Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Starbucks, Culture, Paradigms - 2

Let me begin by talking about the “old” paradigm that I see Horace operating under. To be fair, I myself operated under this paradigm for the first 12 years of being a Christian; I also am not saying this is a wrong paradigm. It arose in a particular context (Post-Enlightenment Modernity), and spoke well to that context. There are many characteristics that I could talk about for this paradigm, but I want to focus on just two: viewing faith solely as a belief system to be agreed with and defended against (this post), and an understanding that the Gospel is only about dealing with my individual sin so that I can go to heaven when I die (next post).

The tendency in this way of thinking is to view the Christian faith solely (key word there) as a system of beliefs/doctrines, the mental agreement of which constitutes one’s entrance into the body of Christ. Evangelism, or sharing one’s faith, usually entails employing a logical argument for why one needs to “accept Christ”. The “Roman’s Road” for example attempts to reduce the Gospel into a systematic and logical argument using 4 steps. After hearing the argument, the sinner’s prayer (a one-time event) shows one’s agreement with said argument, and secures one’s entrance into heaven.

Now, I realize I’m speaking in generalities here. However, I believe it to be the majority mode of evangelism and understanding of the faith in this paradigm, one that I shared, and one that I still see in operation in a lot of blogs, books, churches, dialogs, etc. One is now part of this new belief system. Those on the “outside” do not hold these beliefs yet, so the goal becomes convincing others, through the method of logic and rational argument, why they need to also subscribe to this set of beliefs. More could be said about this, especially how this is tied so much to Enlightenment rationalism, and its inherent belief that “knowing” involves mastery of facts by an objective knower…but that will suffice for now. So, if Christianity is a system of beliefs, and believing the right things is essential to defining who is and who isn’t a Christian, it makes sense to me why Horace reacted the way he did. When the perception is that the system of beliefs is challenged by Starbucks, Sponge Bob, or whoever, it is viewed as those on the “outside” degrading a belief system. The belief system, according to this view, is what constitutes faith, so any challenge to that must be viewed as an assault on Christian faith. If nothing is done to fight against this, so the thinking goes, Christianity is in jeopardy of compromise, of allowing the “competing” system of beliefs to go unchallenged. So the battle is between competing belief systems.

Until next time....stay cool, drive less, and enjoy the fruit of the vine.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Starbucks, Culture, Paradigms - 1

I’m not sure if anyone saw a recent article about Starbucks new “retro” logo; it’s black and white and features a mermaid. I would link to the article, but I’m sure the link would break in a few months anyway, as usually happens with news sites. Anyway, the article was about how a Christian group was outraged at Starbucks for this. The exact quote from one such member of the San Diego based Christian group was: [the retro-logo] “has a naked woman on it with her legs spread like a prostitute. Need I say more? It's extremely poor taste, and the company might as well call themselves Slutbucks." I do find it interesting that the group immediately arrived at this interpretation of the image; the reasons for which are for another post and another time.

I sent the link to the article to some friends of mine, with my accompanying words to the effect of “when are Christians going to get past this stuff and start being concerned about other things.” One particular response from a friend was very interesting to me. If you’re reading this, know that I still love you as a fellow believer, but I adamantly disagree with you! The response of my friend (I’ll call him Horace to protect his identity) was something to the effect of “I hope we never get past this. Why must we always push the limits of decency? Is there no absolute standard anymore, is everything relative? We are becoming saltless (sic) salt”. I responded with thoughts around his definition of salt and light, the so-called “culture war” that I don’t believe we were ever called to initiate nor participate in, Jesus’ approach to the culture, and why he felt the need to hold Starbucks to his (and others who share his view) moral standards? There is more I could have said, especially in regards to the social and cultural construction of certain standards (i.e. what is decent in one culture is not necessary decent in another, and why should the Religious Right dictate that definition of decency and expect others to live by it??) but then I realized something…which is really why I wanted to write these posts.

I realized that engaging in dialog with Horace about this will be unfruitful, and will end up with us talking past one another. I want to talk about why I think this happens in such cases. I believe it comes down to a difference in presuppositions and paradigms (or ways of thinking and processing the world around us), and how it is difficult to have meaningful dialogs when we (Horace and I) are coming from two different paradigms. When we think about our two paradigms, it makes sense why there is a struggle for common understanding.

What are those two different paradigms??? Stay tuned.

Until then....stay clear of unexploded fireworks!