Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling regarding gay marriage reminded me that my beliefs and the dominant cultural beliefs are not always the same. I believe that a strong view of the Bible will increasingly put me at odds with our culture. So what do I do? Many Christian folks on social media took one of several approaches.
There were those who were like:
1) Sergeant Schultz. Anyone under 40 may have never watched the TV Show Hogan’s Heroes and might not remember Schultz. So let me explain, Hogan’s Heroes was based in a World War II German POW camp. The POWs were always pulling a fast one over the Nazis and working with the resistant “underground.” But there was one German guard, Sergeant Shultz, who was a lovable, chocolate-bar-eating, Teddy-Bear type of guy. I always felt a little sorry for Shultz. He seemed to be a guy placed in a position he didn’t want to be in. So, whenever Sergeant Shultz saw something that POWs were not supposed to be doing (i.e. sending a telegram to the Allies giving away strategic Nazi positions or building a bomb to be used on an ammunitions factory in Dusseldorf) Schultz’s response was always, “I see nothing. I hear nothing.”
His approach: Ignore the “problem.” Pretend to not see or hear anything that he wasn’t supposed to see or hear.
Some people did that yesterday. Ignoring what was taking place at the Supreme Court, these head-in-the-sand believers simply didn’t want to see or think or dwell on the implications of the justices’ decision.
The problem is that if we “Sergeant Schultz” it— sooner (rather than later) the culture will ignore us too and say we are irrelevant, meaningless and don’t speak to issues that matter.
2) Milli Villini. Do you remember Milli Vanilli? Milli Vanilli became one of the most popular pop acts in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1990. However, their success turned to infamy when their Grammy was revoked after it came out that the lead vocals on the record album were not sung by Milli or Vanilli (I don’t think that was their real names). Their “concerts” were nothing more than lip syncing to someone else’s voices.
I know Christians who just want to lip sync along with culture. They imitate culture. You can’t tell any difference between them and the dominant culture.
The problem with “Milli Vanilling it” is that imitating culture also leads to irrelevancy. If we don’t shape the culture, the culture will shape us. If we are not a separate, holy people—if our world doesn’t see that Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit makes a difference in our lives—then what incentive is there to becoming a Christian? Why follow Christ if there is no difference between those that follow Him and those that don’t?
3) Fred Phelps. He’s the Westboro Baptist Church guy in Topeka with the vile picket signs at soldiers’ funerals. He spews hate and says God hates this and God hates that and if you disagree, God hates you. He vehemently condemns culture.
I saw a lot of condemnation on Facebook and Twitter yesterday. Not to the degree of ol’ Fred, but close. Condemnation seems to be a bit of a cop out or (at best) plain laziness. It’s easy to condemn a Supreme Court decision. It’s not hard to find reasons to protest the direction that our society is heading. But if we are committed to seeing the transformation of society, then it seems that more than condemnation is needed. We need to offer a better solution. Wagging fingers and shouting condemnation seems to be less effective than if we were to offer better alternatives.
When we “Fred Phelps it” and all the world hears is condemnation from the church, soon it will be like my grandpa’s hearing aid when grandma became a little too naggy. He just turned it off. I wonder if most in our culture have already tuned out the church.
Or lastly we could be like my neighbor growing up…
4) Mr. Bilow. (I don’t know his first name… I’m pretty sure it wasn’t “Mister.” And I don’t know whether or not he was a Christian. I was just a kid when Mr. Bilow was our neighbor.) Here’s what I do know about Mr. Bilow. He worked on old cars. He restored them. Tow trucks would drag broken down jalopies into his driveway; Mr. Bilow would push the cars into his garage; and then he would begin to work. In many ways, Mr. Bilow was an artist. A car would begin as a rusty, ugly mess and end as a gleaming, restored vintage automobile. Mr. Bilow looked at those broken down vehicles and saw what they could become.
I wish that was us. Our culture needs followers of Christ who see what others cannot see. They need us to be creative and dreaming of something better. They need us to view our world though a God-sized lens and imagine the possibilities of what could happen when God declares, “I am making all things new.” They need us to roll up our sleeves and get to the work of offering our world God-sized solutions. A creative, God-influenced approach to our culture doesn’t involve ignoring, imitating and condemning—but rather it’s all about His Kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven. It’s creative, dynamic and powerful.
Paul reminded a handful of believers in a thoroughly pre-Christian culture in Thessalonica that “Our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.” (1 Thessalonians 1:5)
Following yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling, our culture, more than ever, needs that type of Gospel— one that approaches culture “not simply with words.” Our world needs a Gospel message that has power, the Holy Spirit and a deep conviction. For transformation to take place in our society, we will need to be less like Sergeant Schultz, Milli Vanilli and Fred Phelps and more like Mr. Bilow. Relying on the dynamic, creative, powerful work of the Holy Spirit, we need to offer a better way to our broken down culture through our loving actions.
Great message, Pastor Rob!
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