Cultural Captivity

The more dominant the culture is, the more invisible it seems.

On November 30, 2017, John Piper shared a message live about racial brokenness in America. The entire message is worth listening to but I wanted to share this edited excerpt:

As the gospel of Jesus Christ spreads through the world it encounters thousands of new ethnicities/cultures. There is always at play a pilgrim principle and an indigenous principle in tension every time the culture is penetrated by the gospel. The pilgrim principle says some aspects of the culture are going to come into conflict with Christianity. When those cultural features don’t change, the people of God have to assume a pilgrim mentality, i.e. we’re not at home in this culture.

The indigenous principle means that in every culture where the gospel penetrates there are cultural aspects, cultural dimensions which are not necessarily sinful and which, without changing, will become incarnations and expressions through which Jesus Christ and his ways can be expressed.

These two principles, the indigenous and the pilgrim, are always in tension with each other and most minorities feel it. They’re compelled to come to terms with the fact that they have a culture as they try to be Christians.

The problem for whites for centuries in this country is that we have felt so at home as Americans with our civil-religion Christianity that we haven’t even, by and large, thought in terms of “Oh! I have a culture and my culture is in tension with the claims of Christ on me and I have to work at this. I’ve got to work at how my culture and my faith might be at odds.” Commitments to certain things in America, certain aspects of nationalism, certain ideologies, certain priorities have to be thought through more carefully than many of us have. The more dominant the culture is the more invisible it seems to us. I think its true that there is more cultural captivity in our churches and in our lives than most of us realize.

I believe Americans, especially culturally dominant Americans, need to carefully, prayerfully consider the pilgrim principle. It is getting easier for us to recognize as our country sluffs off the “civil-religion Christianity” and embraces more of the “do anything you like as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else” ideology. Christians are called to more.

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