Tragically Hip

Later this month I’ll be eating at a Mennonite restaurant. It’s called Yoder’s Deitsch Haus. It’s right next to Schrute Farms.

I’ve been there several times before so I know the routine. As I arrive, I’ll marvel at the beautiful, flat farm land that seems to have taken over the world. Once I walk in I’ll respond to the warm greetings of the people working. I’ll remind myself that they’re not wearing costumes or uniforms. The bearded men in suspenders always look that way.

I’ll eat their food, wander around their bakery and take a look in the general store before heading back home. Back to civilization. Back to real life. Away from people whose religion keeps them living in a bygone era.

If Christians understand and apply the gospel right, the surrounding culture will look at us like I look at the Mennonites. Sure, we must do everything we can to understand and engage the culture. But those of us who are tempted to equate cultural engagement with coolness must remember that no amount of Sigur Ros vinyls or fair trade coffee can make us socially acceptable.

Not when we believe that God created the heavens and the earth.

Not when we believe that Jesus died as a substitute for his people.

Not when we believe that he really did come back to life a few days later.

Not when we believe in a real place called hell and actually allow that belief to impact the way we evangelize.

And not when we subscribe to a traditional, biblical view of marriage.

As time passes, there are more and more people in our culture who hate those beliefs. And hate those of us who believe them. They think that we’re confined to living in a bygone era because of our religion. Some even think that we’re terrorists.

This shouldn’t surprise us. “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

I’m not advocating a return to the three-piece leisure suite and southern gospel cassettes. Those things, just like the skinny jeans and Kanye downloads that have come after them, are inconsequential. But the Bible is not, no matter what everyone else says about how intolerant or outdated the message is.

Even the most casual reading of the New Testament reveals that Christianity is inherently an uncool religion. If we’re not okay with this, we are in danger of compromising what must never be compromised. It usually starts with something like the historical Adam or the virgin birth and believing the culture when they compare those biblical doctrines to fairy tales. After all, we convince ourselves, those things don’t really matter. A compromise on the lordship of Jesus Christ is always sure to follow. And before we even had time to notice, our faith stops being real. It becomes a uniform. A costume.

The whole point of engaging the culture with the gospel is to show them something different. Something better. To give them a drink of the Living Water so that they will never thirst again. But if the salt has lost its taste, it is no longer good for anything.

I’m afraid that we’ve lost something in our fascination with evangelism through coolness.

Maybe, in our attempt to become all things, we’ve become nothing.