Christianinty as a subculture

By | May 17, 2003

Tonight I went to a concert at my church. When I arrived, a friend of mine came up and we started talking. She was asked if all the different worship bands from the church were playing. I explained that while most all of the musicians who were playing are also on the worship team, that they were all doing their own stuff. She was surprised and replied, “Oh, so it’s not all worship music?” I snapped. Something to the effect of, “Is that all that christians can do.” I then quickly apologized, and she explained that she had been told that it was a worship night. I guess that kinda set the tone for the night for me, sort of describes how it went. All the bands were good, but for the most part, quite conservative musically in my opinion. To appreciate further what I’m saying, understand that my church is the most contemporary of contemporary—they’re on the edge as far as churches go. But it struck me during the evening, that, ironically enough though I knew most of the musicians at least somewhat, I felt quite out of place, like I didn’t really fit there.

Something that I have recently begun to understand, although not at all new, is the christianity, in this country, has become a genre—a subculture. I’ve heard that said before, and have said it myself, but I guess I starting to understand what that means. I describe it like this: it is generally more noticeable in youth. There are jocks, preps, thespians, in-crowds and those left out, punks, ravers, hippies, metal heads, goths, those into hip-hop, and then there are christians. Christianity wouldn’t really fit here except for one main thing, we created our one subculture. We now have our own music, our own books, our own radio, etc. The thing about subcultures is, they’re divisions. Some—many people even—can be a part of more than one group, but some just don’t mix. Can you picture a punk at a hip-hop show, or a hippie at the country club? Do you see what I’m getting at here? Each group has a way of thinking, talking, acting, looking, tastes, etc. that defines the norm for that group. The problem with christians doing this is that we start excluding people. Yes, we are to be different. But we are being different in the wrongs ways. It has been said that we are, “Of the world but not in it.” They’re are even many different cultures within christendom.

I think this is why I have such a hard time with claiming to be a christian. I am a disciple of Christ, trying to understand the scriptures and follow God. But I really don’t fit into the christian subculture. I don’t dress the same, think the same, I don’t like their music. So while I am and will continue to be a part of the community of faith (and therefore be in close contact with the christian subculture), I am not and probably never will be part of the christian subculture. This is the paradox. Many christians will not understand. Our conservative evangelical christianity is basically a copy of another subculture, that of suburbia. It’s were people are taking care of themselves, always put on a good front like they’re in control, and generally don’t want anyone to rock the boat. For those who fit into that preppy stereotype, also fit into church quite well. And because it seems that many of their values correlate to those of the bible, they won’t see any problems. For the few of us in the middle, we see it, and understand why so many outside the church see no reason to come in.

We’ve been talking in our church recently about the need for diversity. Among christians in general a certain amount of debate has transpired in the past about the way in which christians should witness. Basically the ideas traditionally fall into two categories: by personally approaching someone and bringing up the topic, and by the way in which one lives and acts. I am going to suggest that there is a reason neither of these have been very effective. They are both individualized. In my mind now I don’t have an understanding of witness apart from the community of faith. Yes, I am saying that I think that individually that we can hardly be a witness. I am not suggesting that we get rid of the prior, but that the former should be merely a secondary out growth of the latter. One big way we can do this is by loving and being in community with those who aren’t like us. That’s a way to be different than the world. The world increasingly fragmenting into groups of people who are alike. We however need to move in the opposite direction, to unite. It was one of Christ’s biggest concerns (read his prayer in the gospel of John). As it is written, “they will know we are Christians by our love for one another.” I rest my case.

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