Mainstream or Diaspora?


I love the discussion. I asked below what we do as a church when it comes to things like radical Islam. Now to the greater question. Is our goal as the church to be mainstream, to be the ‘winners’ in the culture war? Or are we to be the Christian diaspora, that is the ‘losers’ in the culture war, liminal and on the fringe? In what ways is our citizenship in heaven in conflict with our citizenship in this world–applied directly to the kind of discussion we have been having?

The children of Israel have asked that question throughout their history. (The picture is of Titus sacking the Temple in 70 A.D.)

24 thoughts on “Mainstream or Diaspora?

  1. Whereas well are called to evangelize the world, I would say our goal should be mainstream. Christian moral values should be the values of our culture. Being the diaspora should not be a goal, but it may be a reality.

    Scott+

  2. Here, I think I can agree with Scott. Our goal is only to be faithful. This will inevitably lead us to be marginalized as a rule.

  3. What !?!
    Which mainstream culture are we talking about here? The Flava Flave-Jerry Springer culture or the I’ve voted Republican for the last half of the century and I intend to do it for the next half too culture?
    God is not an AMERICAN!!!! Nor is our mainstream culture relfective in any sense of the word of the Gospel message.
    American pop culture has infiltrated so deeply even within the walls of the church that one can feel like the diaspora even within its walls.

  4. Ange,

    I love your passion, but I think you are missing the point.

    The point is not the infiltration of the culture into the church. I agree with you that “American pop culture has infiltrated so deeply even within the walls of the church that one can feel like the diaspora even within its walls.” This saddens and disturbs me too. I also agree with you that God is not an American and believe it or not I am no fan of the so-called “religious right.”

    Unless I am missing Neo’s point I’d like to use some different terminology for clarification. In so-called “fundamentalist” sects within Christianity I believe they would use the term “separatist” for diaspora and “non-separatist” for mainstream. What they mean by separatist is a withdrawal from the culture, isolating themselves from the “big, bad world” around them. It is more the idea of protecting oneself rather than advancing the gospel. Evangelicals are guilty of the same mindset. This results in Christian schools, Christian music, Christian colleges, Christian healthclubs, Christian coffeehouses, etc. Instead of being “mainstream” they have created a Christian sub-culture. They then will venture out into the mainstream culture just to “win the lost,” but then retreat back into the safety and security of the isolated Christian sub-culture. In essence they are saying “to hell with the culture around us.” This seems to be the separatist mindset.

    However, those in the mainstream (or non-separated) live and work and play within the culture at large seeking to redeem it with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We seek to bring the redemption of Christ to souls who are separated from God. We seek to redeem art and music and communities for the glory of God. Not with “Christian art or music” but with good art, good music, good movies, good novels, etc. painted, performed, written, and directed by Christians. Not with businesses that sell “Christian stuff,” but with businesses which produce and sell quality products at fair prices while employing those in the community. All the while we are promoting the good news of redemption in Christ and bringing glory to God.

    Is is possible that Christians might be pushed to the side, marginalized or persectued? Yes. But as anonymous said, “Being the diaspora should not be a goal, but it may be a reality.” And I agree with Dan that “Our goal is only to be faithful. This will inevitably lead us to be marginalized as a rule.”

    Maybe I’ve missed the point and I’d be happy to hear so if that is the case. But I really think this is what Neo, Anonymous, Dan and I are saying. Am I right? And are my ideas about mainstream and diaspora right?

  5. I agree with Scott Eaton angevin missed the question. I appreciate the discussion of what I could call Christian isolationism. As I often tell a friend who is liberal both in the secular and religious, the so called religious right is not conservative in the religious sense. In some real ways they are last century innovation. I extend the conversation with the following:

    I would content that you cannot by choice be a diaspora in the sense of the Jewish Diaspora. I looked up the term and found another definition of diaspora. A dispersion of an originally homogeneous entity. In the USA there has been no diaspora of Christianity in either sense of the term. While there are some very troubling trends, such as abortion and the acceptance of Sodomy, I still see the US culture as Christian. That is most people hold values which are consistent with being Christian. Most people hold their values because of a Jewish or Christian influence. There are those who want to force Christianity our of public life, but that has not happened.

    On the other hand we as Christians may be losing influence in our culture. That is something that we must deal with as persons and as the Church. We are not called to be losers in the culture war. We are not called to conform to the world. The idea that we are to be and not of this world, still has the notion that we are in this world. Being in this world has responsibilities.

    We should not conform to the world when the world does not conform to Christianity. The other hand of this statement is the Great Commission.

    We as Christian need to reclaim some of the lost ground in the secular culture. We need to work to reestablish the true meaning of marriage. Christians must arrest the progression of the general acceptance of sodomy in our culture. Albeit some of these actions may be political, they should be in general evangelical and cultural.

    We are not called to be diaspora. We are not called to be losers in the culture battles. While others will disagree, I see trying to win the culture battle as an extension of evangelism. Christians must carefully choose their battle. We may lose some of those battles, but we in the USA are not anywhere near a diaspora.

    Angevoix said… American pop culture has infiltrated so deeply even within the walls of the church that one can feel like the diaspora even within its walls. It is true that I can feel like the diaspora in some churches. However, usually this is less the American culture than radical religious liberalism attempting to conform to a politically correct point of view. There are many places that the Gospel is preached and the sacraments of the Church administered. I need not attend where political correctness is more important than Holy Scripture.

    Yours in Christ
    Scott+

  6. I guess my idealism is showing. I dream a dream when, as Christians, we are our own Polis , our own “society.” I don’t mean separatists, or victors in the culture war (whether religious left or right), but, like the Church of the first four centuries, ‘resident aliens, a royal priesthood and a holy nation’ with our own distictive culture (I don’t mean Christian kitsch or Christianeze) that is peaceable, holy, and loving. One that is an Icon of Christ and an Icon of the Kingdom of Heaven. Peter described his vision of the Church thus-he applied the physical and literal calling of Israel to be the spiritual (but not less real) calling of the Church. It seems that when we started fighting with other weapons, they helped us win the battle for culture but in the process we lost the war over hearts and minds. This has been the case since the 5th century, it is not just a phenomena of the Republican party or any party for that matter!!

  7. Well, now that Scott-not-Eaton has defined his position further, I find myself fairly well in disagreement with many of his positions. Much more in agreement with Father Neo as he described his vision above.

    Scott+ said:

    While there are some very troubling trends…I still see the US culture as Christian. That is most people hold values which are consistent with being Christian.

    And I disagree to a degree. I don’t see the US culture as Christian at all. Depending upon how we define US culture.

    When I think of US culture, I’m thinking of the pop culture – McDonald’s-eating, TV-watching, inane-music-listening, Mall-shopping, SUV-driving, money-chasing, violence-embracing, McMansion-living (or aspiring), racially and economically-isolated and dependent upon Babylon for their every concern.

    Now, underneath that shallow Americana, there are an awful lot of decent, simple-living, God-fearing folk, so it’s hard to tell how much of the shallowness is deeply ingrained and how much it just appears that way, but my impression is that we are dependent upon Babylon much more than we’re interdependent upon the Kingdom of God.

    Scott+ also said:

    While others will disagree, I see trying to win the culture battle as an extension of evangelism.

    And yes, I disagree. We are not called to win any cultural battles, whether or not in the name of “evangelism” or not.

    “To this, we are called,” Peter tells us, “because Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example that we may follow in his steps.”

  8. “While there are some very troubling trends…I still see the US culture as Christian. That is most people hold values which are consistent with being Christian.”

    That’s exactly the mentality I was seeking to address with my comment that God is not an American. I don’t think I missed anything.

    But let me stae emphatically that I agree wholeheartedly with Fr. Neo’s comment.

  9. I too agree with Neo’s comments on post #6.

    It is one thing to agree with him, but how does this happen?

  10. Hmm…if you folks keep givin’ my ole amiga so much shi*, I’m gonna have to come out of retirement and fight a round or two on her behalf.

  11. C! I was thinking about you all day today! You’ve had me worried a bit!

    As for my response to the rest about “How does this happen?” Well we could always start with open communication … oops!, I am repeating myself, I said that on the last post.

  12. My dearest Scout (grin),
    My sincere appreciation and thanks for your thoughts. They are no doubt an oasis in the desert, prayers for a wayfarer. You’ve always been nothing short of generous and kind.

  13. Hey Constantine! Good to see you out and about.

    As to the question:

    “It is one thing to agree with him (neo), but how does this happen?”

    I’m not sure I understand. It happens when we live it, by God’s grace.

    We embrace our call to be “a royal priesthood and a holy nation’ with our own distictive culture that is peaceable, holy, and loving.” Like the Amish, or Mennonites, or Hutterites, or any of the other groups out there living as we are called.

    If the Amish life doesn’t fit your calling, that’s okay, just be faithful to the calling as you understand it.

    I think, in concept, it’s pretty straightforward. In practice, I think we can quickly see how deeply entangled we are with Babylon. And we try nonetheless, by God’s grace.

  14. Like many of the people here, I think we have to face that there is a tension in the Christian life between mainstream or diaspora approaches. In so far as we have a mission or a call to witness and evangelize, we do have engage with the culture around us. That means learning the cultural expressions and figuring out how to communicate the Gospel to the culture we find ourselves in. All Christians, I would argue, have had to do this and have done so to varying degrees of success.

    Yet, we have to remember that we are a people, a polis, if you like, of God. In that sense, we have to recognize that the values of the culture or the age may not and, probably, will not be ours in all their particulars. If it were, it would be the New Jerusalem, wouldn’t it? Yet, we are a people who live in a time when the Kingdom of God is here now and not yet. Inevitably, we fnd ourselves torn between the present culture and our Christian call.

    I think that it is, in a sense, a false dichotomy to separate mainstream and diaspora approaches. We are called to engage the mainstream culture (whatever that is), not be engulfed by it. We are called to live as the disaspora of God’s people, but not build little ghettoes in which we live our Christian lives. WE are called to something trickier: living a Christian life as a resident aliens (shades of Hawerwas?), who, as in ancient Athens, are involved in their city (in the case of Athens, contributing to the artistic scene, economic life and, even, in emergencies, the common security of the city) but still not quite of the city.

    Peace,
    Phil

  15. By the way, Father Neo, after your review, I had to go out and get V for Vendetta. Loved it. Wow.

    While a bit overblown and heavy-handed, what a great and timely message!

  16. Aahh, but you’ll notice it was a mostly non-violent overthrow of the corrupt gov’t. Only the true criminals met violence (for the most part)…

  17. In the last few days, I got an email from a get out the vote group. This message suggested that the render unto Caesar passage was a command to vote. I do not see this as the clear meaning of the passage. However, I do think it an interesting point of view and on worth being in the mix of this discussion.

    Scott+

  18. I too am puzzled how you can get from ‘render unto Caesar’ to get out to vote. My puzzlement increases for a couple of reasons.

    First, the historical background of the NT presumes an autocratic political system, not a democratic one, so it takes a few contortions to get to a call for democratic civil virtue from what is basically, give the governmetn what is its due. I’m not sure that we can call voting giving the government its due, so much as a participation in government.

    Second, ‘render unto Caesar’ is really a concession of power over specific realms to the government. Yet, in a a democratic system, the people who are doing the rendering are the government, in a sense. So, I’m confused how voting, which is an exercise of popular power, can be confused with conceding power to a government.

    I don’t get it.

    Peace,
    Phil

  19. I think they are saying that voting is a duty which we owe to government. I do not see it as such, but I think they do.

    Scott+

  20. A friend of mine from Jerusalem recently came to visit. He has been living in the midst of the Arab/Israeli conflict for several years, trying to bring peace. He has now taken off on a new mission that he’s extremely passionate about….educating the church about Islam and what it really is. He has seen so much and he’s convinced that it’s only a matter of time before Muslim’s take over violently. Go to: http://www.obsessionthemovie.com and check out the trailer. That’s just a glimpse of what’s to come. I’ve been more passionate in praying the Lord’s Prayer…’Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done….’ We need Him to come and reign. We’re living in a scary time.

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