Stand Against Conformity

by Bill Muehlenberg

Back in my hippy days, as part of my wild youth, us rebels liked to say how much we hated conformity. We thought the square, middle class values of our parents smothered individuality and creativity and led to a deadening conformity. We wanted none of that.

But the odd thing is, as we rejected the conformity of the previous generation, we simply developed a conformity of our own. We were in fact all rather alike – we conformed to each other. Thus we all tended to have the long hair, the bell-bottom jeans, listened to the same music, smoked the same dope, and so on.

We simply rejected one type of conformity for another. Nothing very countercultural about that. Although we claimed to be standing against an oppressive and homogenous culture, we simply set up one of our own. But it took a genuine countercultural movement to really make a difference and really smash conformity.

I refer of course to the Jesus Revolution which arose just after the 60s cultural revolution occurred. That is the movement that saw millions of radicals, hippies, drug addicts and rebels swept into the Kingdom of God – myself included. But I tell that story elsewhere:

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There is no question that the most truly radical, the most truly non-conformist, the most truly countercultural life you can live is that of a Christian. Christianity runs counter to everything in this world, and if you crave to be a nonconformist and a real radical with a cause, then Christianity is the way to go.

The problem is of course that far too many Christians end up being conformists as well. Instead of running with the radical demands of Jesus, they succumb like everyone else to the culture around them, and settle into a life of mediocrity, compromise and carnality.

But the true disciple of Jesus Christ is the one who dares to be different. Conformity and compromise is never an option for the real Christian. Given how easy it is for all of us to lapse, we need to keep reminding ourselves of the revolutionary nature of Christian discipleship.

One mighty Christian leader who regularly reminded us of such truths was Chuck Colson. Back in 1982 he gave several talks at Christian colleges on these themes, and they were put into book form in 1986. The little booklet, called Dare To Be Different, Dare To Be Christian is still worth getting hold of.

You can read it through in 10 or 15 minutes, but it still packs a punch. Indeed, simply the short introduction is well worth focusing on. I present it here in full…


Stand Against Conformity » Bill Muehlenberg’s CultureWatch