Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Reaching Popular Culture With the Teachings of Jesus
I'm excited! Tonight I'm starting a new class at the Kaufman Church of Christ called "Reaching Popular Culture with the Teachings of Jesus." The class will be very "outside the box" as classes go in Churches of Christ. We'll talk about the definitions of gospel and salvation, we'll look at texts, we'll talk about news stories and current events, we'll discuss entertainment, we'll look at case studies and role play. Nothing is off the table! If you can't be in Kaufman on Wednesday nights, this blog will cover the material I present in class each week, so you can still participate in the discussion. So, here is the opening class that I'll do tonight:
My parents were born in 1952. By the time my kid is an adult, that world will have vanished forever. Culture, technology, politics, communication, travel, religion have changed more rapidly than we can comprehend, and it aint slowing down. The world we were born into has already vanished, and it is never coming back! Historians and sociologists tell us that this kind of cataclysmic change has only happened three times in recorded human history:
1) The Fall of Rome: In the 5th century the city of Rome fell to barbarians, and everything Rome had built and accomplished in 600 years was destroyed within a single generation. Children and grandchildren of civilized Romans were born in what we call the “Dark Ages.”
2) The early 16th century: In 1492 Columbus discovered the New World, and suddenly Spain had an empire and Europeans began leaving for the New World. In 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the church door in Wittenberg, and the world changed overnight. The printing press was invented, scientific discoveries were made, the authority of the Catholic Church was first questioned and then rejected, national boundaries were torn out of the Holy Roman Empire – the modern world was born violently within 2 generations.
3) The late 20th century: The changes that have happened in the world since 1960 are as cataclysmic as the changes of the 5th century and the 16th century – those are the only other times in human history where the world has changed so much so fast. And we are living through it right now – and there is no going back to the “good old days.”
We’ve already discussed the terms "modern" and "postmodern." Modern thinking is the way you and I grew up. It recognizes that we no longer live in the Dark Ages. We no longer live in a time when magic and superstition make sense. We are a people of logic and reason. We believe that if there is a problem we can solve it through investigation, reason, and science. This is the foundation of American thought – progress toward a better life through science and technology, understanding and knowledge. Newtonian physics gave us the tools to make sense of the world.
And then the 20th century happened – WWI, WWII, communism, terrorism, genocide. In the world of science, the theory of relativity unraveled our sense of certainty, and now quantum theory has shown that there can be effect without cause. Human cloning and stem cell research has given us more problems than solutions.
So, has the world gotten better through progress? Now that we understand so much about diseases, people don’t die anymore? Now that we understand so much about psychology, we don’t have crime anymore? Now that we have science and technology, and people are better educated, our world is more moral, right? No! And the postmoderns say, “Now you’re gettin it.” The postmodern mindset says life is not about getting smarter, or being more right in this world of rational thinking that has not delivered what it has promised. But we have even gone beyond a postmodern world – we live in a post-Christian world – the “Christian era” died during our lifetime. Christian thinking, and Christian values, and Christian morality are no longer the default mode of western civilization. It is evident all around us: Think of secular western Europe. People don’t visit those magnificent cathedrals to worship, they go to look at art. Closer to home, think of when most of you were children. There was nothing to do on Sunday but go to church. Everything was closed. Decent people observed the Sabbath and removed all temptation from those who did not. Holly and I were talking with her grandmother, and she asked us what we were doing on Sunday evening, and I said, “I’m taking Holly to see a movie.” She stared at me with a blank look, and asked, “a movie -- on a Sunday?” Now, contrast that with these facts: In 2006, only 21% of the population of the DFW Metroplex attended any house of worship at least once a week – that number drops to under 10% if you are under 25 years old!
Now, this is not all bad news. The sooner we can admit that we are no longer under the warm and cozy protection of culture and government, the sooner we can engage the world as a counter-cultural force and practice real evangelism and discipleship the way God intended for us to, and the way the early church did.