Saturday, February 19, 2005Michael Spencer has become something of a controversialist among evangelical bloggers. One minute he's citing Al Mohler, the next minute he's praising Donald Miller. I don't know if anyone could say they always agree with Spencer, but I've no doubt that there are countless bloggers who hold his work in very high esteem. If the iMonk says something, it's at least considered, though it may not be accepted.
With that in mind, Spencer posted a piece this past week noting many of the lines that have been drawn among Christians today. As longtime readers of this site, I come down pretty squarely on one side of most of these issues. Still I think Spencer's central premise is worth considering:
Christians in America are increasingly falling into the stereotypical categories being created by the engines of the culture war, making it difficult for thoughtful people who resist categorization and do not fully identify with the polarizations of the culture war to be tolerated within evangelicalism or identified as "real Christians." In fact, the very categories themselves fail to accommodate the rich diversities and depths of the Biblical/Christian worldview.
If you've been reading some of my posts over at Stones Cry Out, you know I take a pretty strict view of Christian politics; I fail to see how Scripture condones or endorses the welfare state, though we are offered plenty of precautions about how we are to care for orphans and widows. It's Spencer's notion of cultural stereotypes that I find compelling, perhaps because I can personally relate.
While sites like LookingCloser and Crux Magazine have taken seriously the call to engage arts and culture, the rest of the evangelical culture is pretty aloof on such matters. I know there are lots of reasons for this - middle class families don't always have time to explore the intricacies of existensial Swedish film. The rest of us might find ourselves in an odd place; evangelical faith, conservative politics and West Village tastes in art, music, literature and film. It's an interesting predicament for those of us evangelicals who aren't satisfied with pop culture. I've never read Left Behind, but I have read Wise Blood. I don't listen to to Mercy Me, but I love the Innocence Mission and Sufjan Stevens.
Making an effort to dig beneath the surface in our culture is always a dangerous thing. In evangelical culture it's a mixed bag; you can always find kindred spirits, but they're few and far between. And frankly, until we get over the paranoid assessment that Hollywood is out to get us, I don't imagine things will change. I remain conservative in my politics and theology, but I don't think we can draw such clear lines with the arts and culture. Of course there are exceptions; namely, pornography and the more vulgar segments of the hip-hop and metal scenes. I guess what I'm trying to say here - sort of like the crunchy cons in the conservative movement - is that there is a stereotype out there. In many ways it's a real stereotype that exists; good conservative Christians listen to Christian music, don't watch much tv (Friends is alright if you're a girl), you read Christian popular fiction and R-rated movies are off limits.
Like I said, this is something of an exaggeration. Still, stereotypes (however unfair) don't materialize out of thin air. Am I wrong here? Comments and e-mails, particularly from readers my age - thirty and under - would be most helpful.