The Culture’s Grip

i am who i am. Even when I try to be like other people, still i am who i am. No matter how young I try to dress, no matter how much make-up I put on, no matter the airs I put on, i still am who i am. It is interesting to me that it takes a lot of effort to remember who i am, what my purpose is and who the real me is. This is one reason why I write so much about the American culture, because it has such a hold on me and, I believe, by extension, on all of us. Let me list some of the things that are challenging about this culture:

1. It is materialistic—into the concrete and into acquiring a “better” life.

2. It is into scientific evidence—what can’t be proven doesn’t exist.

3. It is anti-commitment, particularly to a religion whose beliefs can’t be proven logically or scientifically.

4. It is hard to distinguish between what the culture teaches and who we are, because its values are assimilated at a pre-cognitive age.

5. It is blind to its own faults: unequal opportunity, manipulation of voters, etc.

6. We are impatient for results, often choosing short-term solutions instead of facing the harder long-term needs.

7. We choose violence over peaceful methods—choosing war over of diplomacy(we’re engaged in three right now) and fear over faith and trust.

I have drawn a negative picture of our country now in the second decade of the 21st century, but I hope that you’ll forgive me for not listing the positives right now. My point is that we are often blind to how pervasive the cultural influence is in us. Its values are absorbed before our cognitive brains are functional; its evolving influence is subtle, too, because we are changed as the culture changes. Here’s one small example of that: Marilyn Monroe was the epitome of what a woman should be when I was coming of age—pretty and sexy.  I recently saw a rerun of her movie “Some Like It Hot;” my reaction to her was this—“She’s fat!!”  In the intervening years I had gone from thinking a size 14 woman was pretty and sexy to agreeing with today’s ideal: anorexic women who fit into size 0’s or 2’s, without any idea that anything had changed in me.

When our thinking changes without any action on our part, then we know that we are in the grip of something very powerful. I am writing about the culture this morning because I believe it to be the major block in us to valuing the presence of God in our lives and to building a deep relationship with Christ. How hard it is to affirm the Spirit’s presence and action in our lives when the culture devalues the unseen, the mysterious, and for-the-most-part the unknowable God. God reaches out to the true self, not the acculturated self. God embraces our created purpose, not the culturally conditioned purpose. God wants our whole self, not just part of us.  This week let’s pay attention to what is of God and what is of the culture and see where that leads us.

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