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Holiday thoughts | Part 2

August 11, 2010

Aidan: So last post we started to enter into some pretty powerful cultural exegesis.

We looked at the Temptations and a broad history of spiritual formation and how the church really tried to deal with the topics of Money, Sex and Power.

Mike: Right.

And we looked at the connection between the Temptation of Jesus, which really are aimed at his Identity, and how these have been translated into every culture on earth in different ways.

Authority=Power
Appetite=Sex
Ambition=Money

Aidan: So how do you see this observation playing out in different cultures?

Mike: Well basically, I think each culture has nuances to how Money, Sex and Power have been warped. They are used for different reasons to bring Identity or gain something, but it’s particular to the culture. I don’t know that there are universals.

So here’s what we’ll do.

Today, why don’t we focus on a place like England and how it’s fleshed out there…but then also look at what the Gospel response is. And in our next post we’ll strike out into the United States.

Good?

Aidan: Great. Let’s roll with it.

Mike: What we have to understand about England is that everything is understood through the imprint of the Feudal system.

Now obviously Feudalism doesn’t exist today like it did 1000 years ago, but the English often live through the lenses provided within the Feudal model.

So if we think about Power…we see this warped from how God created it so that people exist within realms of class and status. It is a very class-driven society.

If we think about Sex…cultural observers would say sex is principally used as a means of manipulation.

If you look at Money…most people deal with a deep sense of scarcity or poverty (whether it’s real or not) because of the Feudal system.

We see each of these playing out in British culture, and honestly, I promise you that you don’t have to look much further than the Church of England to see something like Power playing out.

The Church is deeply stratified and highly hierarchical. People who went to Oxford or Cambridge are much more likely to lead the church.

It’s just the way it is.

For Sex, decisions along gender lines have largely excluded the fairer sex and have forced them to use whatever means they could to exact power to achieve some measure of security.

Clotaire Rapaille, in his book The Culture Code, observes that in England, women are dressed in such a way to desperately gain men’s attention.

Why?

Because the English culture is a masculine one where men spend most of their relational energy on their male friends. It’s a very male-dominated culture woven into the fabric of society. So the women dress in a such a way to garner the attention of the men they are hoping to spend more time with. Englishmen typically spend much more time with other men, so the women fight for the time.

I mean, it’s not like this idea of dressing provocatively is new to English culture, we’ve seen this there for centuries.

For Money, there is a scarcity mentality that pervades almost all of English life if you weren’t born into the “right” family. You will always struggle. You will always eak out a living. It’s always going to be that way, it will never change and you might as well get used to it.

Sex. Money. Power.

Each plays out in a very specific way.

But here’s the big question: What does it look like for the Gospel to connect to these problems?

For Power (class/status), the teaching of the Priesthood of all Believers is pretty profound. There is a fundamental equality of all believers and a doling out of ministries that puts everyone on equal footing. Doesn’t matter if you went to Oxford or never graduated from secondary school. Doesn’t matter if you make 500,000 pounds a year or 30,000. Everyone person is a Priest in God’s economy of the Kingdom.

For Sex, it is really about a return to innocence and acting innocently towards one another. We don’t manipulate to get what we want. We put off falsehood about intentions.

For Money (scarcity), we live in an understanding that God operates in abundance and that we all live generously together in community. He is not a stingy Father and allows us to live in a state of joy about the good things we have. We don’t have to worry about not having enough because he is a good Father. Because we are in a Covenant relationship with him, we now have access to all of the resources he has.

In our next post, we’ll examine what these things look like in an American culture.

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