Category Archives: Culture

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 rise in the West it is important that we understand how these forces affect our faith and congregational life. It is not all negative but it can be negative. We should acknowledge both. This post will focus on the negative aspects of this and a future post will focus on the positive.

1 – Consumerism.
Secularism and post-modernism put the individual in the center. When you are the center of your universe then it only makes sense that things should be to your liking. Congregational life, life in Christ, is not set up in a way that is agreeable to this so you have tension. What I have seen in several cases (if not many) is that culture wins this one. People “go to church” to get things their way just like they do in every other areas of their lives. Many churches are nearly run by the complainers that at its root comes out of secularism, not Christianity. This expresses itself in the idea of giving and the minister doing the ministry. The congregation becomes a location for the exchange of religious goods and services rather than a cruciforum community where submission to Christ and sacrifice are common place and even expected.

2 – An unhealthy sexual ethic. If this is all there is and secularism is true then hedonism would make sense to some people. But this is more than just pleasure, this is about identity. As Christians, our identity comes in and through Christ. We see this crop up in many forms but probably the most common is the complete lack of accountability in many congregations. There may be people on the praise team or a Bible class teacher who everyone knows is having an affair. No one says a word. It is just too sensitive or we just don’t want to know. This does harm to everyone, including the one engaged in the sin. This is very culturally driven rather than Spirit/scripture driven.

3 – Corporate mindset. This is most easily seen in two places: 1) what we count and 2) how leaders lead. If you count attendance and contribution and base success on if those go up or down your congregation has this mindset. If the leaders conflate leadership with decision making rather than shepherding then you probably have this cultural influence getting its say rather than what the scriptures say about what it means to be a leader.

4 – The cult of personality. Some churches rise and fall on the success of a single individual. Unless that individual is Jesus, this is also culturally conditioned. I try to have as little personality as possible just to avoid this from the start!

5 – Busyness. There can certainly be Christian busyness but I don’t see it very often. Busyness is secular by nature because the people of God should be people who know how to rest, be still and trust God. Once we understand busyness for what it is, we can begin setting things aside to make more room for God, spiritual practices/disciplines, and our neighbors.

What would you add or subtract?

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

Making the Foreign, Native: Connecting with Culture on Three Levels

Cultural awareness is very important in Christianity. We get focused on this when it comes to international missions, especially full-time, long-term, over-seas missionaries. They can spend years studying language and culture in order to be effective in a new content. It is an attempt to make the foreign native to us. It is to identifyContinue Reading

Swimming Upstream: The Shift from Modernism to Postmodernism and Legalism to Grace

The culture we live in is like the old fish who asked the two younger fish “how is the water.” The two young fish looked at each other and one asked, “What is water?” Culture is inescapable and it influences the way we think, behave, etc. When the predominant culture of the Western world wasContinue Reading

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