Engaging Culture

Engaging Culture Takes More Than Good Intentions

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill attended a reception during a speaking tour in Canada, and found himself seated next to a stiff-necked Methodist bishop.  It was still early in the day, but the host knew Churchill liked his whiskey, so a young waitress appeared with a tray of glasses.  She offered one to Churchill, which he of course took, the other guests also graciously accepted, but then she came to the Methodist bishop. The bishop pulled himself up to his full height, and with a very spiritual  sounding voice said:

“Young lady, I’d rather commit adultery than drink whiskey.”

Churchill immediately called the girl back. “Come back, young lady; I didn’t know we had a choice.”

Writer Os Guinness uses this great story in his book “Prophetic Untimeliness” to remind us that as Christians, sometimes the well-intentioned ways we engage the surrounding culture only look stupid and foolish to everyone else.  When I look at much of the expression of our faith on Christian TV, on the radio, or in bookstores I often want to hide, cry, or get angry.

Before we assert the claim to speak for God, we need to realize the humility that comes with that kind of responsibility.  Too often when Christians say “thus saith the Lord,” it’s in reality, only what THEY want.

No matter how well-intentioned our actions, if we don’t communicate the right message in the right spirit, we’ve failed.

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  1. That was Churchill.  Guy was known for a sense of humor — especially comeback lines when someone was acting real pretentious in front of him.

    And the kicker is, for someone who “really liked his whisky”, Churchill didn’t drink all that much.  According to his daughter, his usual drink was a “Papa Cocktail”, where he would put about a quarter-inch of whisky in the glass and fill the rest up with water.  Probably learned that in his younger days in South Africa during the Boer War, where water sources in the field were contaminated.  (Africa is Earth’s hard-luck continent for exotic diseases.)  Adding the alcohol disinfected the water in those days before water purification tablets; French soldiers used to do the same, filling their canteens with watered-down wine.

  2. Great quote Phil – hilarious in fact.

    Truth is we do have a choice in fact more choices than ever.  If terrestrial television and radio are loosing market share at alarming rates – what can that mean for Christian venues?  The culture is not engaged in our books, movies, church services and conversation.  We’re in a bubble, a niche of a niche – generational media offers a way out when and if we learn how to use it …

  3. Agreed. I have been involved in Christian Media for 25 years and it has always been 20 years behind the mainstream. The enemy has done an effective job of convincing Christians that being relevent means being less “Godly.” I subscribe to what Paul said: “I must become all things to all men that I might win some.

    This requires us to be open enough to study other cultures and communication venues if we are to fulfill the Great Commision. Excellent quote.

  4. Drinking is a particularly good example. Far too many Christians tell people that the Bible forbids drinking, when in fact, it does not. (I suppose you can really, really torture the text and come up with something…) The Bible clearly says that drunkenness is not good: especially if you’re the king! The point is: the more “devote” people are, the more likely they are to “make up” things that the Bible says. And what could possibly do us more harm than that? WE are the biggest enemy of the faith, and our egos are Satan’s weapon of choice. As for Churchill’s Methodist bishop? Matthew 6: “Do not make a show of your religion, or it will be in vain.” Can you judge someone, or even hate them, because they are “less Godly” than you? Can you really? Is that what Jesus did?I for one, certainly hope not.

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