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24.07.2020

Cancelling, Countering, or Celebrating Culture?

Shortly after university I made some calligraphy for a friend, to remind him of a couple of Bible verses that he and I had found salutary. However, 2 Chronicles 28:9b-10 isn’t something you’ll find printed in a prayer journal:

‘Because the LORD… was angry with Judah, he gave them into your hand. But you have slaughtered them in a rage that reaches to heaven. And now you intend to make the men and women of Judah and Jerusalem your slaves. But aren’t you also guilty of sins against the LORD your God?’

While many people believe themselves incapable of such vindictive sentiments, my friend had enough humility to admit and own his uglier thoughts, even as he wrestled with them. It’s part of why I married him, and he remains one of the most compassionate people I know.

Though our world today is far removed from ancient Israelite culture, other rages still abound in ‘contempt culture’ and ‘cancel culture’; meanwhile, the church aspires to be set apart, a ‘counter-culture’ in the midst of the melee.

But how different to the world are we? When it’s not our fight, it’s easy to speak of majestic mercy. Yet when we have a vested interest, do we ask whether our zeal is misdirected or unduly aggressive?

For even Christian organisations have been known to alienate their allies and abuse their members; they, too, have preached alarmist rhetoric, provided misinformation, and seemingly harboured a persecution complex. Yes, we are also guilty of sins against the Lord our God.

And the problem I see is not just a deficit of compassion. I’ve also come to believe that misplaced zeal for counter-culture is part of what stops so many Christians from seeing the value in their ‘non-church’ contexts.

But what if we also noticed the good? When, for example, my secular workplace has anonymised recruitment and non-retaliation policies for whistle-blowers, it doesn’t feel opposed to heaven’s values. Sometimes, the right action is not to counter, but to celebrate and collaborate.

After all, God’s call not to conform to the pattern of the world was never an end in itself, but rather a mandate to reshape those parts of the world that stand in opposition to him. Perhaps then, a salient reminder is this: that Jesus didn’t come into the world to cancel it, but to redeem it, and that his Spirit remains gloriously at work in it today.

 

Christine Woolgar
Christine runs a blog about hope and consent, with a special interest in the books of Deuteronomy and Esther. She tweets at @hope4greyplaces

Comments

  1. Excellent Christine. Thank you.

    By Paul Valler - 24th July 2020
  2. I thought Christine Woolgar’s piece above was particularly insightful and thought provoking.

    By Jon Templeman - 24th July 2020
  3. thank you very much Christine – I found this helpful, encouraging and challenging.

    By Sabine Burningham - 24th July 2020
  4. Great article!

    By Shari - 24th July 2020
  5. The Church would never have females in leadership roles if it had not been for ongoing secular feminist protest.. Church needs to apologise for its lack of leadership. The “troubles” in Northern Ireland is another case in point as neither Protestant nor Catholic clergy were brave enough to love each other and lead the way for the people to know Christ.

    Good advise from you Christine Thanks

    By John Stothers from Belfast - 25th July 2020
  6. Ouch! That hit home. Thank you Christine for such an insightful piece.

    By Ann Barnshaw - 25th July 2020
  7. But what if we also noticed the good?
    I was reminded of Paul writing to the Philippians: “whatever is true, noble, right etc” I think you could also say “wherever” you find something true, noble, right, pure, lovely etc. After all. Christians don’t have a monopoly on such things and we should learn to celebrate the good wherever we find it. We may well be surprised!

    By David Wood - 27th July 2020

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