And that sounds like a criticism of the "emergent" folks (and it is), but think about this: there are plenty of nondescript, nondenominational megachurches out there which fit this mold, so let's not pretend that the biggest problem here is the "innovators": the biggest problem is that our idea of innovation (if such a thing is rightly said about the preaching of the Gospel) is to get a new logo for "new Coke" in the hope that it's the logo people hate and not the crappy, too-sweet taste.
But on the other hand, we also have the view that somehow it's the culture we have to save. You know: this gets underscored in this week's Rolling Stone magazine as they do a little 3-pager on Ron Luce's Acquire the Fire empire. I always turn on a second light and get out my reading glasses whenever I see someone who graduated from Oral Roberts University, and I always break out the air fresheners whenever I see someone who is endorsed by Jerry Falwell, but look at what Rolling Stone reports about Luce's view of things -- which is reiterated, btw, at the Acquire the Fire website:
"This is a real war," Luce preaches. When he talks like that, he growls. "This is not a metaphor!" In Cleveland, he intercuts his sermons with videos of suicide bombers and marching Christian teens. One of the most popular, "Casualties of War," features an elegiac beat by a Christian rapper named KJ-52 laid over flickering pictures of kids holding signs declaring the collapse of Christendom: 1/2 OF US ARE NO LONGER VIRGINS, reads a poster board displayed by a pigtailed girl. 40% OF US HAVE INFLICTED SELF-INJURY, says a sign propped up over a sink in which we see the hands of a girl about to cut herself. 53% OF US BELIEVE JESUS SINNED, declares the placard of a young black man standing in a graffiti-filled alley.Yes: all of the things listed here are bad -- some morally, some theologically. But the question is this: is it the secular culture we have to win? See: I thought that Jesus came to establish a new Heavens and a new Earth, not to try to make the one we have wrecked into one in which Victoria's Secret only sells stuff to married women, but doesn't target unmarried women because that would be profitable.
Jesus didn't come here, giving up His rightful place on the throne of Heaven and the active praise of creatures which will make you cry out in fear because they are flames of fire, and die on a cross so we can have a global America. Middle Class American culture is not the reason the Son of God spilled His own blood. He did not walk out of the tomb to hand you the keys to a new SUV or a house with a nice, flat sod yard.
Jesus came to die for sinners, and it wasn't because He was angry but because of Love. It is because God loved the world that He gave His only son -- you know: "for God so loved the world ...". "For" here means "because" or "on accout of". So the smack-talk about war and opposing cultural terrorists is just as stupid as capitulating to a passive-aggressive culture which will just not talk to you if you disagree with them. Because you're mean.
This Jesus is a crazy person by any normal standard. He thinks that if He dies, many will be saved -- He doesn't think that if he calls down 10,000 legions of angels and frees Himself anyone will be saved. He doesn't demand His rights -- which would be the rights of the King and Ruler of everything -- but gives them up to accomplish something else. And He calls us to be like Him.
He thinks that if we are obedient, the world will hate us, but those who are called will come. Think about that: Jesus doesn't want us to win an argument but to tell the truth and then accept the disdain of those who reject the truth. He doesn't want us to kill our enemies but to love them, and he doesn't want us to attack them but to die to sin daily. If we have seen the enemy, we know that he is Us -- and in that, the wrong thing to do is to call those like whom we once were the real enemies of the Gospel.
If there are enemies of the Gospel, they belong to a group who has access to and in some way posseses the Gospel. The single-mom stripper doesn't possess the Gospel. The Victoria's Secret district manager doesn't possess the Gospel. MTV not only does not possess the Gospel, but it couldn't trip over it if they were standing in the middle of it blindfolded and the Gospel was wrapped in concentric circles around them.
And if I can get this off my chest, there's something wrong with a guy who runs stadium events and lives like Tony Robbins in very nice hotels and has a staff of hundreds who tells kids that they are the ones who need to give up the materialistic luxuries of this world. Heh bub: when you fire your personal hair stylist, stop buying relevant updates to your wardrobe, establish a local church and some personal accountability for yourself among the people of God rather than appealing to phony authorities like James Dobson and Pat Robertson, then you can credibly start the organ music against secularism, materialism, idolatry and immorality and set the monkey to dancing.
So listen to me: this statement -- this thesis which my pastor has proposed and is working out in his own life and the life of our local church -- that "The Gospel is the solution to culture" is not just a slogan which you have to contemplate with some kind of zen-like objective of becoming nothing. This is the serious business of first being utterly humbled by the hands that were pierced through by the nails which we deserved, and the head which was mocked and slapped and crowned with thorns instead of the perfect diadem it deserved, and the side from which blood and water flowed to prove He had died from the punishment; then it is a matter of being that humble before people who aren't that humble, and who think you are stupid and weak for being humble -- until they either kill you for being like the firstborn of many brothers, or they finally see His loving face and feel His loving hands and hear His loving voice in your declaration that they know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus who was crucified.
That doesn't get us a republican majority in the House or the Senate, and it won't get us a pro-life President who will actually seek to protect the innocent and the oppressed: it gets us killed for the sake of our fellow men -- economically, socially, emotionally, professionally, in all the ways our heart and minds and souls can manifest this truth. It doesn't earn us the respect of those who say they like our Jesus but can't understand us: it makes us witnesses -- martyrs -- to truth.
Don't buy the t-shirt. Don't get the plastic symbol for your car. Don't pretend that you can join the club and once you have a membership card it's all good. Get real. Get serious about whether the death of Christ means something more than entertainment and personal gratification.