Sunday, July 16, 2006

David Dark and Countercultural Christianity

David Dark is a smart guy and a good writer who should really get more attention in general.  He recently wrote a challenging and engaging article for Books and Culture about countercultural Christianity.  His ideas of countercultural go beyond what you usually hear from those committed to the left or the right and challenges all of us to judge less, listen more, and humbly love everyone with our rhetoric, our politics, our money, and our interpersonal relationships.  Dark suggests a kind of Christianity that is radical and diligent and impossible this side of the eschaton, but I think it’s an ideal that is consonant with the bible and worth remembering.  You should read the whole article, but here’s a quote to whet your appetite:

“What if we began to believe that we are the kind of people who have eyes and see not, ears and hear not, who swear on the Bible and hold it aloft as if it were delivered by angels while making a mockery of its witness by regarding some lives as expendable, acceptable human sacrifices to the way of world markets—what would happen then? We might cease to speak in conversation-stoppers and become servants (ministers, minstrels) of an evangel that is more than mere affirmation of what we already think we know. We might use our words with more modesty and greater precision and an appropriate fear of speaking unfaithfully of good news that transcends our understanding. We don't have to let uptight power brokers (news networks, political administrations, corporations, advertising schemes) set the tone in which we speak to each other. We get to be more pentecostal than that. We get to dream new dreams. Set new terms. We get to imagine the world differently.”

What if Christianity became a behavior instead of a catch phrase?  In some of my other reading recently I ran across an idea from John Milbank that the church is a reading of culture.  I want to find the entire book to flesh out that idea more deeply, but I think it’s related to what Dark is talking about here.  Why don’t we BE God’s word, instead of telling others what they are doing wrong?

1 comment:

Jen said...

I wholeheartedly agree that we need to BE God's love. It's not a new idea - St. Francis of Assisi had it right: "Preach the gospel at all times -- If necessary, use words."

We focus so much on what we say instead of what we do, while the people around us focus on what we do, not what we say. From my observations, our generation is extremely cynical - everything's been said before and we've heard it all. People are hypocrites, saying what they think others want to hear, or espousing beliefs that they don't act on. We look for hidden agendas behind protestations of idealism, faith, patriotism or any lofty and unselfish cause because we're sure that nothing is pure when you dig beneath the veneer of the words - our young but jaded eyes expect to see selfish motives or self-righteous delusions that contradict the words spoken. We're skeptical until someone shows us proof by acting what they say - and even then we might not believe them. Every cause and every speaker is under suspicion of not being what they say. We wonder if preachers at large churches are in it for God or money and a slice of fame; we wonder if our country is at war for freedom or oil; we wonder if the money we give to charity goes where it's supposed to or into someone's pocket; we wonder how that person can be Christian when their actions are self-centered, unkind, insincere, bossy, malicious and petty. Why would we want to be a Christian if it meant being like that? Almost every non-Christian that I know near my age thinks that most Christians are hypocrites that don't practice what they preach. Our biggest challenge is to act out God's love and keep our mouths shut. Given the length of this comment, I have as much work to do as anyone in that regard! But it's something I'm passionate about because our generation needs the proof of God's love more than ever - the transformation of cynicism into faith in the soul of a twenty-something person is incredible to watch. And I don't know any twenty-somethings who aren't cynics.