Sunday, February 04, 2007


"The church is catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does, belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated. God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another.

As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all; but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness...

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promentory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

-John Donne (Meditation XVII)

Friday, February 02, 2007

When in Rome

Last weekend my wife and I went on a retreat to Pigeon Forge with our church's college/singles group, even though we're not in college; we like the people. The theme of the weekend was Christ and Culture, which led us to discuss the definition of culture, the moral neutrality or non-neutrality of culture, and our role as the body of Christ living and being influenced by our culture.
Since then, I've been thinking about trying to apply some of the great discussion we had on the retreat to my everday life, and I've run up against a problem that I can't figure out: How do we live the "radical" Christian lifestyle that's demanded of us in a culture (Southern, bible-belt, nominally Christian) that already intellectually knows the gospel and, to an extent, even the radically other-worldly (holy) lifestyle that Jesus demands from us and, yet, doesn't care? It seems to me that, in many important ways, our southern culture is still very much a "churched" culture. For that reason, it's hard for our culture to distinguish between a life that preaches the authentic gospel and a life that preaches the almost-authentic gospel that has so saturated Southern culture.
For example: the normal response of the average southerner to a confrontation with a "radical" Christian life as described on our retreat would not, I'm afraid, be "Wow- s/he really loves Jesus!" Rather, I'm afraid it would be more like "Wow- look who just got back from a church retreat!" or " Wow- look who thinks s/he's a super-Christian." I know that's cynical, but the fact is that, in the South, being "Christian" is, first, almost automatically assumed, and second, is a social virtue. So, because being "Christian" is looked upon so positively by most of society, someone who's genuinely changed by the gospel and is excited about meeting Jesus will often be seen as simply making a social move or just "cleaning up their act." The persecution and resistance doesn't come from those who are overtly hostile to the gospel, but from a culture that sees Christianity as mainly a social thing, a culture that's been on the retreats, a culture that knows when we're being "witnessed to", therefore supiciously condemning as "self-righteous" any disturbingly radical expressions of Christ we see. After all, we live in the Christendom of the South, right? We're all okay.