Thoughts on Evangelicalism Moving Forward, Part 7: No Cultural Center
Last time we examined how hasty evangelicals sought to lump an entire country into one philosophical category: post-modernism. Evangelicals like to do this – we like shortcuts, we like other people to think for us. Evangelicals want someone to:
A. tell them what is at the center of culture
B. give them a brief definition of that thing
C. give them some brief answers for why this thing is wrong
D. make assembly line material on the wrong cultural belief
The Strategies Fundamental Flaw
The problem with this strategy is that it assumes that there is a center to American culture. I wholeheartedly believe that there is no cultural center to the United States. There may have been at some point in time, even so, that time is long gone. In my view, there are at best several sub-cultures some of which overlap with other sub-cultures and some that do not.
Consider the following thought exercise: Post in the comments section any adjectives that can describe all of American culture. (I forbid the use of “consumer,” “sensate,” or “democratic.”)
We are not a melting pot, this would presume homogeneity. We are at best a stew, and even this analogy seriously breaks down.
What are the consequences of America having no cultural center to the mission of the church? Moving forward, evangelicalism needs to do what some missiologists have been saying for a little while: Evangelicals need to acquire the skills of the cross-cultural missionary. We need to be able to communicate the Gospel in ways that people understand and do it in a manner that does not compromise it’s message.
Every believer is sent by Jesus, with the message of the cross, from a community, to every culture, for the King and His Kingdom.
Moving forward, evangelicals need to avoid oversimplifying both individual people and the many (sub)culture(s) of America. The evangelical strategy of trying to change America through politics alone is/was a dismal failure, as if politics was the center of an American mono-culture. I have tried to show the fallacy of America also being a “post-modern” culture in the previous post. I am trying to help us think beyond insulting misunderstanding in the evangelical mission to North America.
If we are to become more active in understanding the (sub)culture(s)-at-large we need to properly contextualize the Gospel. Up next we will look at the twin dangers of over-contextualization and under-contextualization.