Do You Have Culture-Colored Faith?

How culture-colored is your faith? The question may seem unimportant, but I assure you that it is vital. You see, culture as we know it will be drastically different at some point, and it may be in the not-so-distant future that culture as we know it — it doesn’t matter if we’re talking the culture of the United States, Saudi Arabian culture, or Argentinian culture — would be unrecognizable in important ways.

We see this played out in fictional depictions of what the future of humanity might look like. Take Star Trek as an example. In First Contact, Captain Picard explains to a 21st century woman that in Picard’s time (just a few hundred years in the future), greed is no longer a driving force for humanity. He doesn’t get paid. No one does. Instead, human improvement is the focus — to build a bigger, better Federation, to increase the quality of life as much as possible, and so on.

I’m thankful that culture changes — were it not for computers, I wouldn’t be able to acquire a healthy computer monitor tan! But while the world shifts endlessly around us, how are we as Christians respond?

Let me use as an example family size. Our own Scriptures declare that children are a heritage from Yahweh and that the man who has many children is “blessed,” or happy (Psalm 127:3–5). That is what our Scriptures say, and consequently it is an absolute truth for every age. But what says the culture? Two kids are enough? Three are a burden? Four are too many? Five or more are unthinkable?

It’s curious that our culture is at such a point that having eight kids is enough reason to parade the family around “reality” television shows like circus freaks so that anyone interested can see just how much work goes into having a large family — most of them are too lazy to ever want that much of a burden, but to be entertained by others? This is America, after all; about the only national value we have left is the right to be entertained at others’ expenses — the highly lucrative entertainment business depends on it, so that value is safe no matter who runs the White House, I think.

Our faith has been colored. Dreams which pull women out of the household and into the workplace simply to make ends meet. Dreams which pull children out of the household and into government-controlled schools or pricey private schools. Dreams which pull men away from being an active and present parent for their children, teaching them and raising them in the way they should go.

United States culture isn’t really conducive to large families — the blood of far too many unborn cry out in testament to that.

And family size is just one area our faith has been muddied by culture.

Churches? Simple gatherings of believers are few and far between; in their place, elaborate entertainment productions have appeared. Even in conservative, “traditional” churches, the church is no longer a band of believers but is instead a business wherein the bulk of money joyously given by the attending saints isn’t used to further God’s kingdom on Earth but is instead used to pay “church” bills, pay full time pastors, build better buildings, or any of a variety of other things.

Marriage? Somehow conservatives have gotten the idea that marriage is described by the equation “1 man + 1 woman = marriage.” It has not always been so. Our own Scriptures testify that a man may be married to multiple women, provided he has the resources and ability to care for them all. We spend so much time and effort attempting to get the United States government to outlaw homosexual marriages (and by extension, polygamy and any other non-heterosexual-monogamy unions) without realizing that our views are in direct opposition to the lives of men like Abraham, Caleb, David, and numerous others. God Himself never condemned these men, why should we? Contrariwise, Yahweh declared His hate for divorce, yet we do little to prevent it these days.

Childhood? Would you believe that Josiah was an effective king of Israel at only eight years of age? There was a point that children weren’t just children, they were children being raised. We aren’t preparing children for adulthood anymore, and this is quite evident by spending any amount of time in a public place — try your local department store’s toys area, where most of the messes aren’t made by children but but teens and adults who have no idea how to conduct themselves in a public place. It’s easy enough to blame schools for not teaching effective citizenship, but because I disbelieve that the schools should be teaching children anything, I instead must place the onus of responsibility back on parents whose faith has been colored by culture.

Appearance? Millions upon millions of dollars are spent annually just in the United States on beauty products and designer clothes. We really have nothing better to spend the money on? Television instructs us on What Not to Wear while magazines fill us in on what’s hot or not. Rather than being taught by the older women how to love husbands, younger women are instructed on how to wear makeup, do their hair, or dress “just so” to attract guys. Guys aren’t immune to this either, nor do much if anything to discourage such imbalanced priorities in our families.

If you’re wondering why any of this matters, I’ll tell you. Culture changes, and that’s absolutely fine; we see that in the Scriptures with no indication that Yahweh disapproves of cultural changes. What we do find in the Scriptures, though, is that we tend to gravitate away from the ways of the Lord and toward aspects of the culture which run contrary to biblical principle.

An increasing number of churches are embracing any and all hip or “in” practices in an attempt to be “seeker sensitive” and “culturally relevant,” but they ultimately do is make themselves relevant only to a tiny portion of culture and history at the expense of remaining biblical.

God in His omniscience told us that large families are awesome, that modesty is a virtue worth having, that divorce is more often than not sinful, and so on. His views won’t change, and if He wants us to conform to His mind, then it is His culture that we will be held accountable to in the End.

How culture-colored is your faith? It matters.

2 thoughts on “Do You Have Culture-Colored Faith?”

  1. On one hand, you make a lot of good points in this post. Yes, we shouldn’t let worldliness and materiality seep into our faith or the church. And, yes, we have become rather accepting of most of that worldliness, to the point that we all become part of it. However…

    One of the problems about culture is that you kinda have to Just Deal™ with it. While I’m hesitant to say that you shouldn’t follow the parts of the scripture that deal with dress and attire, I think it’s more about the principle of “don’t dress immodestly” than the verbatim rules (but, then again, I may be wrong). In general, I believe it’s not one of those where you have to make a firm choice between God or popular culture, or take the two and neatly separate them into little boxes. The two are not mutually exclusive, no matter where you go you’ll always fit into some culture, and “being aware” of the current trends can also help you to connect with others who may not know Christ.

    Just as long as you don’t get so sucked in that what is “in” overrides what you believe.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Noah, and actually, that’s the point I was trying to make. We’re very much immersed in the culture — something some conservative churches miss and which emerg[ing|ent] take to an extreme at times.

      Part of the motivation behind this post was what I read in a People magazine in the break room at work. The article was a revisit to the Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints ranch that was raided a year or so ago on allegations of child abuse.

      I absolutely do not agree with Mormonism’s unique doctrines, but the culture that was fostered on the ranch impressed me — the children learned to work and were not force-fed steady diets of cartoons and toys, the women dressed modestly and were faithful, and the husbands likewise worked hard in all areas of the establishment.

      Children who were torn from their homes and returned at a later point were described as having become more selfish due to being exposed to all sorts of toys and the like.

      The situation may be an extreme one, but it got me thinking just how much culture affects how we behave. For instance, the early church in Acts, when presented with numerous people leaving their homes to stay with that first church gathering, sold everything they had in order to ensure that the basic needs of everyone present were accounted for. Today’s possession-centric America undoubtedly has colored our faith, evidenced in that most prominent “Christian leaders” in the media are those who have amassed for themselves great wealth.

      I know a lot of this we have to Just Deal with, but in so doing, I don’t want to miss remaining relevant to the One who never changes in favor of embracing the latest trends.

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