good to the dark world outside the church doors.
I’m not going to quit my job at the Christian publisher and I’m not going to stop going to church. I don’t want to spend less time with my family or friends. To be honest, I’m still thinking through what I am going to do to start engaging culture. I suppose I’m going to keep my eyes open for opportunities to show more love than judgement and hope people see that it is my faith rather than my good nature (because between you and me, my nature isn’t very good most of the time).
Do you struggle with this? Care to share any of your thoughts?