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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

The Power of Culture

We underestimate sometimes the power of culture to rob us of reality.

We underestimate sometimes the power of culture to rob us of reality. Culture is a powerful force, and familiarity is its strongest weapon of deception. We grow up in a culture, grow to fit its protocols and forms, and come to believe that what we have come to know so familiarly must be the way things are supposed to be.

Consider the power of Southern culture, from the end of the civil war to the middle of the 1960s - almost 100 years. How powerful were the received mores, norms, and practices, handed down to each successive generation, as they reinforced stereotypes, fostered oppression, and kept in place a false understanding of what it means to be human.

Now that is not to say that there weren't and aren't many charming and edifying aspects of Southern culture. There are. But they neither obscure nor justify the entrenched humiliation and brutality of Jim Crow, and they do not excuse the ease with which generations of Southern folk, many of them sincere Christians, accepted and fit comfortably within that culture, evidently without many qualms or scruples.

That's how powerful culture is. And the culture which has settled on the churches of America is just as powerful, just as deceitful, and just as oppressive. For the culture of American Christianity - which holds, inter alia, that being a Christian is merely a matter of praying a little prayer, participating in a church, and being a relatively decent human being; that programs, buildings, budgets, staff, and paying members are the essence of what it means to be a church; that the Law of God is a useful rallying cry against pagan secularists but not something otherwise to be taken too seriously - that culture, which has obtained for the better part of, well, a century now, has created a Church that is irrelevant to the great social and moral issues of the day, incapable (and largely uninterested) in affecting the broader culture, uninterested in seeking the lost, and complacent in its smug assurance that soon (and very soon) Jesus will come to rescue all His faithful ones from the muck and yuck of this Godless age.

So when my friend, Steve, from Vancouver, says that he doesn't feel like he can fit into that box anymore, believe me, I understand. And I applaud his convictions and rejoice at his courage. Perhaps if a few more pastors ever peeked behind the curtain of contemporary Christianity, they might find themselves mashing the buttons, pulling the levers, and keeping up the facade of a form of Christianity that is turning nothing upside down for Jesus. And perhaps they might, like my friend Steve, commit to seeking the Lord for something more real than the pseudo-culture of contemporary Western Christianity.

T. M. Moore
T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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