I‘ve finished Dick Staub’s The Culturally Savvy Christian. I picked it up for a couple of reasons: the title and the introduction. Granted, even with the endorsements of N.T. Wright and slick cover, what reeled me in was the introduction that spoke of us living in an ‘intellectually and aesthetically impoverished age of Christianity Lite’, and how Christians used to be known for their intellectual, artistic, and spiritual contributions to society. Bach. Mendelsson, Dante, Dostoevsky, Newton, Pascal, Rembrant, CS Lewis, Tolkien… Unfortunately, today’s culturally creative impact is made by the likes of Michael Stipe and Chuck Palahnuik. And, yes, he quotes my all-time favorite scene from Fight Club, the iChing of our culture: the basement scene where Tyler gives his ‘middle children of history’ speech. And he’s right. As Walker Percy put it, "You live in a deranged age, more deranged than usual, because in spite of great scientific and technological advances, amn has not the faintest idea of who he is or what he’s doing."
His point is that the absence of a robust, rich Christian presence in today’s culture means that the very idea of a culturallly savvy Christian is oxymoronic, like saying ‘jumbo shrimp’ or ‘military intelligence’ or ‘a literal interpretation’. What a mess. Pop culture has become a diversonary entertainment, more ‘amusement’ (lit. ‘no thinking’) than just ‘entertainment’ (lit. ‘to hold one’s attention). But I didn’t need an entire book to convince me of that. As much as I love entertainment and amusement, much of it I love for the ‘mindless’ value it posesses. I watch Seinfeld when I want to unplug. Then King of the Hill. Then the world is at rest.
However, there are some great quotes and insights that you’ll see on Quotable Mondays in the near future. For instance, can you identify with Rich Mullins here?
"I really struggle with American Christianity. I’m not really sure that people wth our cultural disabilities, people who grow up in a culture that worships pleasure, leisure, and affluence, are capable of having souls, or being saved."
Ouch. Christians are called to be the Light of the World, not the Lite of the World. And if we are going to create a subculture, why create one so boring, immitative, and uninspiring?
Staub does a great job in talking about God’s transforming presence in our lives and in our culture. Jose Miguel Bonino once said, ‘Theology has to stop explaing the world and start transforming it.’ Amen, hermano. God so loved the world that he didn’t send a proposition, but a person. And if the God of the universe has truly taken up residence in us, the shouldn’t radical change in us be inescapable? Further, doesn’t it stand to reason that God’s presence in our lives will change us, not so we can change the world, but so we can experience God’s transformation in us and be restored to His image more completely?
The more I think about it the more I am beginning to belive that Jesus did not come into the world to change it. Jesus came to earth to do the will of the Father. It was Jesus’ daily obedience to God’s will that gave birth to this global movement we call Christianity. The ‘daily obedience’ has changed the world. When we, as people fully focused on God’s will, begin to live with an obsessive obedience to the Father, He will transform us into a loving, transforming presence like that of Jesus. Maybe God intends to transform us from ‘fallen humans’ to ‘fully human’ as Jesus was ‘fully human and fully divine’.
As culturally savvy Christians, you and I need to be serious about faith, savvy about the relationship between faith and culture, and skilled in relating the two. Although this book didn’t necessarily change my life in any (yet) dramatic way, it’s would be a great resource for small groups and ministry leaders in furthering the conversation on Missional Living. Definitely something to have on your shelf.