Saturday, May 29, 2010

Christians and Culture . . . Separate and . . . Unequal

Do you ever have this strange experience where you have moved on in your life over a way of thinking and you have this misconception that all of society has been on the same train as you? Then suddenly you realize that there are plenty of people still at the place you were a long time ago? I don’t mean this in any type of condescending way. Not like my friend Mike C., who was into "Messianic-Christianity" who kept telling me that when I mature to his point, I too will be practicing the Jewish laws. I never got to his point and now I don't see him since he ran off with a young co-worker and left his wife and daughter. But I mean that that I have moved on as a cultural fact.

Okay, I never wore a mullet . . . personally . . . but there was a time in my life when I was around a lot of people who did. As a matter of fact, I had plenty of kin-folks down south who did. But imagine that you assume that all of culture has moved beyond the mullet, then one day you meet someone with the same hair cut as you were use to back in the 80s.

I had another one of those encounters this week. I was up hiking in the N. Cascades and ran into an evangelical pastor, whom I’ve met before. We share some things in common in the fact that we each have sons who are trying to make it in the music industry.

We were discussing how hard it is to be “on the road” as a musician . . . and the temptations a young man can face. My son, Tyler is planning a west coast tour in the coming months and his son had done the same several times.

Then I brought up the movie Crazy Heart. This is not a movie I would have rented simply because I’m not a country music fan. However, a few weeks ago I was strapped to an airplane seat for 6 hours. I had exhausted all my books, videos and writing tasks. Crazy Heart was on the menu of my rented DVD player. I decided to watch it because it had won two Oscars. So I watched it. While I’m not a fan of that genre of music, I thought the acting was good and the scenario was realistic. So, it was worthwhile and has value to watch.

So to my pastor friend, Rob, I said, “I should have Tyler watch Crazy Heart to get a little less glamorous view of the down side of traveling and performing.”

Immediately I could see in Rob’s eyes that I had said something bad. It was the same look that he gave me the last time we talked several months ago (and I know forgot what my social blunder was then). He shook his head and said, “That isn’t the type of movie I would ever watch nor could I recommend to my son.”

So in a millisecond, my memory “DVD” file in my brain replayed the movie (or the 5% I could remember). I felt puzzled. There was no nudity that I can remember. I mean the allow it to be played on a plane. I’m sure there was profanity. Sure there was implied sex and obvious alcoholism. But, from my understanding, both play out in real life in these same situations. I mean, we may not want to acknowledge it but there is a lot of sex going on other there outside of marriage. There are also a heck (pun intended) of people using real "curse words" in their common talk. Also . . . believe it or not . . . a lot of people really do drink too much alcohol.

The look of horror on his face took me back to where I was in the 80s, or 90s. When I was with the Navigators, our area director didn’t believe that we should go to any movies nor watch any TV. We, trainees, did go to Disney movies (or other G rated movies) but our leader didn’t even do that. The reason? Well, according to him, if you paid money to see Thumper, some of that money when to the Disney studio, which then used that money to make movies where people cursed and had implied sex. And some of that money went to sponsor Gay and Lesbian Day, at Disney World. He thought that we should all strive for "moral purity" because the Bible says we should be "perfect as he is perfect." I know. Sad.

It was a huge breath of fresh air when I met the people at Ransom Fellowship (bookmarked at the right). Their ministry is helping Christians to relate to modern culture. I loved going up to the LAbri house in Rochester, MN and watching movies with the Ransom folks. The way they taught me to watch movies was to not be offended by a, so-called, curse word or a flash of a boob, but to see the artistry. I grew to appreciate the hard work and talent of the actors and directors. I also learned, in a much deeper way, to understand the message of the screenplay writers. These were not messages to incorporate into my own philosophy but to discern. I knew when the writers’ own pantheistic ideas were coming through and why. I learned better how to divide between that to be deeply enjoyed and that to not let influence my perspective. It was very liberating.

This brings me to my second experience this week that ties in to this. I read on CNN’s web page yesterday (and I will try to link it to the title of this posting if I can find it) about a special documentary to be aired today about Christians who have completely disengaged from modern culture. I don’t have CNN on my cable so I can’t watch it. But these Christians have chosen to separate themselves completely from their surrounding (and evil) culture. Hasn’t this been tried before, over and over and over . . .in history?

So, between my conversation with Rob and seeing this CNN piece, I am startled, once again, to realize that there are still many Christians who live where I was in the 80s and 90s. They see American culture as the evil empire. All creative products of that society are thrown into the garbage bin of “filft” in their eyes. In my opinion . . . it is a sad thing.

So, I came home and decided to 2-3 “movie nights” at my house this summer. My sons, (who have now moved out) created a decent movie theater in our basement. I want to invite all my Christian (and other) friends and show a very good, but realistic (rather than morally pure) movie and then discuss it. I will see how it goes. I expect that I will once again offend a lot of people and prove to them, as they had thought, that I am a flake.


Anna A said...

I'm glad that you liked "Crazy Heart". That was one of the movies that I went to on my own. (I normally don't go to movies, except with the single's group. Not being that much of a fan)

I see a place for groups of Christians separating themselves from the world. But, they have to act as oasis for the rest of us. I'm thinking more of the Benedictine type monastaries. Even the very strict ones, like the Trappists are connected, in their own way. It's not for everyone, but for some yes

MJ said...

This is not a rhetorical question but a very honest one.

Like those Christians in the CNN piece and, on a smaller scale, many of my friends who don't go to movies, walk out on plays that have "off color" language and etc, is there a place for that or do we all need to share Peter's rooftop vision of the giant sheet coming down and God's voice saying, "Eat, this is all good?"

Anna A said...


I'll be honest, I'm probably not the best person to try to answer (but that hasn't stopped me yet.) You see, recently I saw the Passion Play at Oberammergau on Sunday and the next Saturday a local production of the Full Monty.

I do believe that there are places where some are less exposed than others. BUT, the small groups that you are describing isn't what I am thinking of. I tend to think of those more like "The boy in the Bubble" whose immune systems never get developed. That just hurts them in the long run. Prudes, at work, rarely make good witnesses.

I tend to think of monastic life, as more like the military life, where they have rules, etc. that don't apply to the average Christian. The lifestyle is chosen, by adults, freely. I couldn't do it, but appreciate those who can. (And the ones that I have seen up close are not prudes, can be very fun loving, loving and some give very good hugs).


Have I confused matters enough yet?