What Does Culture Have To Do With It?

21 She named the boy Ichabod, saying, “The Glory has departed from Israel”—because of the capture of the ark of God and the deaths of her father-in-law and her husband. 22 She said, “The Glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”

1 Samuel 4:21-22 NIV

Lord, in this woman’s mind and probably in the mind of many people in Israel at this time, this one event (the capture of the ark by the Philistines in battle with Israel at the end of Eli’s reign as High Priest) had resulted in “the removal of your glory”.  The truth is that the presence of your glory is not influenced by physical/temporal items/events.  Such a pronouncement then ascribes blame for any misfortune on the absence of the ark (from its place at Shiloh)…and not on the real cause which was the maturing of compromise and complicity in Israel.  What Eli and his sons had done (disrespecting the sacrificial traditions and the practice of sexual immorality within the temple precincts) was just a continuation of the cultural malaise…the problem was Israel and not the circumstance of the ark’s absence. 

I struggle with church pronouncements against “culture”.  Culture is not to blame for spiritual defeat and failure.  It is spiritual compromise and complicity within the body of Christ, within me…that results in the continued irrelevance of Christ’s message in the modern world.  People on the outside see hypocrisy, sexual impropriety, immorality, greed, malfeasance, maleficence, exploitation, unacceptance, bigotry, and hatred in the church and want no part of it.  They are not persuaded away because of “culture” – they are repelled by forces within the church…which are allowed to persist.  Church silence at social injustice and convenient political associations “finish off” those who by some miracle push past the initial repulsion.  Church leaders, not wanting to admit culpability, instead blame the “philistinic” modern cultural forces around us (which in my American experience has been any movement associated with LGBTQ expression, feminine equality, and social justice for minorities).  I cannot be a part of this.  I choose not to be. 

As a follower of Jesus, I do not yet know how to address the theological questions from the gay Christian who is distressed about being excluded from participation in church leadership…but in the meantime I can surely be connected to him as a fellow brother in Christ.  I can be available and listen.  I do not yet know how to address the theological questions that face the woman who is distressed about balancing the tension between exercising her freedom of choice and valuing the sanctity of life, but in the meantime, I can be her brother in Christ.  I can be available and listen.  I will not exclude anyone from fellowship and connection with me because of some repulsive force within the church that demands my allegiance.  I will step in to change the things I can.

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