Thursday, October 11, 2007


NOTE: Part 1 of this series appeared on my [Subversive Underground] Newsletter last month and will also run online at starting October 19th. This is a continuation of that first article based on a recent email exchange I had with someone who disagreed with my militant tone of voice and the concept that the Christian Subculture was evil.


I think, at the core, my argument is essentially that it's anti-Christian for there to be any sort of "subculture" at all. In itself, the current Christian subculture is a direct contradiction to the words of Jesus and the teachings of Paul in 1 Corinthians.

Jesus prayed: "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one."(John 17:15) It was never God's intention to take us out of the world we live in. Why have we decided that it's ok to take ourselves out of the world? Paul the Apostle also agreed on this point when he wrote, "I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world." (1 Cor 5:9-10)

Basically, I want to ask you to consider, "Why is there a Christian subculture at all?" What is the root of that? What is the fruit of that subculture? Does this subculture help us to love people as Jesus commanded? Is it helping or hindering the Kingdom? I would argue that the subculture only hurts the message of Christ. It creates an "Us vs Them" mentality which is something that Jesus was absolutely not in favor of. Jesus was radically inclusive, not exclusive.

I am not directing my dislike of the Christian Subculture towards my brothers and sisters in Christ. It's the "safe and comfortable world" we've created that I hate. I hate that false concept of retreating from the culture instead of living in the world God made and bringing the Gospel to people who need it. This is why I believe the subculture is evil, because it prevents you and I, God's chosen agents of change, from actually being in relationship and dialog and friendship with other human beings He loves and that Jesus died for.

Anything that amuses us as Christians and locks us into an illusion of safety and comfort, pacifies us with Christian-branded trinkets and prevents us, out of fear, from actually being in loving relationship with those outside the Church is evil.

We have Christians making inroads into all fields of endeavor right now. Look at Sophina Brown from the TV series Shark. Look at Dallas Willard, USC Dept. Chair of Psychology. Look at Astrophysicist Hugh Ross. Look at artists like Lynn Aldridge, or Tim Hawkinson. Look at U2. Look at Jay Bakker from Revolution. Look at films like "Bruce, Almighty" and music like "Jesus Walks" by Kanye West.

These are all great examples of artists I applaud because they have escaped the false reality of the Christian subculture and have made an impact outside of the man-made Christian bubble. If they stayed in the christian subculture they would have zero impact.

So, to simplify it:
Staying in the subculture = No impact.
Jesus Commands = Be Salt and Light.
Therefore: Anything that hinders us from being Salt & Light is bad.

My concern is that this so-called "Christian" subculture actually contradicts the message of Jesus.

Just for background, I used to work at a Christian bookstore (5 years), and I worked for six years in the Christian Music Industry. I know about the world I am critiquing. Again, it's not the people who are evil. It's the system we've created which generates money in the name of fear. We retreat from the world we were born into, and called to have an impact on, and we create our own Christian-version of the world which is sanitized and drained of power, impact, relevance and meaning.

It's because I love Jesus and I want to see His Kingdom advance that I have to condemn this subculture of christian consumerism and bumper sticker sloganeering. One local Christian University has emphasized engaging the culture by learning to speak their language. Since most of our cultural language derives from advertising, the result was tons of "Jesus Junk" as Christians tried to speak the cultural language. This again is the problem. We've made the Gospel something that can be reduced to a slogan or a bumper sticker--It's not.

I'm days away from publishing a book about how this commercialization of the Gospel has damaged real evangelism. We need to stop trying to "sell" Jesus to people. It doesn’t work and it's sick. The Gospel is not for sale, and we need to stop treating the message of Jesus as a cute, clever, or slick advertising slogan.

In my previous article I argued that there is no "Sacred" or "Secular" division in the actual world, only the artificial reality we have created in our little subculture. My friend responded to this assertion by quoting Matthew 7:6 and and saying, "Jesus Himself told us 'not to give dogs to give dogs what is sacred…' (therefore) He recognized that there is a sacred element to life."

I disagree. The text actually says, "Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces." Let's be very clear: I don't argue that there is nothing "Holy" in my article, instead I argue against a man-made subculture that identifies certain styles of music, art, clothing, media, etc. as being "Holy" when only God is Holy. I believe that when we market the Gospel and Christianize beer ads, etc. we're breaking this command of Jesus in Matthew 7:6.

What Jesus is urging us to do in this passage is not to cheapen what is Holy. How does your Lord's Gymn t-shirt accomplish this? This passage could be paraphrased as: "Do not persist in offering what is Holy or of value to those who have no appreciation for it, because your gift will not only become contaminated and be despised, your generous efforts could also be rebuffed and perhaps even openly attacked." Welcome to the Christian Subculture.

My friend goes on to say "I can understand your frustration. There's no doubt that parts of the Christian cultural experience are outdated, and miss the mark. I realize this almost every Saturday when I sit in church and feel bored at the lyrics in the songs we sing."

Again, this entirely misses the point. The problem is not your lack of entertainment or stimulation. This is a symptom of the problem I am trying to point out in my article. We have become consumers of Christian subculture. We judge the worship service based on how well we were entertained. Worship is for God, not for us. There's no such thing as a "bad" worship service. You and I may not go home saying we enjoyed the sermon or that the band "rocked", but worship is for God's heart and His ears, not ours. We need to stop seeing things through the lens of consumption. This is why the subculture is evil. It has created consumers instead of worshippers.

Finally, my friend suggested that "(what) we need (is) a fresh breath of creativity that will spark real change. This is how art changes the world."

No, creativity is not enough. Art, the Gospel, our lives, can change the world when we start actually listening to the Holy Spirit and engaging the culture (the "real" culture) with our art, and our lives. If we only create art that is acceptable to a specific audience (the christian subculture) we will never impact the culture at large (those outside the church).

How can I create art that only speaks to and entertains Christians and expect that art to have any impact whatsoever on the World outside the Church? It can't. If it can, show me a few examples of such art. I can only see examples of art that offends the Christian Subculture having an impact on speaking Truth to the World at large; i.e.- "Piss Christ", "Kanye West's song 'Jesus Walks'", "Bruce, Almighty", "Signs", "U2", etc.

The dialog I had with this individual centered mostly on the idea of art and how artists of faith can have an impact on the culture. We talked at length about whether or not the Christian subculture was good or bad for the sake of art. Honestly, I believe that any artist's work would be liberated if it could be created outside of a subcultural context.

If we could see the world, those without Christ, as our audience, then we can begin to speak to them through our art. When you create art with a subculture in mind, which will only accept a narrow range of pre-determined content, (crosses, rainbows, doves, bunnies, etc.), you're not only limiting your art and your expression of Truth, you're preventing those outside the Church from joining the conversation.

So, if you only create art for the Christian subculture, we seasoned Christians may appreciate it and nod along to the inside jokes, but what impact does this have on the world we actually live in? I would argue it has no impact whatsoever.

If your desire is to create art for the select few who already "get it", then I guess you're art would be exactly on target. But, if you had the desire to impact the world around you with your art, it would have to take risks, it would have to offend the subculture if necessary, it would have to exist independantly of the subcultural audience.

My personal passion is to see artists of faith engage in an out of the box (out of the subculture) creative process that leans heavily on the Holy Spirit for inspiration and dares to destroy conventions that restrain the Truth.

The only reason I continue to write about this subject is because I believe artists of faith would be set free to accomplish amazing things for the Kingdom if they were less aware of the Christian subculture and more in tune with simply communicating Truth.

My militant approach in that first article was calculated and was designed to shake people up and force them to engage the issue. I am purposely militant in my language in order to communicate the urgency I feel and the importance of this topic.

Consider this: If Martin Luther had exercised grace, peace, patience and kindness with the Catholic Church of his day you and I would be paying indulgences to priests and there would be no Protestant Reformation. Sometimes we have to speak out strongly against things that are wrong.

To me, the retreat of God's people from the culture is wrong. I am speaking out against it. I am speaking out in order to encourage action.

Good art should also provoke us to action and point out areas where we need to change.

At least, that's my opinion.

[end of part 2]

Check out the awesome cover art for my first book, "The Gospel: For Here Or To Go?" by artist Scott Laumann right here:


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