Category Archives: Culture

The “Rolling in their Graves” Argument

Although we like to say that tradition doesn’t carry authority for us like it does in the Catholic church the truth is, in practice, many times it does. How many times have you heard an idea rebuffed because either “We’ve never done it that way” or “The people who started this church would be rolling in their graves if they knew about this!” Ok. But what pleases God? Not what have we done. Not what did our ancestors do. What pleases God?

We aren’t animists. We don’t have totems or shrines to our ancestors but sometimes church buildings and their contents seem to operate just like them. That is unfortunate and although we don’t like to admit it it is often the case.

Here are a few thoughts to help put that thinking to rest.

First, this line of thinking isn’t healthy doctrinally.  You don’t base doctrine sheerly or maybe merely based on what others before us did. That is never a good criteria in and of itself. There were many things they got wrong and we don’t have to be doomed to make the same mistakes again. There are other things that just don’t matter.

Second, it isn’t healthy psychologically. We need to have better self-differentiation and less enmeshment with the past. They were more than their traditions then and so are we today.

Third, it doesn’t have an adequate appreciation for generational or cultural differences. If those church founders from the 1940s or 50s were born when you were born they wouldn’t think like people born in the 1920s. They would think more like people born in our generation. They might still have their pioneer spirit and still want to start a church. But the way they would do it had they been born when you were born wouldn’t be the same as how they did it then, for better or for worse. In other words, when we make these statements we are comparing apples and oranges. We are comparing a frozen past to a dynamic present. The present will always lose that contest. But take them out of the past and project them 50 to 75 years into the future and take their pioneer spirit and consider how they might apply those same motivations and dreams today and I believe you would find they would not roll over in their graves for what is going on in many instances but would in fact applaud much of it. Innovators of the past would be innovators of the present. It was in their DNA.

Now, this doesn’t work with everything. There are some things that don’t need to change cross-generationally. There are some things I would hope they would hold onto that our culture no longer holds on to but maybe some of them would have flexed on those as well (just as they did in their day) – remember, they were human too. Somehow we miss that point. When our belief is that they are automatically right and anything new is an innovation and therefore automatically wrong we box ourselves into a corner we created. What they did when they did it was innovative so I can only imagine they would do the same if they were alive in our generation.

So don’t worry about who is rolling over in their grave. If we are going to make up what we think they might do we could just make up that they are smiling at our attempts to do things in ways that fit our context and culture just like they did.


Guarded – that’s a great word for our communication these days…at least for those who care. Those who care about others are guarded because people who care don’t want to upset people. That is a good thing but it makes having difficult conversations quite difficult. We have developed a cultural sensitization to offensive things. TheContinue Reading

Five Sources of Negative Cultural Syncretism in Christianity

Syncretism is the blending of different religions into something that isn’t really any of its original components. Some people call this a la carte religion. You pick a little of this and a little of that until you come up with something that agrees with your sensibilities. As secularism and secular-humanism is on the riseContinue Reading

What the United Airlines Debacle Has to Teach Us About the Importance of Context

We live in a world of instant and instant means that context gets kicked to the curb because exploring context takes time and that means instant is impossible to achieve. Take what happened the other day on the United Airlines flight. The first thing we saw were the videos. They came from multiple angles andContinue Reading

When The Pendulum Hits You In The Head

Pendulum swings are a necessary part of theological discourse. It is only natural that at times we find ourselves out of balance in a particular area and so we course-correct. What often happens is because we have been so out of kilter in a given direction we don’t really know how hard to push theContinue Reading

Christianity’s Enmeshment with the World, Fuzzy Identity and Our Corresponding Decline

Do you know your story? If you don’t know your story then you are susceptible to someone else giving you one. This is what makes the difference between the child who accepts the playground label that everyone else puts on them and the one who doesn’t. The person who knows who they are knows other’sContinue Reading

But What Is Your Perspective?

Post-modernism has given us the blessing and the curse of considering things from a multiplicity of perspectives. It is a true blessing to be able to step out of one’s own shoes and attempt to understand things from a different position. That is something we should attempt to do and often the result is aContinue Reading

Being Direct

Every eldership I have ever worked with I have told up front that I will trust them and that I expect for them to tell me anything I would need to know including any criticism that they are directing toward me. This is a very important thing to establish in any important relationship. Often weContinue Reading

Regaining Our Certainty in Churches of Christ

We used to be a certain bunch. We were certain about pretty much everything. We were certain about our doctrine. We were certain about our identity. We had things locked down tight to a fault. Part of this had to do with a backwards hermeneutic that was self-perpetuating of our pre-determined conclusions that always guaranteedContinue Reading

Postmodernism and Historical Continuity

I saw a poll on TV the other day that asked respondents the question: “Is today the most divided period in American history?” My first thought? Ever heard of the Civil War? Postmodernism is self-absorbed. Modernism was too. No matter what your worldview is we will find a way to be self absorbed. Modernism wasContinue Reading


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