Cultured Christianity

Cultured Christianity

I’ve become pretty passionate about this. I’ve talked to a few people about it, and it usually gets a little heated (I get heated).

Let me start by saying that I’m going to use some examples from people that I know. I won’t use their names, but if it’s you, I don’t blame you in any way for thinking this way, because I used to think the same way. I don’t look down on you or think you’re a bad person if you think like this, but I do think it’s time that we all change.

Okay, here we go.

A while back, a spouse of mine (whose name I won’t mention) said something that made a lot of sense to me, but upset me quite a bit too. She mentioned that she wanted to un-friend a relative of mine because of all the political stuff he posts on Facebook that she doesn’t agree with. Then she added something like, “I don’t know how he can be so liberal and call himself a Christian.” I totally agreed with her about the political stuff that he posts. I also completely disagree with him politically. But I don’t agree that he’s not a Christian.

Not too long ago I was sitting in church. There was a guest speaker who pastors a different church about a two hour drive from us. Before he started speaking, a friend of mine who was sitting in the row behind me leaned forward and said, “Is that (speaker’s name whose name I won’t use)? He voted for Obama. But it’s okay because his church has sent out a lot of missionaries.” This may not have been what they meant, but I took it as, “it’s not Christian to have voted for Obama, but that’s evened out by all of his extra support for missions.” I quite enjoyed his message, which had a lot to do with his work with and support for missionaries. But I was left that prodding in the back of my head about my friend.

I hear a few people say this one. “There were (insert large number here) evangelical Christians who didn’t vote in the last election. If we could get even half of those people out to vote, we would win the house, the senate, and Romney would be president (or abortion, gay marriage or other issues, depending on the context).” When I hear this I almost always say to myself, “If they all voted the same way.”

What I’m talking about here (if you haven’t figured it out already) is that there’s not as big of a connection between politics and religion as we would seem to think. To say it in a different way, we have become so politicized that we often can’t tell the difference between our political differences and whether or not someone is acting like a Christian.

I agree politically with all three of the examples above. I’m annoyed by the opposite political views of my relative. I don’t like that the guest speaker may have voted for Barack Obama. I too wish that a lot of the people who didn’t vote would have voted for the same things I voted for. But the problem is connecting it to Christianity.

Let’s pretend I’m a missionary to Africa. I go and start a church in a small tribal village. In the village, the men and women only wear small loin cloths. After a few weeks of coming, I start to insists that the women wear dresses and the men wear a shirt, tie and slacks to church. Of course, being a giving and kind man of God, I give them these clothes to wear to my church. From then on, every Sunday all of the villagers take off the small loin cloths that they wear the rest of the week and put on the clothes I gave them so that they can come to church and worship God properly.

Should a Christian put on a dress or a nice pair of slacks to go to church? Does it say that in the Bible? If I go to Africa to bring people to Christ, is it right for me to insist that in church they dress the same way I would dress in church back in the United States? Or is the way I dress in church more dictated by my culture than the Bible?

Now let’s pretend that I become a missionary to Ireland. At my church in the U.S. the leaders are asked not to drink alcohol. When I get to Ireland and start my church, I tell all of the leaders of my new church that they are no longer allowed to go to the pub for a pint.

In America, drinking is perfectly fine for most people, but there’s a stigma on it because so many people have let it ruin their lives. That’s why my church says not to drink it. But in Ireland, drinking is part of the culture. Yes, people in Ireland have ruined their lives with it as well, but there’s not a cultural stigma against it. In fact, it’s so ingrained in their culture that it would be weird for them not to drink. So, should an American missionary come in and tell everyone that drinking is wrong?

There’s a difference between what we do as Christians because it’s in the Bible, and what we do as Christians because that’s what a “good Christian should do.” The problem is that most Christians don’t know the difference between what the church teaches because it’s in the Bible and what the church teaches because it’s cultural. Even some missionaries and pastors don’t know the difference.

I can’t go into a southern black church and expect the preacher to preach the same way my that my white Oregonian pastor preaches. Both are preaching the gospel. Both are bringing people to Christ. They don’t do it in the same way. But the point is that neither one is wrong. The style comes from their cultures. But the truth in the Bible is exactly the same.

So, let’s bring it back to politics.

I’m a conservative Republican, who leans towards Libertarianism. I am also a Christian. I believe that the Government shouldn’t tell me what to do. I believe that the earth was created perfect by God and man brought sin into the world and that sin separates us from God. I believe that gun ownership is a right and that our right to own guns doesn’t have anything to do with hunting. I believe that Jesus is God’s son, He was fully God and fully man, He lived a sinless life, and He died on a cross to pay the price for the sin that we have committed. I believe that the IRS should be abolished and a flat tax should be established. I believe that every Christian should be established in their local church for both edification and fellowship with other believers. I believe that we should be drilling for oil within the continental United States and no longer be dependent on foreign energy. I believe that Jesus Christ is sitting on the right hand of the Father. I believe that the man who is sitting in the oval office is the wrong man for the job. I believe that abortion is murder and that it should be outlawed.

My relative that was mentioned earlier is a liberal Democrat. He is also a Christian. He believes that the Government should take care of the poor who live here in the U.S. He believes that the earth was created perfect by God and man brought sin into the world and that sin separates us from God. He believes that firearms should be more regulated so that there will be less mass shootings. He believes that Jesus is God’s son, He was fully God and fully man, He lived a sinless life, and He died on a cross to pay the price for the sin that we have committed. He believes that rich people should pay their fare share in taxes to help to take care of the less fortunate people. He believes that every Christian should be established in their local church for both edification and fellowship with other believers. He believes that we should promote new clean energy, and no longer burn fossil fuels that are harmful to the environment. He believes that Jesus Christ is sitting on the right hand of the Father. He voted for Obama. He believes that abortion is murder, but that women should have the choice to get one, even if they make that choice wrong.

That last question is what got my wife (the spouse of mine whose name I’m not mentioning). Abortion is murder. How can we let people have the choice to do such a horrible thing? Well, isn’t God the one who gave us that choice? Didn’t God give Adam and Eve the choice to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Isn’t that a good enough argument to be pro choice? It’s not for me. It’s not for my wife. But it is for some people.

We’ve so mixed political values with Christian teaching that we literally can’t even fathom someone being a Christian and a Democrat. Or being a Christian and a Republican. “If every Christian voted, we can sway any election.” That’s true if every Christian happens to be a Republican. “He voted for Obama, he’s not really a Christian.” He’s not? Why not? Did Jesus vote for Romney? Did he vote for McCain?

Your Christianity should affect your politics, yes. It should affect every bit of your life. But if you vote pro life because murder is a sin, you shouldn’t be questioning someone’s Christianity when they vote pro choice because God gave us the right to choose. There are other ways of looking at things, and there are other ways that scriptures can be applied to your voting habits. Just because you’ve come to a Biblically based conclusion about politics doesn’t mean that someone can’t come up with different Biblically based conclusion. The same way it’s wrong for me to insist that tribal Africans wear western clothes to church, it’s wrong for me to insist that you cannot be a Christian if you vote differently than me. I have no right to question someones salvation. And that seems especially true if the only reason I question it is because of their politics.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m too open minded. If you want to tell me I’m an idiot, please do so in the comments. I’m willing to have it out with you. But I think that we have confused God and the Republican party. I think we’ve lost the line between the church and the Tea Party. And I think we’ve let our culture seep too far into our faith. I think it’s time that we all step back and try to figure out what we believe in, and is that belief based on what’s in the Bible, or is that belief just based on how we vote. Don’t stop believing in what you believe in, just figure out when you should be calling someone a blasphemer and when you should just be calling them a liberal.


Josiah Douglas isn't a super smart guy (even though he has a bachelor's degree), and he doesn't know a lot about God (his degree is in theology), but he does think a lot and sometimes he writes those things down so that you can read them too!

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. The real tragedy is that both sides are so deeply entrenched that neither can listen to the other. Invective and name calling have replaced dialogue. Nothing less than obliteration of the enemy will suffice; either Christianize or secularize America…
    No matter how we got to this point, the fact is that both extremes—those who want to eliminate religion from political life as well as those who want religion to dominate politics—have overreacted and overreached.
    …Charles Colson (1931-2012), Kingdoms in Conflict, Zondervan, 1987 p 46

  2. I love this. I agree religion, politics and culture should all be separated and not tied together. We as Christians need to be more loving and teaching, and less judging “they shouldn’t do that and call themselves christian” ect. It’s not our place to decide where someone else stands with God. I think the world would be a better place if we all loved just a little more! Would love for you to go more in-depth on these topics (politics, religion and culture)… I think you are on to something and just scraping the surface! Well done Josiah, you left me wanting to read more!
    Thanks for sharing.

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