We’ve all heard the accusation, “You Uncultured Swine!” Most recently it was spoken by Mr. Potato Head in Toy Story:
Mr. Potato Head: (rearranges facial features) Look, I’m Picasso.
Hamm: Gee, I don’t get it.
Mr. Potato Head: You uncultured swine!
This phrase has surfaced throughout the ages, been quoted in movies, music and plays, and is actually a variation of Jesus’ own words:
“Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.
When applied to culture, it could sound like this: Don’t waste was is good or beautiful on people who won’t understand or appreciate it.
Uncultured – artless: (of persons) lacking art or knowledge.
There is beauty in the world to be observed and appreciated by Christians. And it’s not just things that have an explicit gospel message, (though it could be argued that all things have an “explicit gospel message” but I’ll leave that for another time). There is more to see than beautiful paintings of mountains, sunsets and old rugged crosses. God’s beauty is evident throughout creation, and throughout the “creations of His creation.” Eugene Peterson, the author who brought us the Message, says that any time a story has been well told, or song has been well crafted, the Gospel has been served.
Part of what it means to be made in the image of God, is that we are made to create. We are creators. In my observation of all of creation, human beings are the only living thing created by God with a need and desire to create something on their own. We play music, paint, build and write simply to create an expression. No other species has a need to create art, we don’t need to in order to survive, yet we have leave our mark, we attempt to influence each other, to inspire each other. When it comes right down to it, we create to connect.
Isn’t that why God created us? So he could connect with his creation?
Now, moving on and as noted by the title of this article, I am not suggesting that Christians have become uncultured, but rather subcultured, and have become so to the point of irrelevancy. I’ve written about this before, yet I will again. We have Christian music, Christian movies, Christian bookstores, Christian coffee shops, Christian art…In his book, No Icing on the Cake, author Jack Mechielsen, talks about Christian culture being no more than sweet icing on the world’s cake.
There are so many places of relatable commonality between christians and non-christians within culture, we just need to open our eyes and see. As human beings all, we can connect at the most basic of levels, in our day-to-day lives. Whether it be one young mom talking with another at the playground, or one hard-working dad to another after a hard day on the job; we have the ability to be, simply to exist, as christians.
When the conversation turns to popular culture, many christians express one of two looks on their faces: the first, The Deer-In-The-Headlights Look. This is the look that says, “I have no idea what you are talking about but it’s probably really bad and I am pretty sure I shouldn’t be talking to you anymore…” The second look is The Eyes-Glazed-Over-Look-Of-Pride. This look says, “I see your mouth moving but I can’t hear your words as you are obviously talking about this evil world and I won’t allow myself to be contaminated by anything of the world…”
When you take a trip to a foreign place, you usually learn a few things about it first. At the very least, you determine what language is spoken in the country you are visiting, the basic climate (should I pack my long winter coat, or my speedo?”), and, if renting a car, the correct side of the road to drive on.
If you care to develop a relationship with anyone, while away from your homeland, you will also care learn things about their food, their economy, their religious & political views, in other words, you will ask questions, and care about the answers.
To relate to people, you do as they do. In first Corinthians 9, Paul speaks of becoming all things to all men, as part of a process of building relationship and sharing the love of God.
When you make a conscious effort to relate, you experience life through someone else’s eyes. You have no hidden agenda to change who they are. You just relate. And while part of them may rub off on you, the part of you that would like to scream, “Jesus is Lord!” will be gently whispering to them through your actions.
Just try it. I am only twenty-six years old, and already I have gone through phases of rejecting certain aspects of culture, such as some of the new styles of music, movies and t.v. shows, simply because it is different than what I enjoyed growing up. Brandee and I were married quite young (I was 18, she was 19), and she used to point out at the time that I was eighteen going on forty. Through the recent years of culture therapy and time with God I hope that I have reduced that to at least thirty.
As a musician, I love to experience all genres of music. I choose to listen to top 40 radio to better understand the mood of the culture. I also regularly listen to internet radio and satellite radio to hear what’s about to hit mainstream. While I believe that Christian artists should be at the forefront of the music industry, I don’t believe that this can be accomplished by remaining locked in a subculture.
I am a strong supporter of Christian musicians; however, in general I am not a fan of Christian music. I believe all music is God’s, and as artists who believe in Him, we need to strain to hear the notes, the rhythms, the melodies of heaven and play them here on earth. On earth as it is in heaven. I guess I should qualify this point of view a little more than I have. I love the intentions of Christian artists, but I have an aversion to the fact that they are forced to make a choice between the secular & sacred realms. So many have so much more to say, but haven’t been empowered to making their heart’s cry heard.
I grew up going to a christian school. I wore the navy blue pants with the tucked in white shirt, with the grey vest emblazoned with our school’s name & logo, Abbotsford Christian Academy; of course, the “t” in Christian was stylized as a cross. The school later become known as Cornerstone Christian School. I am very thankful for the teachers & leaders I had there, and that my parents cared so much about my future to send me there. It was in this christian environment that I was raised, where I formed my early beliefs about life, love & God. I was taught to worship and lead worship in this place, it was where my struggle with “there must be more” began, a struggle that I am once again embracing.
One of the most positive things about growing up in this christian environment was meeting my gorgeous wife, Brandee. We grew up together. I fell in love with her in fourth grade and again in ninth grade, and married her shortly after high school. I thank God everyday that He gave her to me to be my partner on this journey. I also thank God that she is so beautiful.
Speaking of beauty, I’ve noticed lately that God is trying to catch my eye. I feel as though the Creator of the universe if flirting with me, trying to catch my attention. He teases me with the beauty of his creation, giving subtle promptings of his glory, faint previews of heaven. From the beauty of a harvest moon, to a spectacular sunrise, to a beautiful woman, his glory is demonstrated throughout the beauty of creation.
Not only does he use our eyes to show his awesomeness, but all of our senses. In reality, our relationship with God can be, and should be a very sensuous experience. Every part of creation is a foretaste of what is to come in heaven. When we taste good food or drink good wine, we can take a moment to imagine what the food & wine of our true home will taste like; when we hear good music, we should imagine what the music of heaven will sound like; when we smell fresh flowers, imagine the aromas and fragrances of heaven; and when we see beauty here on earth, imagine the beauty of God!
It is almost enough to overwhelm us, to cause our senses to overload when we pair the tangible here and now with the imagination of what is to come.
This brings me back to the culture of our world. God created this earth, and though sin has tainted it, his glory still shines through, if we look with open yet discerning eyes we might just catch a glimpse of heaven.