The loss of connection between churches and neighborhoods creates a corresponding loss of localized imagination and creates an addictive-like dependence on acontextual experts who scan the physical and spiritual horizon for ‘success.
We live in a culture of reductionism. Or better, we are living in the aftermath of a culture of reductionism, and I believe we have reduced the complexity and diversity of the Scriptures to systematic theologies that insist on ideological conformity, even when such conformity flattens the diversity of the Scriptural witness. We have reduced our conception of gospel to four simple steps that short-circuit biblical narratives and notions of the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven in favor of a simplified means of entrance to heaven. Our preaching is often wed to our materialistic, consumerist cultural assumptions, and sermons are subsequently reduced to delivering messages that reinforce the worst of what American culture produces: self-centered end users who believe that God is a resource that helps an individual secure what amounts to an anemic and culturally bound understanding of the ‘abundant life.
. . . I realized with a growing and startling sense of clarity that the seminary was educating and training me for a world that no longer existed. Moreover, the posture of this particular brand of Christianity toward the surrounding culture was one of enormous suspicion and at times hostility. It seemed that part of this evolving designation involved a posture of entrenchment and argument toward culture. But I loved culture. I loved the freedom to engage with people for the purpose of friendship and dialogue, not simply evangelism.
For better of for worse the church in the West bought modernity’s claims. We were baptized in its story (even though it said it did not have one) and accepted its categories and definitions. But somewhere along the way we also began to believe that the ways in which we accessed knowledge about God or Jesus or the Spirit or Christianity were those things themselves.
Olympia was a town crawling with music. I was new to the whole punk scene. The culture shock continued; Olympia had bagels! We didn’t have bagels in Arkansas. You could order vegetarian food all over town! It was so crazy to me – a place with so many vegetarians, the restaurants made special dishes for them?