Posts Tagged ‘culture’


Personal Culture Wars

October 8, 2014

Lil’ man just started kindergarten. He spent almost three years going to a Montessori preschool. He loved it. We loved it. The school and staff were great. He made friends. We made friends with parents. Most days he loved going to school. We recently moved and were unable to find a Montessori school around us. The closest one was more than forty-five minutes away. The local public school has a good rating. Parents seem to love it. So with great hesitation and reluctance we chose to enroll him in the public kindergarten. And his teacher is great. He still seems to enjoy school. He definitely seems to be learning a lot. The teacher is pretty good about keeping parents informed about what is going on at school. But something has changed. Something I don’t know how to deal with. Something that probably has more to do with where we have moved than the public school environment. Kids are making comments that lil’ man takes to heart and now we are faced with fighting against a tidal wave of opinions we are not okay with.

When we paint our nails lil’ man likes to get his painted. Almost always orange, his favorite color. He had his nails painted at school and another kid told him only girls paint their nails. We’ve faced this before. In our old state. And he responded “my uncle paints his nails, and he’s not a girl”. Which is true, and was enough. This time his teacher told us his response was “I’m not a girl, I’m a grown-ass man” (which is something we tell him regularly). But now he won’t paint his nails because he doesn’t want the kids to think he’s a girl.

On the walk to school one day he saw a little girl riding a blue bike. He asked me why the girl was riding a boy colored bike. I was floored. We have always taught there are no such things as boy colors and girl colors. We talked about it again. Where is he learning this?

This morning I pulled out a shirt he hasn’t worn for several weeks. A shirt he had picked out and loved over the summer. He didn’t want to wear it. When I asked him why he answered “what if the kids don’t want to be my friend anymore?” We talked with him and ended saying “If someone doesn’t want to be your friend because of the shirt you are wearing then you don’t want to be friends with them”.

It’s frustrating. It’s heart-breaking. He is such a sensitive soul. He takes everything personally. He is legitimately hurt by things that most people shrug off. How can we help him stay true to himself amidst such things? How do I teach him to let these things roll off his shoulders without making him callous and causing him to lose such a vital part of who he is? How do I help ensure he doesn’t turn into one of those kids causing hurt to another? I feel so inadequate, so limited, so unable to help him be himself in a world that is determined to make him think a certain way and act a certain way. I don’t want to see his spirit damaged by others and at the same time I can’t bear the thought of seeing his spirit damaged by compromising who he is to fit in with the world.


Lost thoughts

May 25, 2010

I have been an avid Lost fan and viewer since season 3. Like many I have been looking forward to the Lost finale all season- wanting answers and resolution to what seemed to be a continually unwinding spool that would never be re-wound. Going into the finale I didn’t have high hopes. With all the religious symbolism that became such an integral part of the show the past season I didn’t expect to find a satisfying resolution for me, and while it was emotionally satisfying it was definitely not satisfying in other ways.

I have read several recaps/reviews of the finale with everyone having a different take on it- one person views it as being very Christian, another views it as a critique of thinking we can ever have all the answers/having a master plan, another views it as mystic, etc. I think the Lost finale is actually rather dangerous for the Christian faith.

The imagery seems very much “Christian”- light and dark (good and evil), a church, a bright light, Christian Shepherd as “God the Father” and Jack as the Christ figure, eternity, redemption, and so on- these are on the surface very Christian images. But when I watch the finale (or any episode really) I don’t see any of the elements of faith present.

At the end of the day what we see with Lost is love guiding the way- love is a pretty much universal thing. It doesn’t matter what your faith or religion is, you believe in love. Yes, love is very much a Christian concept, but it is in no way exclusively Christian or predominately Christian. While we do have the light/dark symbolism on Lost the being controlling which one wins are the humans- suggesting that we are in control of our own destiny and must decide whether we will let light or dark win in our lives. Which in some ways is true, but ultimately what we must decide is not whether light/dark (good/evil) will rule us, but whether we are willing to allow God to take over our life. There’s a subtle, but incredibly significant difference.

What I found most significant is how Lost never allowed any one religious belief to have dominate representation- even in the church symbols from other religions were present. To me this suggests that while the dominate imagery in the finale would be perceived as Christian in reality what Lost is saying isn’t so much embracing the Christian faith but saying that all faiths have it right and that in the end everyone, through love, will come together and walk into “another life” together.

In the end I don’t think Lost was anti-Christian or pro-Christian, I think Lost was saying to all of us; What really matters?, Are you sure you have it all figured out?, Is it actually possible to have THE grasp on the spiritual? And rather than giving us their answer, we are left to answer the questions for ourselves.


In but not Of

January 11, 2010

In a book I’m reading for a Bible study I’m a part of the author talks about how we need to be careful because the more we expose ourselves to negative (sinful) things the more immune we are to the negative impact they are having on us. When swearing stops making you cringe, when a girl in revealing clothing seems “normal”, when gossip is just a part of communicating, you have gone too far.

I fully agree. We should not be hearing swearing and not having a response, we should not see girls and guys being sexually explicit and not be pained by it, we should not be gossipping because “it’s how we communicate”. But where’s the line?

Okay, I shouldn’t be going to movies or listening to music that makes these things seem okay and normal. I shouldn’t be reading things that present these cultural norms as good things. But at some point in order to engage the world outside the church I have to choose not to avoid situations where there will be swearing, where there might be a couple people having a drinking contest, where the accepted method of engaging with other people is gossip, where the idea that we are “sexual beings” is an accepted norm. If we are truly spending time engaging the world we are going to become less aware of the swearing, we might not notice right away the girl who is wearing less clothing than desired, or the guy who is downing a few too many beers during the game.

I don’t know what we should do, I don’t know how we can avoid becoming desensitized by whatever the things are that we shouldn’t be exposed to. I think it would be better to be exposed and become somewhat desensitized to them than avoid them all together. If we are establishing a relationship with God that is alive and growing, even if we become less aware of these things going on around us, won’t we still not be participating in them?

Where should we draw the line in engaging culture and becoming a part of that culture? How do we live in the world without being of the world?


And the most powerful celebrity is…

June 4, 2009

Do you know who the most powerful celebrity in the world is? It’s not Oprah. It’s Angelina Jolee. I’m not sure what factors contribute to the determination of most powerful celebrity, but I know President Barak Obama is number 49 on the list. He’s the president of the United States and he’s 49th? That seems pretty pathetic to me. Now some may argue that Obama is not really a celebrity and that’s why he’s so low on the list, but let’s face it, he’s as much a celebrity as the majority of actors, athletes, and musicians. Unlike president’s before him I would say Obama truly is a celebrity. So why is he ranked below Oprah, Angelina, and Tiger Woods? And apparently 46 other people as well.

It’s a sad day when the President is ranked so far below so many other people. I mean, how do we let our entertainers become more influential than our elected officials? Sad indeed.


Dear World: I Know, I’m Sorry

April 18, 2009

The questions that have consumed the church’s attention are no longer center topics in our circles. Gone are the days when we intensely debated the literal interpretation of the Creation narrative. We desperately want our peers to acknowledge God as Creator, but we’re not losing sleep over whether they think those seven days were twenty-four hours long or longer.

We’re not captivated by the banter over whether believers are predestined or whether they accept Christ through free choice. Since we’re already experiencing a relationship with God, we figure we’ll just wait for the postlife course, How It All Really Worked 101, to nail down the details.

And please don’t send ups a rerelease of 88 Reasons Why the Rapture is in 1988. We really don’t mind whether God raptures us pre- or posttrib. The point is Jesus is coming back, right?

Don’t get us wrong, Church. we value these theological questions. We really do…

Frankly, we admire thinkers within the church for wrestling their own genration’s questions to the ground. However, we must note: their hang-ups are not our hang-ups.

From Dear Church by Sarah Cunningham

Church leaders take note: people who are not currently attending church are not looking for answers to theological questions. The overwhelming majority of people who are not already coming want to know why it matters. What does Christianity mean for me? How does the Church (Christianity) make a difference in the world? What does the Church offer that I cannot get anywhere else? That wasn’t really the point of that particular passage of the book, but it worked to illustrate my point nicely, and later on she does talk about this issue as well. But I think we (the Church) need to do a better job answering these questions, and stop going over and over and over the same theological arguments- whether those things are those listed above or issues of abortion, adultery, homosexuality, etc. These are not the issues that people need answers to. We need to be more relevant to the world. This doesn’t mean we become like the world. We need to offer an alternative that is realistic and significant for the world. And it needs to start with me and you. We can be the difference.


Alienating People

March 16, 2009

From before I was 3 until the summer I came here I belonged to the same church. The church, like the majority of reformed churches was unbalanced by age- there were a lot more people with gray hair than without. When I graduated high school I was the only high school graduate still attending the church. My Sunday School class from kindergarten through middle school was 5 people- 3 girls, 2 guys.

Despite all this, my freshmen year of high school I was part of a decent size youth group. There were over 30 people in the group- fewer than 10 actually attended the church. My fellow youth would sometimes swear, they talked about partying and they showed little respect for the church building. I often felt uncomfortable with the way they would act in church, although the actual behavior wasn’t so odd to me since I had always gone to a public school.

My sophomore year I was part of a youth group of fewer than 10 people. This is not because more than 20 people graduated. This is because the parents of the youth from the church said they didn’t like the negative influence the kids from outside the church were having. In college, perhaps before college even, I decided that when I was youth leader I was going to make sure kids from the church and outside the church were equally welcome at youth group.

Today I have kids from outside my specific church building, but I have virtually no youth from outside the church. I highly doubt that anyone coming in from outside the church would feel welcome here. I would love to have the diversity, but I don’t know how to create a space for it. Too few of these kids have practical experience relating with other youth with no church background, I don’t know how to make our space friendly to those outside. But I do know that I never want to be party to alienating anyone from the church.


The “Real” World

February 13, 2009

I had an interesting conversation with one of my high school small group leaders (who also happens to be a father to two kids in the youth group) yesterday. We were talking about how they had upgraded their cell phone plan to have unlimited texting because with the amount over his daughter would go each month it was cheaper for her to just pay the monthly extra for unlimited. However, with this upgrade she now texts about 10 times as much as she did prior to getting unlimited texting…

While talking with another parent I heard this horrible story. Her daughter was in a fight with her friends and homecoming was coming up so they decided to all get together and try to work things out. They gathered at the house of this family around a fire in the back yard. When the mom went outside it was totally silent and she found that quite odd. Within a few minutes she noticed they were all sitting around the fire texting each other instead of talking.

A while ago I sent a text to a kid who I hadn’t texted before. I thought she had my number because we had all exchanged numbers, so I didn’t sign my name. She responded to the texts I sent and the next day I found out she had no idea who had sent them and was freaking out telling her friends about it. Everyone laughed when they realized it was me who had sent them- but I’m not sure what to think knowing she responded to my texts without knowing who they were from.

I have one girl- a senior whose family doesn’t go to our church- who told me her parents don’t worry about what she does on the internet figuring it’s “safe”, but they are super strict about what she can do for real (who she can hang out with, where she can go, etc).

I love technology. I can imagine life without ever having had the computer and cell phone like we do, but having had it I cannot imagine going back to not having it. I think these modern conventions have allowed us to do a great number of things that we otherwise probably wouldn’t be able to do. But, I think that they are costing us a great deal more than they are giving. When I hear about teenagers and their relationships it worries me. It seems for the overwhelming majority of teens if you are not friends “online” (facebook, texting, myspace, im, etc) you are not friends in real life. But more of a concern is that I think while these new means of connecting allow us to connect with a great deal more people, they also prevent us from gaining the depth and intimacy and genuineness of real-life relationships. We can hide behind our phones and computer screens, and that allows us to be more real in a totally false way.

I wonder how to work within this circle without becoming part of it. I wonder how these things are going to alter our world 20 years from now, and it really does scare me some to think about. I know I’m different online than in person, what happens when the online becomes the “real”?