Why are Christians Unoriginal?
by Kurt Willems
Faith doesn’t have to be defined by second-rate alternatives.
Christian culture is known for its alternatives. For any student in high school ministries around the turn of the millennium, posters in the youth room gave a clear indication of this. If you like Tupac, then you will like the Gospel Gangstas. If you like Britney Spears, then you will like Stacie Orrico. If you like the Backstreet Boys, then you will like Plus One. If you like the Wu-Tang Clan, then you will like the Cross Movement. And if you like P.O.D., then you will like … P.O.D.? Admittedly, P.O.D. demonstrates an exception to the pattern …
Around the same time Christian nightclubs began to pop up as alternatives to the “club scene.” Extreme sports emerged and so did the movie Extreme Days. Social media changed culture significantly so Christians decided they ought to answer back with their alternatives such as GodTube, Faithbook and Christian Chirp. Add to this tendency of substitution the common jargon of Christian-ese and WWJD wristbands and you end up with a Christian alternative subculture.
In popular culture, alternatives can be either a hip rebellion against the institution or simply what we call generic. Instead of Dr. Pepper, you can drink Dr. Thunder. Problem: the alternatives never measure up to the original. Yet Christians love to propagate alternatives.
In theory, the Christian subculture isn’t a terrible idea. Unfortunately, Christianity often expresses the wrong kind of alternative. This isn’t to say that all of the things listed above are bad in and of themselves, but that we sell ourselves short if that is the only kind of alternative the Church is known for.
In the New Testament, we’re given a picture of the Kingdom people of God who organize themselves around an alternative king, namely Jesus. The greatest alternative isn’t a second-rate imitation of things from the popular culture, but rather a community (many communities in local contexts) who together live in a radically different way – the way of Jesus. In a world where the popular thing was to proclaim, “Caesar is Lord,” the earliest followers of The Way declared, “Jesus is Lord.” This wasn’t just a war of words, but a change in allegiance, one that often meant social marginalization and for some, death. Yet, this movement flourished. Why? Because the Kingdom of God unleashes a beautiful alternative that is so different and creative, that it’s attractive and has the potential to enhance the rest of the world…
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