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holiday thoughts | part 3

August 18, 2010

Aidan: So we’ve been walking through some of your thoughts while you were on holiday this summer.

In many ways, in our first post and our second post, it seems like a return to the Lenten season as you’ve been looking at how Authority, Power and Appetite are expressed in culture. In the last post we looked at how the English culture expresses each of these, how they have become warped, and what the Gospel might look like to go into this place.

Mike: Right.

And I think it’s important to point out that culture is actually neutral.

For instance, within American culture, which is incredibly entrepreneurial, there is a competitiveness that is bred that can actually be healthy. This is neutral.

The question is what is done with them?

Eventually cultures become warped and develop darker underbelly.

All culture is a context for which God can send the Gospel. Every culture needs changing and needs the Gospel to be incarnated within it.

Aidan: Well in our last post we looked at the culture of England and where it has been touched by some of the darker shades of Money, Sex and Power and where the Gospel connects. Today I think we’re diving into American culture.

Mike: Well like I just said, there are positives in every culture, it’s just that often times the positives begin to skew.

So within American culture, there is a high weight put on the individual. It’s not as if all of this is bad. Clearly there are some really positive elements. Personal responsibility. Grasping the opportunity. It’s a pioneering culture. Take risks. You aren’t bound by the circumstances you were born into.

The ‘individual’ isn’t always a bad thing.

But obviously  you get to the issues of celebrity, consumerism, etc.

With Americans, there was the rejection of European Feudalism, you know, the Boston Tea Party: “It’s not your property, it’s ours. Why should we pay a tribute and levy for rent on our own property? That’s ridiculous!”

Because of this, we see Power, Appetite and Ambition expressed in different ways.

Power: Placed on the individual, but now we see hyper-individualism. People have an incredibly difficult time submitting to anyone outside of their own will. Anti-authority

Appetite: Revolves around competition. First, it’s just for survival, but then a never quenching thirst for success and domination. This can be about sex, how your body looks, the workplace and upward mobility. There are a thousand different appetites.

Ambition: Consumerism. Consumerism. Consumerism. Who has the best stuff? The most stuff? The coolest stuff? The newest stuff? The stuff no one has even heard of yet? This can be music, houses, cars, experiences, art. You name it, American will try to out-consume their competition (which is everyone!).

What’s interesting, though, is that this idea of competition can focus on Appetite  or Ambition.

The piercing darkness of American culture lies in hyper-individualism, rabid-dog-eat-dog competition and consumerism.

Aidan: So where do you see the Gospel meeting us in this culture?

Mike:

With hyper-individualism, it meets us in community. Competition isn’t the basis of our relationships. We learn to care for people and live life together in such a way that we aren’t using people to outflank them in some way.

With competition, it’s realizing there is competition going on, we are in a battle. But it’s with a shared enemy, not each other. We need collaboration, a recognition of that we must work together to win the battles we face each day. We’re on the same team.

With consumerism, we must see ourselves as producers, not consumers.

We could go on and on about these, but these are the one-liners that really stuck out to me while on vacation this summer.

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