Monday, September 18, 2006

Faith and NASCAR

As leaders of change, I believe it is imperative that we have a keen grasp on the distinction between faith and culture. Much of what is done in the name of faith could simply be a function of cultural practice, and have absolutely nothing to do with faith. Every social group, regardless of size has a culture. Culture is the set of rules, values and practices unique to that Group. The US has a national culture, while the South has a regional culture. Sports like NASCAR have a culture (which I don't yet get). My home state of Oklahoma has a different culture than my state of residence, Nebraska. My work place has a culture, and smaller still, my family has a culture. We are most aware of culture when it is different from our own. The first sign of culture shock is when you find yourself uttering the phrase, "Why do they do it that way?" (again, NASCAR) This especially happens in marriage, as two family cultures collide. (I always thought there was a "right" way to fold a towel) It's part of why so many marriages fail. There is an inability to recognize culture and, together by faith, move toward change for the sake of something better. The Church is no different in this way than any other social subset. We like to think that we are New Testament based or doctrinally true to orthodox practice as if there is some generic standard that people who are right follow, but any expression of the Body of Christ is going to be flavored by the culture of its context. Saturday, I went to two weddings back to back and saw cultural distinction first hand. The first was a hippie wedding held outdoors in a city park. There was no direction for those attending, no PA so you couldn't hear over the wind whistling through the trees. It started late, but the ceremony eventually happened and I assumed, barring any legal snafu, they were officially married. Two hours later at the big Congregational Church, the second ceremony started on time, lasted precisely 17 minutes. Ushers directed people out of the sanctuary per row. It was tidy, neat and orderly. A contrast in culture, but they, too, were officially married. I believe this idea this was in Jesus' question stated in Luke, "when the Son of Man returns, will he find faith?" He's not looking for good morals or if we had deacons and baptized properly. And if faith is what He will be looking for, it will do us well to begin to sort through what is faith and what is just culture.

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