“Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God – what is good and well-pleasing and perfect” Romans 12:2
I used to work at Christian clothing store called C28. The clothing at C28 usually had all kinds of Christian images, symbols and bible verses plastered all over. The art was usually eye-catching, intriguing and edgy. The store’s main brand was the NOTW brand. I’m sure most have seen the sign stuck to the windows of cars. NOTW stands for “not of this world” and comes from the above verse. This “not of this world” slogan is a very popular among Christians and I’m sure most have heard it somewhere.\. Now there is a certain truth to this slogan. However, I think many Christians neglect the other end of the spectrum. We tend to focus a lot on “not being of this world” but forget that we are still IN it. We are still living in this world. I know too many Christians that are would much rather cuddle up in a bunker with each other and sing songs till the end of the world. They do whatever they can to stay away from the world. They attend Christian schools, work at Christian organizations and spend the rest of their time at home or at church.
I want to be clear that there is nothing wrong with Christians surrounding themselves with other Christians; however. far too many Christians would rather bury their heads in the sand and forget about the world that continues to go on around them. I remember going to a camp a few years ago where people were discussing how to best spread the Christian message. The focus was mostly on which verse is most effective to quote and asking people what they plan on telling Jesus in front of the pearly gates. I was shocked at how oblivious these well-meaning Christians were about the surrounding culture they planned using these tactics in. In this age of tolerance, pluralism and religious relativity, these kinds of attempts at evangelism are sadly extremely ineffective.
*Warning, Discussion of Possibly Obscene Material Follows*
Many Christians don’t seem to realize what kind culture we are living in now. Let me give you a snapshot. When I studied at Berkeley, I remember seeing ads for Eve Enser’s The Vagina Monologues. Ever hear of it? The Vagina Monologues is an episodic play composed of monologues given by different characters; the focus is on “reclaiming the vagina”… or so I’m told. Against my better judgment, I decided to skim over a copy of this pornographic play. I remember one episode that completely floored me. This episode, titled “The Little Coochie Snorcher that Could”, involves a female protagonist recounting certain memories for the audience. The earlier memories revolve around traumas the female’s vagina has to endure. This includes getting punched by a boy in between the legs and getting raped by an older man.
The final event occurs when protagonist is 16 years old (in earlier versions, she is supposed to be 13; remember that!). The young 16 year old girl is taken in by an older 24-year-old woman, given alcohol, “seduced” and then molested in ways I refuse detail here. The kicker is that this memory is seen as a POSITIVE experience where the older female pedophile “heals” the 16-year-old’s damaged genitalia. And if that wasn’t enough, earlier versions of the play have this particular narrator conclude with “if this was rape, it was a good rape”. Leaving aside my outrage for the moment, I want to point out to all my Christian readers that this is the kind of culture we are currently living in. This is the kind of crap that gets passed off as “life affirming” and “a work of art“.
What do we Christians do when faced with a culture like this? What do we do when our culture begins to consider the idea of
infanticide after-birth abortions? Most debate which verses can be quoted to the greatest effect or ask people what they plan on telling Jesus in front of the pearly gates. I’m sorry to say this, but this sort of thing is like using a two-inch band-aid to treat a brain tumor. Our culture has changed to the point where quoting bible verses and asking people if they know Jesus no longer works.
In my opinion, many Christians seem to be stuck in the past and think that simply quoting the Bible like zombies is all we have to do to reach the culture around us. I realize that this tactic might have worked an one point in time where the Bible commanded more authority in American culture. But that time is long gone. We no longer live in a culture where the Bible is seen as a moral authority. We no longer live in a culture that views Christianity positively. If we continue to only focus on not “being of this world” and forget to engage with the culture around us, we lose the ability to combat all sorts of poisonous ideas. Sometimes I wonder if things would have been different had the majority of Christians in this country engaged with their culture instead of retreating into the relative safety of their sanctuaries.