The problem with seeking to be culturally relevant, as a church, is that culture isn’t as homogenous as it used to be and there is no culturally neutral way of being contemporary. What can be culturally relevant for one person can be culturally irrelevant for another person, and that’s a fact whether we like it or not. As such, I think it’s time we abandoned the project of searching for one style to rule them all and recover an emphasis on substance. Encourage people to explore their own style as they can, for worship and everything else, and encourage them to look through disagreeable styles to the substance underneath when they can’t. Of course, that puts an onus on leaders to make sure there is substance underneath.
The role of the nations was ambiguous in the Old Testament stories and prophecies. On the one hand they were often denounced as God’s opponents by the prophets of Israel, as both idolatrous and oppressive. On the other hand they were sometimes announced as God’s agents by the prophets of Israel, to discipline Israel when she had become idolatrous and oppressive! And then there were other prophecies that pointed to a great conjunction, of the nations one day being blessed through Israel. Should we not therefore be cautious in making absolutely positive or absolutely negative assessments of nations today? Can we sure sure our nation’s enemies aren’t acting as God’s agent? Israel couldn’t. Can we sure sure our nation is acting as God’s agent? Israel couldn’t. Surely a more faithful assessment is to expect our nation to have a mixed performance, just as Israel experienced, often falling short. Surely such track records should temper our pride.
The loyalty of the Christian to their country should never be absolute or unconditional, because their first loyalty is to the kingdom of God, and the LORD and other sovereigns don’t always see eye to eye.
It strikes me that until Christian parliamentarians start getting questioned on whether they’re effectively holding dual citizenship on the basis of their second birth they’re probably not doing it right.
I have been reflecting on the desert fathers and mothers and their spiritual offspring the last few weeks and one monastic style in particular has piqued my interest: that of the Sketes. They seem to embody a half way house between the hermits and the more communal monks, living apart like the hermits for the most part but coming together for celebrations and mutual support in times of trouble. For me it’s suggestive of the path I see many deep green Christians like myself pursuing, gathering seasonally but scattering in between apart for online conversation and the occasional shared coffee or meal with one another.