faith?--yes. Scripture repeatedly and without question calls believers to have faith. And we should celebrate the particulars of our Christian faith: the redeemed life we have been given in Christ, the promise of eternal salvation, the grace of God that sustains us, the presence of the Holy Spirit that guides us.
freedom?--yes, especially in the explicitly Christian sense. Christ has in fact freed us from sin and death (1 Corinthians 15: 55, 57), He has broken the shackles and paid the debt. This is a freedom that all believers around the world can celebrate together, even those who don't know the freedom we enjoy in America. Even those who worship Christ at the risk of mortal death. Even those who've never heard of a bill of rights. This is the freedom we should first celebrate, while remembering those who have fought with their lives for our American freedom.
family?--ehhhh. okay, admittedly, this is the one that gets me. To give you some background, I have a history of being extremely irked by the Charlotte radio station's (over)emphasis on family. Not that there is anything wrong with loving your family, and I think it is an awesome thing they are doing to provide music that families can listen to together without fear of anything explicit. But when you emphasize a family focus to the point of alienating listeners who don't fit the middle-class, nice house, 2.5 kids and a dog demographic, I think you need to reconsider your goals. I often feel like those people on the radio aren't talking to anyone like me, a young, single, childless college grad, which I can shrug off because they are all rather Deliliah-esqe and annoy me anyway. But what about listeners who are single, not by choice, who feel alone and societally insufficient? What about couples who are unable to have children and can't call in and brag about their kid named so-and-so on the morning radio show? Again, family-centeredness is a great value, but if we continue pretending that all Christians (or more importantly perhaps--all people we are trying to reach with the good news) are happy nuclear families, we are blinding ourselves to the diversity of the world and creating a bubble of familiarity and comfort that has a clear dividing line of insiders & outsiders. Got a minivan and kids? You're in, here's a bumper sticker. Single and without family in a new city? Sorry, our message isn't for you. I guess you'll have to find another Jesus to worship.
I realize I'm sounding a bit cynical. But check this out--
If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even life itself--such a person cannot be my disciple (luke 14:26--TNIV)
This is the kind of verse that just makes you cringe (Luke's gospel seems to have a lot of them, though Matthew still boasts the monster mash shocker ;] 27:52-3)--the verses you want to skip over, the verses that make you read the Bible like a buffet. But, friends, this comes straight from the lips of our Lord Jesus. The Message reads, "Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of..." while the NLT says "If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison..." (BibleGateway--gotta love it!) I think these multiple translations help soften the blow of this radical call--and it is radical, and it's harsh! But, in my understanding and wrestling with this verse, I believe Jesus is saying that we can't let our earthly relationships supersede our relationship with God and our focus on following Jesus (see also Isaiah 49:15). Bible dictionaries explain that the word translated as "hate" in this passage refers to only a lesser kind of love (another shoutout--Studylight.org) But Jesus sure does grab our attention, as I feel sure He grabbed the attention of those in the physical presence of His sermons.
I'm afraid we're growing comfortable in a culture that ignores the costs of servanthood & relaxes in the blessings we've been given. The Christian radio's playing songs that say "wear your red dress, use your good dishes, go to the ballgames, go to the ballet, turn up the music" and we're tapping our toes right along. I agree with the underlying message of this song--but it's not scriptural and I don't think it corresponds with Christ's main message. But when we begin to equate this and similar songs' mantras with Christianity, we find ourselves in a cultural-religious hodge-podge that throws in the nice parts of the Bible, bits of the American dream, promises of a comfortable lifestyle and an island paradise for eternity. I'm just not entirely sure that's what Jesus meant when he said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (john 10:10). I mean, really, not every Christian can afford to go the ballgame, let alone have at least 2 sets of dishes. C'mon, Jesus was eating with whores and thieves--hardly the types to have "good dishes." I bet Jesus would gladly eat off your floor if He were to drop by for dinner tonight and you hadn't yet started the dishwasher.
okay, whew. i think i was intending to compose a commentary on religion and culture, and instead this turned into a rant against some things that have recently gotten under my skin. perhaps more to come on the ideas of the Christian religious core and our cultural layers in a subsequent post. also, for the record, i think the Christian radio and Christian artists have a phenomenal ministry and are positively impacting many people for Christ. i am only calling them out in the same sense as when you have a pet peeve and that becomes all you can see about a person.
in other news, i'm expanding my NCAA basketball allegience to include not only the Kentucky Wildcats, but also now the Davidson Wildcats. Stephen Curry spoke at our church yesterday morning, and it was so refreshing to hear him talk openly & warmly about his faith and values amidst his new-found fame. It's good to realize, I think especially for all the youth in our congregation, that not all basketball stars are getting pulled for DUIs or sleeping around, etc. He was extremely humble & team-focused, gracious, and well-spoken, so I will enjoy watching him play even more so next year. And since we all know the Tar Heels are going to win the 2009 championship, I don't feel bad about rooting for a couple other teams along the way :D (wait, what was that about humility?)
i'm desperately putting off my closet purging and packing extravaganza, so i guess i'm out for now....