Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The Culturally Anarchic Church

Billboard, in downtown Detroit

At Redeemer we are moving against culture (like some other churches we know of). We are not spending money on trying to keep people "happy." To be unconcerned about keeping people amused is, today, radically countercultural. It's cultural anarchism.

I'm not interested in enabling our happiness-addicted culture. And, yes, that is our culture, as an increasing number of scholars are showing us. Yale University's Miroslav Volf, for example, writes:

"For many in the West, experiential satisfaction is what their lives are all about. It does not merely enhance flourishing; it defines it. Such people cannot imagine themselves as flourishing if they do not experience satisfaction, if they don’t feel happy, as the preferred way of expressing it goes.

For them, flourishing consists in having an experientially satisfying life. No satisfaction, no flourishing.

Sources of satisfaction may vary, ranging from appreciation of classical music to the use of drugs, from the delights of haute cuisine to sadomasochistic sex, from sports to religion. What matters is not the source of satisfaction but the fact of it.

What justifies a given lifestyle or activity is the satisfaction it generates—the pleasure. And when they experience satisfaction, people feel that they flourish.

As Philip Rieff noted in The Triumph of the Therapeutic some decades ago (1966), ours is a culture of managed pursuit of pleasure, not a culture of sustained endeavor to lead the good life, as defined by foundational symbols and convictions. This is a broad generalization with many important exceptions. Yet it describes well a major and growing trend."

- Volf, Miroslav, A Public Faith, pp. 57-58)

Well, if we are not expending time, energy, and funds to fuel peoples' happiness, then just what the heck are we doing?

My answer is: We are teaching people about *The Real Jesus. And how to connect with Jesus, and how to abide in Christ. Which then, logically and inexorably, leads to discipleship.

That's it. That's all. Every resource is pointed towards this.

And, BTW, we have a lot of young people coming who are not interested in Entertainment Churches but Presence-Driven Churches and discipleship.

*We're not the last word on this. In spite of our insufficiencies, this is what I and my church family are going after.