Thursday, September 10, 2009

Unity in the Spirit vs. Conformity to the Subculture

On Monday, John Piper wrote in his Desiring God blog that he hoped his daughter would hear President Obama's speech to the students. So far he has received 287 comments. There are two things I really like about Piper's blog. First, he speaks his mind, and second, his readers speak their minds.

I commented that it didn't even matter to me if I agreed with him--I'm just so thrilled when Christians refuse to toe the party line and think in lockstep. I realized afterwards that it might have seemed like I am against Christian unity. Like I enjoy a good fight. But that's not entirely true. I'm all for unity in the Spirit, but against conformity to the Christian subculture. There's a huge difference.

A number of home schoolers replied to Piper's post. Now there are few people I admire as much as home schoolers. I'm just remembering back to Chelsea's elementary school years, and the joys we had trying to get her to do her homework. Chelsea used to be very strong willed, and even though she has always had the gift of gab, she lived by the old adage that volume trumps logic and reason. But she has turned out to be the most wonderful eighteen-year-old, so that's one of the reasons I know there's a God. Anyway, I developed a deep and lasting reverence for home schoolers during those years.

But I question the notion that protecting children from "the world" keeps them from sin. We are the world! (Isn't that a song?) What I mean is that we are not necessarily any better than unbelievers. As anyone who has spent time in the subculture will attest to, we can sin with the best of them, we just Christianize it. When it comes to gossip, anything goes as long as we start out with, "So-and-so really needs our prayers," and end it with, "Bless her heart!"

I don't mean to sound cynical--I know many amazing Christians. But they are amazing only because they walk with the Holy Spirit, not because they shelter themselves from people who think differently. They have learned not to conform to the world (or the Christian subculture), but to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. (Romans 12:2) How do we renew our minds? By having the mind of Christ. (1 Cor. 2:16)

The only thing that keeps us from conforming to the world is having the mind of Christ, through the Holy Spirit. Without it, we will conform to something worldly, either popular culture or the Christian subculture or both. But when the Holy Spirit transforms us, there will be unity between believers. Why? Because the Spirit is not divided against himself. Where he governs, Christians are of one mind.

But we are to look to Christ, not to other Christians. They may be wrong, and even if they're not, why should we settle for secondhand grace? If we focus on other Christians, we will at best conform. But if we look to Christ, he will unite us through his Spirit with other like-minded believers.


Becky said...

I completely agree! And i know what you mean about Christianizing things like gossip... i have to admit that i get really annoyed when Christians share all-sorts of personal information about people under the disguise of a prayer request!... i always think 'and what if this person becomes a Christian and comes to church and everyone will know all their private struggles already!' - although obviously it is good to pray for people - but i just mean i know what you're saying! hmm... i don't think what i've written makes any sense!! Becky

Sarah Sundin said...

Thank you for this, Anette! When I first became a mother, I was intimidated by the homeschooling, crafty, denim jumper-wearing crowd. I didn't like jumpers. I don't do crafts. I'd kill my darling children if I tried to homeschool. I was afraid I was a lousy Christian mom. It took time for me to realize that God made all Christians different, and that enriches the church.

Good for Piper for speaking his mind! I'm teaching my children that whether or not they agree with the president, they will respect the presidency and honor him as the man God placed in authority over us. Yes, we must speak up for Christian values and the truth, but we can do so in a respectful way.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. So blessed that you are outspoken on a subject in which I feel the same - christian conformity as a club or subculture. I hate it -quite a devise of the enemy to keep us mindwashed, cookie cutter and apart from the world in a Pharisee kind of way. All of which undermines the unity of the Spirit when it has a foothold. God bless you for this posting.

Anette Acker said...

I agree with all of you.

This summer I was sitting next to a woman while the kids had swimming lessons, and she told me that she had started learning to needlepoint (or something like that). I thought, "Ah, a Christian." When she mentioned home schooling I knew for sure. And she finally confirmed it.

Remember the old hymn, "They will know we are Christians by our love"? Now it's, "They will know we are Christians by our home schooling, strict gender roles, and political conservatism."

3 Blessings said...

How did I miss this post last week? I could not agree with you more. As a former teacher, others assume that I would automatically home school my children when I became a SAHM. Some seemed shocked that I didn't. I know not all schools are great, but the public school my children attend is great and how will my kids learn how to minister to others and be lights for Jesus if they are not of the population. I know that there are many that disagree with this. However, I believe my children are going to be better off knowing the love of Christ from church and home and then sharing it with others, through school and outside activities. Just my opinion.

I also believe that even if we disagree with the president, he is to be respected and that is what we teach our children.
Blessings friend,

Cindy said...

Needlepointing is a specifically Christian activity?

Anette Acker said...

Christians are definitely more into creative, crafty things of all kind. I remember the first time I went to MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), and they had all the moms do a craft while their children were in the childcare program. It was a very cutesy snowman Christmas ornament with a black hat. When I came home, Chelsea asked me, "Is this Mothers of Preschoolers or Mothers Pretending to be Preschoolers?"

Remember, Cindy, that the Proverbs 31 woman sews, and that's who we all aspire to be. ;-)

Anette Acker said...


I agree. I think our kids are better off when we inoculate them against "the world" by letting them to interact with unbelievers. Too often we hear about Christian kids going off the deep end when they're exposed to the world outside the bubble for the first time.

I think you can make a strong argument either way. Some kids do very well growing up in Christian schools or a home schooling environment. But the important thing is that we respect the choices other Christians make. I don't like the straitjackets in the Christian subculture. And, sadly, there are many.

MissFifi said...

This was an excellent post. I have always found it sad that some kids get denied access to the world. Let children make their own mistakes and let them explore. If you gave them good values, you should not be worried.