What Happens When Culture Clashes With Faith?
But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods of your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15
Never has a generation wanted more from its culture that only Jesus Christ could provide than our present one. Like what? The comforts of prosperity including a home and car, happiness, and money in the bank. When that is the driving force of a society, vast numbers of people buy into the God-will-deliver-the-goods mentality, expecting Him to be the great provider of our expectations. This also explains why there are so many broken homes in the Christian community, why vast numbers of people own Bibles but never read them, go to church periodically and consider it to be pretty good entertainment but are unaffected by what they experience. They face the same problems with their kids – drugs, sexual activity and its consequences – as those who make no pretense to having any relationship with God.
Can you expect culture to deliver all of what you want—and more important, what you need? Or are there some things which were bought at a cross 2000 years ago that the world can never deliver?
Let’s pause and define the playing field called culture. Should you consult a dictionary you will find a host of definitions from the practical to the technical. Included is this one: “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also: the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time…the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization…” and so forth. Defining culture is a bit like nailing Jell-o to the wall. Once you think you understand it, you are left with nothing but a bare nail in the wall and nothing to hang on it because it’s moved on.
Culture has been compared to the house that you live in or a river in which you must swim, constantly affected by the current that can sweep you and your family downstream where you don’t want to go. In relationship to your family, I think of it as a framed photograph. Your family is the subject of the picture and culture is the frame that surrounds you. Our English word culture does not appear in the Bible, yet it is the backdrop of every story you will read in this book.
In the 1960s the term “culture war” became prominent, highlighted by the publication of James Hunter’s book on the theme picturing the battle lines drawn over the issue of homosexuality, abortion, gun laws, and so forth. It was like the 50-yard line across which a giant tug of war took place. The struggle focused on what you embraced or denied.
Periodically the subject matter of the battles and the cast of characters changes, but the real culture wars have never ceased and the struggle goes clear back to the Garden of Eden. The family in the Garden were willing spectators, then participants, as they were confronted with choices and terrible, terrible consequences of choosing their way over God’s way.
Anyone who has ever really studied the Bible has to acknowledge that the cultural battle spans the entire history of civilization and will continue to be a backdrop of what happens until Christ returns and establishes His kingdom when righteousness rules and God’s will is the law that governs. Meanwhile, whenever you hear your child say, “Why should I be different?” you become a participant in the cultural battle. So how do you deal with the elements of culture that challenge your faith? Remember, culture is like swimming in a river, and when you find yourself floating unthinkingly along with the current, something is dreadfully wrong.
Resource reading: Genesis 3:1-19