Critiquing and Consuming Culture: As Told by a Homeschooler-Turned-Pastor
As a young pastor who already struggles to be culturally relevant due to having spent my school years at home, in my pajamas, learning in a friendly, comfortable environment rather than out amongst the barbarians, I can confidently say that, when it comes to knowing how and when to consume or critique cultural artifacts, the struggle is real.
(Disclaimer: The use of the phrase “The struggle is real” is not meant as an endorsement of any movement, corporation, persons or entities with whom such phrase is or has ever been or ever will be associated. Nor is it meant to express solidarity with or scorn of any such people or groups of people who use aforementioned phrase as a way to reflect upon, protest, or speak to their individual or collective struggles, real or imagined, serious or slight.)
Take lemonade, for example. As a southern boy I have been known to enjoy a nice tall glass of iced lemonade and even, on occasion, strawberry-lemonade. But now, for some reason talking about this long-standing beverage of sweet, acidic refreshment can stir-up all kinds of ire in people. I think it has to do with bees and their ever-decreasing numbers and how it must be some kind of symptom of our indulgent, irresponsible society and lemonade somehow represents that aspect of our culture.
I think. I really don’t know. All I know is that I’m seeing lots of bee emojis swirling around any social media account that talks about lemonade these days. And white guys are especially not allowed to drink it or talk about it. Which doesn’t bother me because I haven’t had any in years, but seems a little odd to me.
And now a lot of Christians are saying their done with targets. Which is refreshing, in a sense, because the church has often been criticized for having somewhat of an unhealthy relationship with guns and violence. So, while I’m not sure getting rid of all targets is a good correction to this problem, seeing that over 1,000,000 people have agreed to never shop for targets again is…something.
(Now, some people seem to be going so far as peeing on their targets, or…not peeing on them anymore if that had been what they used to do, which is weird. I think this seems excessive. There’s no reason to mix bodily fluids with political statements.)
Before lemonade and targets where hot-topics, I remember a lot being said about a young man named Pablo and whether or not Christians should be celebrating his life or even listening to other people talk about his life. I remember thinking, “Why is everyone so uptight about Pablo? What did he do? Why are some of you wanting to boycott the entire concept of him having been alive?” I just don’t think that attitude is Christ-like. And it sounds a little racist. If his name was..Peter, say, or Paul…would so many Christians be talking about his life so dismissively? Probably not.
And then there was a kerfuffle about a man who was trying to breed butterflies, or some such nonsense. Puppy farms are one thing, but doing that to butterflies just seems inappropriate. But, as a pastor, I try to listen to both sides of the argument and minister to people on both sides of the aisle. Would I ever breed or, God forbid, prostitute a butterfly? Certainly not! But I can’t dismiss out-of-hand those who see some redemptive value in it. I must listen before I speak.
Culture is constantly spitting-out new things and ideas for the church to interact with or ignore. And sometimes it’s very, very confusing. My church still doesn’t have any gray crayons or markers. Not of any shade. Was that an over-reaction? Maybe, but it’s the price we pay when we try to interact with and engage culture winsomely and intelligently rather than settling for knee-jerk reactions.