I avoid malls like the plague. There are a lot of reasons for it; one particular reason involves a recurring feeling I had as a kid, it was a feeling of disorientation walking through the endless rows of shops that all looked the same. I felt like a rat in a lab experiment, though instead of looking for cheese, I was shopping for clothes that I didn’t care about. I loved finding the map and the large X that said You are Here. It provided for me some sense of where I was in relation to other things, like the nearest exit. A couple of years ago I experienced something very similar to this with my son as we moved from our small town in Kentucky to our home in Tulsa. The small town was all that my son had known and in some way he had a map of his entire world in his head. He knew where the trains crossed main street (ding-dings), where the police cars (woo-cars) often stopped unsuspecting city folk, where dad worked, where dad went to school and the way to get from wherever he was to where he wished to go. All of that changed when we moved to an urban environment. Cars were everywhere. It was loud. Most importantly, my son had no crucial landmarks that said You are Here. The first month was miserable. There were night terrors and random, unexplainable (even for a two-year-old) fits. In some way, my son was experiencing his own form of vertigo (this means you’re disoriented), he had no sense of place; his world had little definition.
These, of course, are metaphors for our own vertigo, our own disorientation. It is now clear that our culture has no sense of place, very little definition. We don’t know where we are or where we should go. The only direction we hear involves the ever-louder calls for greater self-expression and being true to oneself (whatever that means). All else is grey (what a great metaphor, no one can even agree how to spell it!). We know more than ever about the human body, but we have little idea about what a human body is and what it is for. The new catchwords of love, embrace and acceptance hover around us as a mist without anyone asking what do these words mean and who constructed those meanings? Such is the cultural logic of life in our own vertigo.
As someone who is interested in ancient history and early Christianity, I continue to find some surprising and exciting parallels between our new cultural situation and that of our Christian forebears (it’s not all bad folks no matter the clever, doomsday quips on social media). Those individuals who embraced the gospel walked out of one world and into another. Of that former world Paul writes, “You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led” (1 Cor 12:2, ESV). Paul describes life in the ancient Mediterranean world as involving people obeying some form of stupid but dangerous cultural logic. Any study of the ancient world knows that Paul is referring to the hypnotic effect of life in the ancient city: endless sports, violence and entertainment, overpowering images and persuasive speeches on every corner, celebration of appetites, and a buzz among the populace that a new era had dawned. All of these things were entangled with Graeco-Roman civic religion, that is, idols. As you can see, there are some interesting analogies between their world and ours. To step out of that world into the life of Gospel was to trade one map for another. The New Testament makes it clear the transition was anything but easy. Many of our Christian forebears found the old maps more intelligible from time to time. Like smuggled goods, the values of the culture found their way into the communities that worshipped Jesus as Lord (they went back to their old sexual practices, sued each other, valued the wealthy and beautiful over the have-nots, etc.). That is why a large number of our New Testament writings exist, to provide greater clarity and definition, a better map for those mesmerized by cultural vertigo. Again and again these writings through the inspiration of the Spirit state that the old maps, no matter their appeal, don’t work, they are confused, they go round in circles before leading off a cliff, they lead to human degradation. But the Gospel, say these writings is buoyant and life-giving, leading those who follow to holiness, community, vitality and true human flourishing. In short, the vibrancy of the Gospel leads people out of the grey. Through dusting off old words (like love surprisingly) and challenging common assumptions, these writings say You Are Here and this is the new world you’re invited into.
As ministers in this community, we sense the grey that has descended upon our culture, the church and even our beloved students. The hum of our cultural logic is persuasive. So, we feel it is time to return to our map, to return to those words that the writers of Scripture dusted off an invested with true meaning. First Corinthians 13 (love-is-this-not-that) is a great place to camp. It has little to do with romance and weddings. It has everything to do with the people of God finding their way in a confused world.So, we want to talk seriously about holiness, community and human flourishing while challenging our current cultural logic. We want to invite our student’s to embrace the vibrant Gospel of Jesus and move out of the grey.
- Where Is the Authority?
- Darwin and the Myth of Progress?
- Sexual Identity
- Gender Identity
- Sacred Life and Abortion
Written by Mr. Ensor