For baby boomers drugs, sex and rock & roll were the approved way to be counter-culture, to display their disdain for their parent’s way of life. Today’s young adults are finding rebellion in Bible study, church attendence and faith.
Particularlly in post-Christian Europe, becoming a “fundamentalist” is the new “drug of choice” for a rebel in the 21st century.
The lead of a recent Sunday Times article showcases the new rebel:
‘When I look back, I suppose that Ben’s conversion to Christianity was quite gradual really, but he’s definitely fallen hook, line and sinker now,” says Ellen Parker, a teacher from Surrey and a lifelong agnostic. Her son Ben is in his mid-twenties and has been a devout evangelical Christian for a few years. It is a situation about which Parker feels deeply ambivalent.
“On the one hand,” she says, “he was quite aimless when he joined the church and I can see that it’s given him a real sense of purpose: he went from being someone who had literally never read a book for pleasure, to studying the Bible for hours each day. But it also makes me sad because none of the rest of the family shares his beliefs and it excludes us from a massive part of his life. Sometimes I think that the gulf between the values of his church and my own liberal values might be impossible to bridge.”
The piece examines the growing number of British young people leaving the atheistic, secular lifestyle of their parents and embracing evangelical Christianity or fundamentalist Islam. This may or may not be new for Islam – being the counter-culture – but for Christianity this is how it is supposed to be.
Jesus came into this world as a counter-culture figure. Everything He did was contrary to the understanding and thought process of those living during His day. After His death and resurrection, He called His followers to the same lifestyle.
One of my favorite writers, Ted Dekker, explains this in a brilliant way:
Consider the example of Christ. Evidently God, in all of his wisdom, decided that the best way to bring redemption to his creation was to invade it with a message and a lifestyle that was diametrically opposed to the prevailing trends. He literally turned the culture on its head. How many times did he say, “You have heard it said… But I say to you…” Instead of demanding an eye for an eye, he taught to turn the other cheek. Most of his teachings flew in the face of the prevailing mindset. The Son of God operated almost exclusively from the fringes of society. The man he inspired to introduce him, John the Baptist, ate crickets and wore rags, for heaven’s sake. This was a counter-cultural man.
Jesus Christ was so radical that his culture only put up with his ministry for three years before executing him. The crowds went along, mind you — it wasn’t just a few zealous Pharisees out for blood. Jesus was immensely unpopular during his last year, a little recognized fact. He predicted that his followers would be hated. They would be strangers who didn’t fit into the prevailing culture.
Early Christians were radicals who bucked the status quo in their day — I’m not sure it should be any different today. The passion required to engage a full-tilt pursuit of God is almost always nurtured on the fringes of society, not in the mainstream.
Christianity is always at its best when it is in contrast to the daily culture it exists within. Our greatest example of the counter-culture Christian is the First Century Church. The book of Acts does not record passive believers merely attempting to turn pop culture into Christian culture. They were on the edges, challenging the prevailing thoughts of the day.
When Christianity took a turn for the worse was when it become the official religion of the Roman Empire. It took a revolution in the form of The Reformation, another time of counter-culture Christianity, to shake lose the faith from the duldrums of mediocrity.
In our time we can observe those believers living in communist dictatorships or Islamic regimes. They know what it means to rebel against culture. They know the costs and haven chosen to “take up their cross and follow [Jesus].” Their decision to embrace the cross may cost them everything, a sacrifice they are more than willing to make.
Christianity in America is weak and apathetic. It takes no real sacrifice to become a Christian. No one is forced to chose between the world and Christ – we combine the two. For too many Americans, our god is a god who wants us to “bling” and “be the the hottest thing on the block.” They are right. That is their god, but they are wrong if they think that god is the God of the Bible.
Until American Christians become more concerned with pleasing God than “living your best life now,” we will continue to slide into obscurity and lose whatever influence we have left. Jesus established the Church as a rebel outpost in a hostile land, not as a country club of prosperity.
While our faith should be challenging to the culture, it is not about being a rebel for the sake of rebellion. Dekker wrote, “…it’s the story of every Christian who wants to follow in the passionate attitude of Christ who turned his back on the mediacroty of the status quo. Rebellion? No. Revolution.”
As society and culture becomes more and more secular, the opportunities for Christians become more and more prevelant to live lives than showcase the difference Jesus makes. When virtually every study of the Church shows no difference between us and the world in terms of our behavior and attitudes, something is drastically wrong.
When a culture is nominally Christian, as our is, true followers of Christ must not be content to merely curse the darkness of the world, but to give those in the world a truly different option. We also must challenge the wrongs within our own house. We spend so much time screaming at the world, we forget to examine ourselves. We have some logs in our own eyes, lest we forget.
This is by no means a call to embrace a liberal, watered-down version of Christianity, but a plea for us to take hold of true Biblical Christianity. To grasp exactly what Jesus taught. To take hold of Him. The mediocrity, the apathy, the laziness must end.