The Church: We are not a subculture
by Erin Wikle –
I grew up in a multi-cultural home. I am what my dad’s side of the family called a “hapa haole girl.” I am half white, but also half Filipino-Korean. Growing up, this was the biggest deal to me! I adored being different; I loved answering the often asked, “What are you?” I developed a strong sense of pride in who I was early on in life.
Funny thing is—I didn’t know a whole lot about the cultures that made me me. I knew a few phrases in a couple of Filipino dialects. I knew what Korean food I liked (and disliked). I knew very little about both countries’ history. To be completely honest, my Hawaiian-bred grandparents didn’t even speak the language of their original homelands! Then there was my “white-side.” My mom wasn’t sure if she was English, Dutch, Swedish, or something else. We sort of rested with “white” and left it at that. One thing was certain though. You could be sure that I would mark all that applied when my ethnicity was solicited on a school or legal form. I was different, set-apart, and proud of it.
Who was I really?
A few more years chock full of unique life experiences left me less narrow-minded and concerned about my cultural worth. Instead, I began to take greater interest in my internal and eternal significance—my spirit, my soul, my heart. This is not to negate the importance of family and tradition playing a vital role in who we are as unique individuals. But, I believe someone greater is calling us to take stock in something more, asking: What really makes a lasting impact on your life? What really sets you apart?
Who are we really?
For some time, the church has identified itself as a vital subculture persisting in a devastating and devastated world. By definition, this sounds about right. A subculture is a group of people set-apart from a greater group of people according to their behavior and belief systems. Looking a little deeper, however, I beg to differ.
I’d like to argue that the church would best function as part of the world—one culture as a whole. It seems we’ve succumbed to viewing “the world” as one culture and “the Christian world” as another. As opposed to existing separate from the world, what if we better existed alongside and with it. Instead of sufficing as set-apart due to our behavior and beliefs, why not exist purposefully in the world, on the streets, in school, and at the bus stop where the larger majority of society dwells?
Yes, let us be set-apart in our behavior, beliefs, and practice. But let’s not use “who we are” as a lame excuse to sit idly by, essentially forgetting who we are truly meant to be—the hands and feet of Christ. Christ has given us the power and authority to bring others before his throne…how can this be done from afar, hidden behind the walls of our coveted corps buildings?
Does it sound elementary? Are you ready to spout Scripture at me?
Being in the world and not of it does not entail filling the pews each Sunday in a sacred, safe place, but requires we be a body willing to take the gospel in its most fleshly form to the darkest, most unassuming of places. This
is the church that Christ intended us to be.
Don’t be set-apart for set-apart’s sake alone. For CHRIST’S sake, be different—with a purpose.