Eric Metaxas, author of a popular, and controversial, Bonhoeffer biography, recently wrote an article on the importance of reaching cultural elites for Christ. He uses William Wilberforce’s methods for ending slavery as a key example.
He argues that elites are the next unreached people group, an idea he supports by telling a story about how Dick Cavett didn’t know where the Golden Rule came from. The importance of this anecdote, he claims, is that elites are culture-bearers and culture-creators for the rest of us.
What does this have to do with changing the world? Everything. Because, for good or for ill, it is the cultural elites who determine much of what goes on in the rest of the culture, who can set the tone and content of the cultural conversation. They can determine what we sneer at and what we ooh at and ahh at. Not that they are trying to do this. It’s just the way things are. They tend to have the tv pulpits and the Conde Nast photo spreads. And the folks in Topeka who watch them… don’t. You’ve heard of trickle-down economics? Let me introduce you to trickle-down culture.
If Christians are to change the world, apparently, they should start with the most important people and work their way out and down.
That is simply good missiology and would further the Gospel. In their way, the cultural elites of Manhattan and Hollywood are an untouched people group no less in need of hearing the Gospel than the cannibals of Irian- Jaya or the Auca Indians of Ecuador were just a few decades ago. As brave and diligent souls have over the last two millennia risked their lives and lost their lives, and have studied obscure grammars and translated the Gospel of John into the dialects of these and other vanishing tribes, so too we today ought to humbly set ourselves to the noble task of bringing the Gospel to these elites. We should think and pray about moving to those places where they gather, and we should try to communicate with them and learn their folkways and cultural shibboleths with the same diligence we have applied to obscure tribes. And if the Lord has not called us to live in those places, or to work in those industries, which are the front-lines in the struggle for the heart and soul of our culture, then we should pray about whether we ought to send money to help the ministries of those who have been called. And we all should know that we have certainly been called to support them in prayer.
The Wild Goose Festival (East Coast version) took place this past weekend in North Carolina. This is Wild Goose’s second year. Last year, there were some notable critical responses. I was particularly interested in what Wild Goose changed since last year, especially surrounding poverty issues, but I didn’t see reviews dealing particularly with that.
Julie Clawson spoke at the event:
I saw people moving past the trivial distractions of the Church to attempt to live authentically in the way of Christ. Last year Wild Goose was a new thing in search of its identity. It was edgy, it was controversial, it was hip. None of that mattered this year. The point wasn’t to have debates over controversial issues, but to do the real work of the church. So collectively it seemed like the festival grew up, got over its fears and struggles to define its identity and decided to stop feeding the infighting within the body of Christ and start being Christ instead. I’m sure there were some people upset by that act of maturing, but I doubt many of them came back this year.
She attended, and wrote about, the 2011 Wild Goose Festival as well.
In this 2011 article in Guernica Magazine, Meghan O’Gieblyn, an MA candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, describes her childhood love for Christian pop. ’90s CCM singer Carman features prominently.
While born-again rockers can be traced back to the Jesus People movement in the 1960s, the 1990s was the decade of Christian contemporary music, or CCM. In my early teens, new bands were popping up faster than I could follow. And Carman wasn’t the only established act revamping his sound for a younger crowd. Jon Gibson, a pop artist who produced what is generally considered the first Christian rap song (1986’s “The Wall”), argued that Christian musicians needed to be savvier in presenting teens with the gospel. He told CCM Magazine, “I want to sneak into their hearts with the music. Contemporary Christian music needs to branch out a little more, get a little sneakier.”
If you have ever wondered about the rise of CCM and why it was so popular among evangelical teenagers, this article might explain a little.
Also, does anyone know of a good novel about growing up evangelical? Not the kind where the kid struggles with it and then rejects it, but just a story detailing the evangelical experience.
I have been searching for a while but haven’t had much luck.
If the publishers at TIME and other magazines and newspapers had been paying attention, it would have been clear that a large scale religious shift was about to take place.
I love Addie Zierman’s writing, particularly this great post on her time in China. She’s currently blogging through evangelical Christian cliches on her blog How to Talk Evangelical, and her post today was on the 15 signs you were raised in the Christian subculture.
You had more than one Bible, at least one of them written specifically for “teens.”(Bonus points if the cover sported fluorescent colors and/or spiral shapes. Double bonus points if you ever wrapped one of said Bibles in duct tape to be “alternative.”)
You learned about dating from the Christy Miller series. (Bonus points if you were successfully deterred from “missionary dating” by the whole Katie Weldon and Michael-from-Ireland train wreck. Double bonus points if you’ve ever said, “I’m just waiting for my Todd.”)
You bolstered your commitment to sexual purity with any of the following: a purity ring, a True Love Waits pledge card, any book by Dr. James Dobson, or multiple repetitions of DC Talk’s song “I Don’t Want It” on youth group road trips.
Check out her blog here.
For the church to lack love is for the church to lack everything. No heresy could conceivably be worse! …We evangelical Christians often insist that we are loving; it’s just that the world is so sinful they can’t see it—or so we tell ourselves. They don’t understand what “true love” is. That attitude is frankly as arrogant as it is tragic. …If contemporary people don’t see in us what ancient people saw in Christ, it can only be because the love that was present in Christ isn’t present in us. And if they see in us what they saw in ancient Pharisees, it can only be because the self-righteousness found in the Pharisees is found in us. Our comical insistence that we are loving, despite our reputation, is a bit like a man insisting he’s a perfectly loving husband when his wife, kids, and all who know him insist he’s an unloving, self-righteous jerk. If he persists in his self-serving opinion of himself, insisting that his wife, kids, and all who know him don’t understand what “true love” is, it simply confirms the perspective these others have of him. This, I submit, is precisely the position much of the evangelical church of America is in. Until the culture at large instinctively identifies us as loving, humble servants, and until the tax collectors and prostitutes of our day are beating down our doors to hang out with us as they did with Jesus, we have every reason to accept our culture’s judgment of us as correct. We are indeed more pharisaic than we are Christlike.
By becoming a religion of the Book (i.e. a textual community) evangelical Christianity placed an emphasis on writing(s) which at least contradicted and undermined the experience of the Spirit in the community and at worst became an idolatrous commitment to texts.
James K.A. Smith
I like it when my secondary sources get really feisty.