“I Quit the Culture War” 26 September 2015 Marc Alan Schelske said:
“As a follower of Jesus my actions are also political, but my loyalty is not to any cultural agenda. My loyalty is to Jesus. Not only to Jesus as my Lord, but also to Jesus as my guide. That means that the way I follow is just as important as the One I follow.”
That is precisely the challenge each one of us face as “a conscientious objector in the culture war.”
Brother Schelske’s excellent article calls for each person to consider fundamental alternatives to the status quo of apathy and indifference in our response to the Gospel. If you had a public message to air in the ancient world, there was a range of accepted mechanisms in place for engaging a crowd. Jeremiah preached from the Temple steps, and Paul knew he could gain a hearing on Mar’s Hill.
But there were other voices sounding from those public spaces, many of them eager to gain a mass following. And the mass communication activities of prophets and apostles often resembled the culture wars of today being fought by religious celebrities. Bearing witness to the gospel within the media mechanisms of a culture that loves celebrities was, and still is, a difficult challenge. As we have witnessed with this recent visit of the Pope to the United States.
Paul would have blogged, Jeremiah would have used Facebook, John the Baptist would have tweeted, “The kingdom of God is at hand.” Their example and the content of our gospel message suggest a wide and frequent use of the media channels of our day. What we proclaim—from temple steps, from Mar’s Hill, or from cyberspace—can rise above the current noise of the culture war and direct those within range to Jesus. Unwholesome motives and worldly gimmicks can also easily sabotage our calling to proclaim Christ, through voice, stylus, or keypad.
Paul took pains to distinguish himself from the audience-craving Sophists, itinerant speakers who used their rhetorical skills to wow the crowds and stuff their purses. “Woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel,” Paul declared (1 Cor 9:16), yet the public squares were filled with the voices of others clamoring for a hearing. The words of God burned like fire in Jeremiah’s bones, but false prophets were engaged with what appeared to be the same line of work.
God is still putting fire in prophets’ bones. The Spirit still calls us to our keypad and pixelated text. Persons whom God has assigned a public message must be faithful to their calling. Yet they must also resist the corroding effects of celebrity, consumer culture, and being famous.
I am not sure anything Jeremiah had to say to the Jerusalem populace would have sold like hotcakes on the Temple steps. But we also know that Paul had to clarify his distance from the Sophists because their rhetorical antics and his own activities seemed to share some parallels
Consider, John the Baptist, “a conscientious objector in the culture war” of his day, and my favorite Super Action Hero in today’s the war. As the forerunner of Christ he was a major celebrity in the ancient world. Crowds flocked to him from a broad geographical range. His following was immense. We should acknowledge, though, that his ministry launch base was quite counterintuitive (the wilderness) and his clothing was a far cry from designer jeans (camel’s hair). Jesus pointed out that John’s ministry did not conform to the expectations of his own day (Matt 11:7),.so we should be careful assuming he would have conformed to the protocols of the church leaders. Like John the Baptist, many of us have a message that needs public airing.
Faithful proclamation in John’s day of public heralding and in our own day of social media use is marked by pointing to Someone greater. Someone, who navigated the murky waters of voicing divine wisdom and prophetic speech in a culture that worships fame. The Culture War is part of the Great Controversy.