Sunday Thoughts


by Al Sturgeon
(published each week in Desperate Houseflies)


My introduction to the Tulsa Workshop came on a Thursday morning this past March when Wade Hodges presented, “How Do We Get in Sync With This Culture?” I had heard of the speaker, but I had never heard him speak. The subject, however, was one I had spent quite a bit of time considering. Once, in one of my periodic reading flurries, I had read back to back to back, Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus, Rauschenbusch’s A Theology for the Social Gospel, and Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture (the first two at Juvenal’s suggestion).

I’m still a bit iffy on my conclusions, but at the very least I have pumped a lot of information in my little brain on this topic!

I was pleased to discover Hodges’ lecture to be very good. He engaged the age-old dilemma of how Christians are to be “in the world” but not “of the world” with (appropriate for Coast residents such as myself) a beach metaphor. Imagining the waves as our culture, he presented us with the two most obvious options for we Christians standing on the shore: will we stay on the beach, or will we drown? Without a satisfactory answer on either side, he urged us to consider one more option: maybe we could learn to surf the waves. Maybe we can ride the waves of our culture.

He taught that we’d need discernment, because real surfers know that you don’t ride every wave that comes along. He added that we needed courage, because there are some scary waves that we just have to ride (the notable example of the Civil Rights Movement, generally ignored by Southern Christians was mentioned). He went on to mention that we’d need community, because smart surfers don’t go surfing alone. It was, without a doubt, a lot of good stuff to consider.

I’ll tell you the truth; I could be Amish if I wasn’t so fond of electricity. Jesus wasn’t too much on creature comforts you know. And I could even junk the whole religious ballgame and just hang out with tax collectors and sinners, too, citing once again the lifestyle chosen by Jesus. But there must be some middle ground, which is why this topic fascinates me, and which is why I think Hodges hit on something with his surfing metaphor – engaging the world without drowning in it.

I won’t argue with you when you mention that Scripture teaches us to avoid evil, though I would point out that it also tells us to love the people through whom evil is always perpetrated. So I think we should find a way to meet the world on its turf, messy though it may be, without allowing it to swallow us whole.

Besides, surfing always sounded like fun to me anyway.

Note: Comments are always welcome. In particular this time, if you buy the surfing metaphor, I’d be interested in hearing opinions on which waves of culture you think Christians ought to be riding today. I have long thought that churches dropped the ball big time during the Civil Rights Movement. What ball are we dropping today?


2 Responses to “Sunday Thoughts”

  1. Joe Longhorn Says:

    I like the surfing metaphor and totally agree that the Church missed a big wave in the 50s and 60s with Civil Rights.

    Are we missing any big waves now? Or are we being carried out to sea by some dangerous riptides? I think they are both apt metaphors.

    I think one of the big waves breaking now that has a pretty dangerous undertow is the “culture of tolerance.” As Christians, we are to accept sinners. On the other hand, we are to strive to keep the Body pure (Ephesians ch. 5). What a fine line to walk!

    The funny thing to me is that our “culture of tolerance” is intolerant of those that are perceived as intolerant. Reminds me of the Nigel Powers’ quote: ” There are two things in the world I can’t stand; people that are intolerant of other cultures… and the Dutch!”

  2. JD Says:

    “The church” is so diverse these days, I’m not sure we can make any true statement about “the church” as a whole. In earlier generations “the church” was not diverse. It was said that you could go into any ‘church of Christ’ in American and know you were in the right place because of how things were practiced. That day is gone. So if some churches are missing big waves, others are probably catching them in other places. Me? I seem to be stomping around in a puddle trying to make a wave. 🙂

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