Monday, March 01, 2010

Cultural Transformers

I listen to a lot of podcasts covering a wide variety of subjects.  Some are pure fun and some are informational for personal or professional development.   One of my favorites that I’ve listened to for several years is Dave Ramsey’s radio show.  Recently while listening I started thinking “This guy is really crazy.  He wants these folks to go totally against the cultural financial norms.”  Dave is certainly more dogmatic in his teachings than someone like Clark Howard.  Clark (or Mr. Howard if you want to irritate him) tells people how to work the credit system to keep a good credit rating and credit score, useful advice for living in a culture that values and relies on credit for its daily sustenance. If you’ve listened to Dave for 10 seconds you know he couldn’t care less what your credit score is. Dave refers to Bank of America as BoA (as in constrictor) and often says “If you play with snakes, you’re going to get bit.” While Clark teaches you how to play with the snakes safely so as not to get bit, Dave teaches you to stay away from the snakes.  Clark teaches how to play the game.  Dave refuses to play the game and goes off to have his own fun playing a new game (based on old principles) and tries to get everyone to come and play with him.  I learn useful things from both of these men and am not trying to pit them against each other.  But the difference in philosophy is one to consider in many areas of our lives including religion, health, morals, and work.
This goes right along with my previous post on change.  When something in our lives is not going as it should how should we work to change it? The world is full of quick remedies and partial solutions. Get rich quick schemes, the lottery, fad diets,, and protein power drinks are thrown at us from every form of media. The verse comes to mind:
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of the world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds” Romans 12:2
How did Jesus live? Did he ask the Pharisees what they thought, study the culture and try to find the best way to live in it.  Did he go off and live atop a mountain, take a few people with him, and wait for his purpose to be fulfilled?  Or did he live his life counter to the culture, working with individuals to change their lives.  He didn’t try to change the government policies.  He wasn’t bullied by threats or name calling.  He stood up for his convictions, and everyone knew where he stood.  He worked to heal people’s hearts and spirits, not just their physical maladies.  And when they left him, they were changed and inspired to spread the change to all around.
We have options for living our lives:
  1.  Embrace the culture and it’s values
  2. Fit in to the culture and maintain your values
  3. Separate from the culture to protect your values
  4.  Work to change the culture and infect it with your values

You can thrive in various aspects by 1, 2, or 3.  But only through 4 can we be fulfilled and truly Christ-like.  The wisdom of the world won’t get us where we need to be.  Fortunately God gave us a healthy dose of common sense as well as a bunch of proverbial wisdom to go along with it.
Too many times (especially in the church) we focus on #3, separating ourselves from the culture for fear of letting it infect us.  We teach our kids “do not taste, do not touch” (Col 2). We stay within the confines of our church buildings without venturing out into the communities that we are supposed to minister to.  We must separate ourselves from the ACTIONS and WISDOM of the world, but not from the people.  We don’t live the way they live, but we must LOVE the way that HE loved.  Jesus never once shunned attending a gathering for fear of what he might hear or see.  But when he was there, he would infect those around him with his compassion and love.
In, not of. Transformative, not conforming. Loving and living in a culture that doesn’t like us or understand us and yet that is our mission. I have several mentors from afar that I thank God for their transformative message:
  • Dr. James Dobson for his tireless work to protect and strengthen our families.
  • Dave Ramsey for his encouragement to “Live like no one else, so that later you can live like no one else”.
  • And most recently Dr. Josh Axe for his simple yet healing message of eating the foods our bodies were meant to eat and living all around healthy lives.

These men and their organizations refuse to conform to the conventional wisdom and values of the masses. They live according to a different set of rules and refuse to play the game the world wants them to play.  Instead they demonstrate great love, great compassion, and great wisdom open to anyone who will listen.  Sound familiar.

Personal Challenge:
I was just reading the book Re-Create by Ron Luce and he challenged me to challenge my children to become transformers of culture rather than conformers to it.  Now I need to figure out how to impart that mission to them. Shouldn’t be too hard; I bet they’ll like the idea of being transformers.
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