The Film: Lord, Save Us From Your Followers

The premise: “Why is the Gospel of Love Dividing America?”

In this recently released film, Dan Merchant travels the country as a “human bumper sticker” asking people of various beliefs what they think about Christians, Jesus, the Bible, and the like. In the Spring of 2008, I had the privilege of previewing this film in my Intercultural Communication class. Here’s a sampling of the mixed emotions I felt during that 99 minutes: conviction, regret, anger, compassion, encouragement, hope…

While I do not fully agree with Merchant’s premise, I do find this timely film as a whole extremely helpful as confessing Christians and non-Christians continue the dialogue toward truth and renewal that can only be found in the one Triune Creator. More information on the film, and whether it’s at a theatre near you, here.

A shorter clip:

Jesus:

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

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Intercultural Communication 101: Part 4

Effective Christian Intercultural Communication must be aware of the Meta-Culture in order to appropriately deal with the receptor’s response to the Communicator’s message.

According to Louis Luzbetak, “Culture is a design for living. It is a plan according to which society adapts itself to its physical, social, and ideational environment…Cultures are but different answers to essentially the same human problems” (Perspectives, p. 392). The Meta-Culture referred to here in this principle, is the Culture beyond all other cultures in this visible world. This Culture transcends all other cultures. It is God’s Culture, his design for living, and his answer to the same human problems that other cultures attempt to remedy.

God has communicated, and continues to communicate to us about himself. He wants us to know something about himself. “God made the world that He might communicate…his glory” (Jonathan Edwards). “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims his handiwork” (Ps 19.1). Psalm 19.7-11 speaks of God’s special revelation. Moreover, “In these last days [God] has spoken to us by his Son (who is the radiance of his glory)…[and] through whom also he created the world” (Heb 1.2-3). So, God has given his creatures (receptors/perceivers) two books to communicate about himself: the Book of Nature (natural revelation, as found in the World), and the Book of Scripture (special revelation, as found in the Word).

The communicational interaction between a believer and nonbeliever is an intercultural interaction in this sense. The communicational interaction happening between them is mainly intercultural because their culture of citizenship is different spiritually. “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 4.4). Because of this, the Christian Intercultural Communicator should have the ability (in the strength that God supplies) to engage with the receptor’s response to his or her own message.

“The missionary may well find that his foreignness is at once an asset and a liability, but he should never forget that it set him apart. He is on trial. His message is from the outside” (Hesselgrave, p. 461). The apostle Paul tells of the foreignness of the message, and the receivers’ response to that message, “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing” (1 Cor 1.18). As well, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God…he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2.14).

God’s remedy to this problem of non-acceptance and inability to understand the Christian communicator’s message is to shine his supernatural light into the hearts of unbelievers to give them the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4.6). So, in the process of the intercultural communication between believer and nonbeliever, the believer must depend on the Spirit of God, and pray that the Lord would give the light of the knowledge of himself to the unbeliever.

On Marriage, Happiness, and GOD

Perhaps one common cultural assumption Christians may have regarding marriage, is that true happiness begins and ends with the married couple itself. I do not think that the Bible condemns the pursuit of happiness in general, or in particular. Instead, with regards to true and Biblical happiness, the Bible assumes that we pursue it. For example: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Regarding the married couple (and, the husband in particular), Paul says, “Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” I am assuming that in the act of loving oneself or another, the lover is the pursuer of happiness. I believe that the thesis of Gary Thomas’ book, Sacred Marriage is right depending on his definition of happiness. His thesis question: “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” From what I’ve read of his book so far, I am assuming his definition of “happy” in this thesis question is the idealized definition many Christians have taken up from our culture’s own cues. So, with this definition in mind (but going with the Bible’s definition), I’d say that God designed marriage to make us holy (i.e., as he is holy) that we may be happy in him–who should be the beginning and the end of our happiness/love as married couples.

Maybe one of the biblical characteristics of marriage that people might treat as being purely cultural (as during the apostle Paul’s time and culture), pertains to gender roles in marriage. Paul says at least four things in particular here (Eph. 5.22-33): 1) Wives, as submitter to their own husbands; 2) Husbands, as head of the wife; 3) Husbands, as sacrificial lover for their wife; 4) Wives, respecter of husband.

I believe that the greatest threat to marriage relates directly to the misconception of true happiness, as discussed above. Marriages end, not because one or both of the spouses aim for happiness and miss. Instead, marriages end because one or both of them aim at the wrong (i.e., idolatrous) things that inevitably lead them to ruin and misery.

I believe that many couples treat marriage so lightly, that their own marriages dissolve so quickly, because they treat God and his word so lightly. Every little thing and every big thing that we do, think, feel, say, and are, is God-relational. And, when a husband and wife seem to dismiss God into the peripheral areas of their lives, they cease to love each other as they ought. A husband cannot love his wife properly unless he loves (i.e., finds joy in) his God rightly.

“Living the Dream.” What Does This Mean?

Within the last year, as I’ve casually asked people how they’re doing, they’d respond: “Living the dream.” I guess I’m suppose to know what they’re talking about. Excuse me for being out of the circle of pop culture, but during this short season, I have a life to live that lives mainly on books. This can’t be that dream, can it?

Relatively recently, a guy (fellow seminarian) asked me if I was living the dream. My response: “I don’t know. Life is hard.” Without giving me more time for further explanatory response, he answered, “You just gotta trust in Jesus, man…”

So, especially since that curious conversation cut short, I’ve asked the demanding question only within myself and to my wife: “What does it mean to live the dream?”

Anyone have a cultural clue here, as to what this saying might mean?

The Way The Eagles See It #1

Frail Grasp On The Big Picture (2007)

Well ain’t it a shame ’bout our short little memory

We never seem to learn the lessons of history

We keep making the same mistakes – over and over and over and over again

And then we wonder why we’re in the shape we’re in

Good ol’ boys down at the bar

Peanuts and politics

They think they know it all

They don’t know much of nothin’

Even if one of ’em was to read a newspaper, cover to cover

That ain’t what’s going on

Journalism dead and gone

Frail grasp on the big picture

Light fading and the fog is getting thicker

Frail grasp on the big picture

Dark ages

And you, my love-drunk friend

All that red wine and candlelight

Soulful conversations that go on until the dawn

How many times can you tell your story

How many hangovers can you endure – just to get some snogging done

You’re living in a hormone dream

You don’t have the slightest notion what long-term love is all about

All your romantic liaisons don’t deal with eternal questions like:

“Who left the cap off the freakin’ toothpaste?” “Whose turn to take the garbage out?”

Frail grasp on the big picture

You keep on rubbing that, you’re gonna get a blister

Frail grasp on the big picture

I’ve seen it all before

And we pray to our lord, who we know is American

He reigns from on high

He speaks to us through middlemen

And he shepherds his flock

We sing out and praise his name

He supports us in war

He presides over football games

And the right will prevail

All our troubles will be resolved

We hold faith above all

Unless there’s money or sex involved

Frail grasp on the big picture

Nobody’s calling them for roughing up the kicker

It’s a frail grasp on the big picture

Heaven help us

Frail grasp on the big picture

All waiting for that miracle elixir

Frail grasp on the big picture

I don’t wonder anymore

Frail grasp on the big picture

You brought her here, so go ahead and kiss her

It’s a frail grasp on the big picture