Thursday, June 12, 2008

Got Meme?

Pastor Joseph just tagged me in a meme regarding a topic in Christian life that is as avoided as discussions of a girl's hemline length to her face. Let's call it subliminal segregation. Check his comments on this meme here.

The meme:
When asked why he did not rebuke the sinfulness of the people around him, St. Francis of Assis responded:

“The life of the Christian should be burning with such a light of holiness that by their very example and conduct, their life will be a rebuke to the wicked.”

In an era where Christians are largely known for the sin they oppose, this wisdom could not be more timely. Francis calls us to face the compromises of our culture by becoming living alternatives with how we live. As sin is defined, not by what it is, but by what it fails to be (thus its meaning “to miss the mark”), so to our approach to facing the systemic sin in our world should be battled by becoming that which is fails to be. For example, in the face of rampant individualism, we must embrace radical community, not simply condemn it as wrong.
Along this line, I am starting this meme to challenge your creativity:
1. Consider aspects of our culture where we have too easily compromised, issues that you passionately oppose.
2. Then, ask yourself what it would mean for you, both as and individual and as a part of a community, to be a living alternative. Write about it.
3. Link back here to this post.
4. Tag others to participate.

Here's my response to his tag:
It's true. Subliminal segregation is alive and well--and accepted as the norm. And as Joseph said, the most segregated hour is the 11 o'clock hour on Sunday morning. If Christian churches were a corporation, the ACLU could charge us with racial discrimination. Every "branch" caters to a different race.

Part of it is because we want to be comfortable when we go to church. We want to come to church--a place that's familiar and comfortable--"get our worship on" for a bit, hear an inspiring message, say hi to our friends, and go home for lunch and a nap. Because it's our day of rest... it's our Sunday. But that's because we think church exists for us. In reality, we ARE the church, and we exist for the world.

Here's another common expression of it: styles of worship. People often choose their church because of the style of worship that church offers. I've done it myself in the past. The big three are Black gospel, White rock, and Spanish passion. (I just picked the word passion, you may call it something else.) Isn't it amazing that we all base our ability to worship on how agreeable the style of music is?? Worship isn't about us, and yet we allow our comfort driven preferences to dictate whether we will connect with and glorify God or not. "Oh, it's just my preference." WE ALL DO IT.

The truth is, it's not just preference. It's non-acceptance. It's not rejection--we don't consciously reject the other culture. We just prefer ours ('cause it's better). We just like ours ('cause it's cooler). Perhaps, deep down inside, we feel like we would be "selling out" our own history, by refusing to stand up for it's individuality. I think that concept is birthed out of insecurity. It's not about "selling out"... it's about loving others.

Here's my challenge to be a living alternative. We, as the church, have to realize that our Sunday meeting isn't for us. It's for the world. Begin to actively learn about a different culture. About the food, the music, the common greetings, the language. Learn a worship song in a different language. Go out to eat at a restaurant that stretches our food tolerance. Make friends outside our social stratus. We have to stop talking about racial segregation as though it were dying, when we are continuing to propagate it in our own lives, by excusing it as "just my preferences".

I'm tagging Cheryl, Carrie, and Sola on this. What are your thoughts on this meme?


cheryl said...

I had a dream the other night. all of these different people, races, religions and nationalities were in a big room. it was kind of like we were in a shelter. I was walking by and greeting them in their own manner - "shalom" "God Bless." I walked through the room and when I got on the other side, someone commented that it was amazing how everyone was mixed together. I looked back and said, "they just got here. Give them some time and eventually they will gather with those who speak and look like themselves. It's human nature." i looked down and my feet were sinking in sand.

No idea what it means, but this made me think. In 90 Minutes in Heaven (this was told to me. i haven't read it yet) the man dies and when he is in heaven, he hears all of the different worship songs filling the air. some familiar, some not. but they all came together to form one song. individual, but one. I think God made cultures and i don't necesarily have a problem with people wanting to go to a church that expresses in a manner that is familiar. I have a problem with "our way is better." "God likes our music better." "If you're going to be a Christian, you need to look western." shudder. The thing about the Gospel that is so amazing is how it is relevant to each culture, has expression for every individual. And since people desire relationships, they are going to build them with like people. I don't speak german so for me to worship in german would be strange. I wouldn't know what I was saying. it would just be sound.

That being said, it is amazing when cultures collide in joint worship, but one culture takes on the other or they go back and forth. it's beautiful, but i wouldn't want to wash out one culture by mixing it with another. let them be the beautiful characters they are.

Hope Clark said...

Great thoughts Cheryl. I see your perspective. I wouldn't want to wash out a culture either.

I think the common thread in both our thoughts is active education. By that I mean, taking active steps to educate yourself about other cultures. It doesn't erase your own, but it does help to remove that unconscious "my way is better" thought process that is a byproduct of my way being the only way I know.