Tuesday, January 04, 2005

CHRISTIANITY 0.0 (Someone Hit The Re-Set Button)

By Keith Giles

(Appeared originally on Relevant Magazine Online)

A friend recently brought an article in the September 2002 issue of GQ magazine to my attention. (Also posted here on this blog, btw). The author, Walter Kirn, an unbeliever himself, wrote a blistering yet painfully honest article called “What Would Jesus Do?” that explored the little Christian ghetto that many of us live in. His morbid curiosity compelled him to explore this world that was almost exactly like the one he lived in, but without any substance. He described how he discovered product after product that essentially cloned the mainstream culture and leached it of sinfulness, and, as a byproduct, all relevance and meaning.

He noted, “What makes the stuff so half-assed, so thin, so weak and cumulatively so demoralizing … has nothing to do with faith. The problem is lack of faith. [The Christian subculture] is a bad Xerox of the mainstream, not a truly distinctive or separate achievement. Without the courage to lead, it numbly follows, picking up the major media’s scraps and gluing them back together with a cross on top.”

What would happen if, instead of trying to create our own sanitized version of the world, we simply set ourselves apart from it? I can’t help thinking that the most radical thing that a modern Christian could ever do is simply to act out the things that Jesus told us to do—things like loving our enemies, giving freely to anyone who asks us, forgiving everyone no matter what and being gracious with everyone around us would have a much more powerful impact on the culture than Christian breath mints ever could.

Isn’t it more important to be set apart from the culture and to be known by how we are “unlike” the world? I feel like its time for Christianity Version 0.0 to be launched. It’s time to make a difference by being different.

Ever wonder why Christianity isn’t taken very seriously in today’s society? Why “Christian” has become synonymous with “cheesy”? Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims seem to command much more respect from the average person than do Christians. Maybe it’s because Buddhists and Hindus don’t create their own little versions of the world we live in for their own benefit and consumption.

Our attempts to copy the culture, albeit in a sanitized version, have failed to impress the world. We have everything from Christian radio and television to Christian coffee and candy. We have the Dove Awards, the Christian version of The Grammy Awards. We have Christian music, a subculture that creates the same music, but with a “message.” We’ve become a faith that emulates rather than impacts.

We’ve tried so hard to show the world around us that “Christians can rock too” and that “Christians can be just as funny and cool” as they are … just a little more “holy.” The end result seems to be that the world sees no intrinsic difference between them and us, except maybe for the packaging and the lack of quality.

Where did we get this idea from? Certainly not from Jesus. Jesus was relevant to His culture. He spoke their language. He told stories that they could relate to in order to illustrate truth. He didn’t create a sanitized version of the popular culture. He didn’t instruct us to do so, either. If anything, Jesus created a movement that was intended to be counter to the culture, not a sanitized version of the same. He was more interested in creating a people that were known for all the ways they were different, not the ways they were the same as the world … only better.

Ask yourself something. Can you name the top five most effective, culturally relevant ministries to come out of the body of Christ in the last 10 years? You know, the one’s that have had a profound, lasting impact on the culture?

No? For the life of me, I can’t either.

Time to create a version of Christianity that isn’t a version of anything at all. It’s time for Christianity version zero point zero.

Someone hit the reset button …
[Keith Giles is one of the world's greatest enigmas. Ruggedly handsome, and yet surprisingly gentle and compassionate with small animals, Keith actually has a very weak grasp of reality and often talks to himself in the bathroom mirror. He's currently writing his own original sci-fi novels and scripting a few comic books of his own in his spare time. Visit him at PlasticAnimal.com.]

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