Cultural Prophets

The weather recently has been about as predictable as a 13 year old boy the last couple of days. Sunny for a while, then the clouds roll in, rain, thunder, lightning, chaos, panic, wet dogs, followed by sun and humidity the rest of the day.

The other morning I found myself looking up at the sky through our kitchen window as the clouds thickened, wondering if it would rain soon. It looked kinda clear (partly sunny/mostly cloudy - what's the flippin' difference!), but the weatherman said there would be a chance of rain. I wasn't buying that prediction. Then I realized: my kitchen window faces East.

Muttering Christian-approved curses for the sleep deprivation that comes from being a parent of two young boys, I turned and went across to the living room window which faces West. Sure enough, the sky had a gradient from depressing to ominous. All I had to do was look West and see the storm approaching.

One of my favorite genres to read is dystopian future type novels. There have been A LOT of very popular books along this line in recent years, especially those marketed toward teenagers and young adults. YA Fiction racks are packed with stories taking place in dystopian futures - societies full of corruption, evil, ignorance, etc. Yet while I enjoy The Hunger Games, Divergent, and the like, I think they are missing the mark.


Every author (it seems) in this particular genre is trying at some level to be prophetic. They pick up on key trends in culture and amplify them to their most outrageous manifestation. The authors attempt to give us a glimpse at what society could become if left unchecked. These authors are looking West at the approaching storm while society looks East at the clear blue sky. And their target audience - namely teenagers - are those in best position to make the changes for the coming generations to avoid those storms. However, teenagers seem to be the least likely group to actually "get it."

One of my favorite books growing up was (and still is) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. It's a story about a man named Guy who is living in a future society where books have become illegal. No one reads books anymore, and those who do and are caught with books will have their houses burned down - and the books along with them. In the story we get a brief glimpse of Guy's wife and her friends who do nothing but sit around watching the gigantic television screens as big as walls. They gossip, they chat, and they are extremely shallow/juvenile in their thinking.

We read this book as part of my junior English class in high school. As we were discussing these women, some of the girls pointed out how absurd and annoying they were. They couldn't understand why these characters had nothing better to do nor why they didn't realize what was going on in the world around them. I just sat toward the back thinking to myself: Don't you get it? YOU are these women.

The point of the story was lost on those who needed to hear it most.

For those of you who have read the classics like Orwell's 1984, Huxley's Brave New World, or Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, it's eerie to see how closely their predictions have come to fruition. Even outside to realm of fiction there are authors like Neil Postman whose works Amusing Ourselves to Death and Technopoly are even more true and accurate today than they were 20 or 30 years ago when he wrote them.

So if these prolific cultural prophets of the early-to-mid 20th century were correct in their forecasts, what kind of society might be become if Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth, Lois Lowry, and others are to be taken seriously? Are we facing East while a storm of violence, apathy, ignorance, and governmental oppression looms ominously in the West?

And do Christians even have a voice as cultural prophets anymore?


Discipleship: The World Is Watching

Who is my neighbor?

That is the most dangerous question anybody ever asked Jesus. And the answer changed the world.


The Day Christians Were Silent

I checked my social media feeds like a teenage girl on Sunday night and Monday. What would people be saying about Miley Cyrus this year? She did something crazy, something out of the box, something I've never seen before.

But the internet was silent. And Christians were silent.

What did she do? Check it out for yourself:

That's right. Miley won the big award - Video of the Year - and had a homeless teenager named Jesse accept the award on her behalf. His speech was an eye-opening look at the plight of thousands and thousands of runaway and homeless youth across the country and in LA specifically.

Thousands of teenagers are living on the streets for various reasons. Some were kicked out of their homes, some lost their homes, some ran away from home. Whatever the reason, these kids are not going to go anywhere or make anything of their lives without someone to give them a hand up.

There are groups across the country trying to reach and help this particular demographic. Companies like Dry Bones Denver are making a big impact in the lives of street kids and homeless youth. But still thousands of teenagers packed with potential are slipping through the cracks.

Last year at this time the world was talking about Miley Cyrus. The Christian blogosphere nearly broke the internet. I wrote my own post about her infamous duet with Robin Thicke. We were quickly and passionately spouting out judgment and condemnation on Miley and all of youth culture.

This year, the world is silent. And Christians are silent. I have only seen one article shared concerning Miley's acceptance speech. One. That's not to say that more have not been written, but Matt Walsh certainly has not touched on it. I've not seen a Christianity Today blog about it; nor a Relevant Magazine insiders look into the speech.

The Church is silent, and that silence screams volumes to the world.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1-2)

What the world sees is a Church that is quick to judge, quick to condemn, and slow to affirm. Miley did something outrageously immoral last year and we spent weeks blasting her and getting into comment-battles on Facebook. We are incredibly quick to point out the faults, sins, and specks in the eyes of the world. How would you like it if you had a "friend" who only ever pointed out your faults and never complimented you or encouraged you when you did something good? But that's the measure we are using to judge the world.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? (1 Corinthians 5:12)

If we were more concerned about eradicating sin from within the church than we seem to be with the sin of outsiders, then we would have firm ground to stand on. Only then could we be the prophetic voice the world needs to hear - not just about judgment but about hope and salvation. We yell and scream and type passionately in ALL CAPS when a celebrity does some twerking on stage. And we bury our heads in the sand when that same celebrity does something we could actually affirm.

I am in no way trying to put Miley Cyrus on a pedestal. Nor am I pointing to her as a role model for our young girls. I'm simply reminded of what Paul says:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (Romans 12:9)

So I'm asking you: What does it tell the world when we yell about something sinful but are silent about something good?