James K A Smith in Desiring the Kingdom discusses the way in which we are formed and live at a precognitive level. Our “worldview,” for lack of a better term, is more than just intellectual ideas; it is the entirety of how we approach the world. And we are “taught,” or better yet, “formed” by liturgies. Smith uses “the liturgy of the mall” to show how thoroughly we can be formed into the image that a consumerist society wants. And so, he argues, we should counter that through Christian education more focused on formation rather than merely information. It is a great book; you should read it. And I will likely return to it from time to time in this series, but for now that is enough of an understanding to move forward with this series.
What I want to focus on here is the way our upcoming millennial culture has been formed to accept certain things in society that from a Christian perspective are not acceptable. When I say our, I mean the church. For me the problem is not the corruption of the world–though we want to address that with the gospel–but the degree to which the cultural corruption of the world seeps into the church.
No doubt every generation of Christians struggles with the challenge of speaking the language that can be understood by the surrounding culture without compromising the message. How are we to be effectively counter-cultural?
I think Smith offers some great answers in his book, and I will offer some of my own. But to start I want to share how I have seen the modern university system form students on so many levels, in ways sometimes counter to the Christian faith or at times merely counter to their American and Western heritage. The former is devastating, because we are the light of the world and if the light becomes dark how great is the darkness. The latter is not necessarily so, because no human culture is fully Christian. But there are many social goods being lost to us, and we should be aware of the loss and how we are losing them and how we can preserve or recover the greatest goods because we are also salt.