This morning, I participated in a discussion which reminded me of all the things I gave up over the course of my years as a conservative Christian. When I began deconstructing the legalistic platform on which I’d built my faith, I discovered so many things that I’d never properly given myself permission to do or enjoy. That’s the funny thing about fundiculturalism–it seeps in and permeates everything until it can be hard to know the difference between something that truly is inappropriate and something that’s merely taboo.
There was a list of things I wasn’t supposed to listen to, watch, wear, and do. I’m not joking. At one point, a former church instituted a boycott of certain products because they advertised during television shows considered immoral. In high school, I swore off any music that wasn’t instrumental or explicitly Christian. Those were the days when we were taught that backmasking was real and that there were people who truly had come out of “satanic” cults where they performed human sacrifice.
In addition, whenever something or someone didn’t meet the church’s expectations for tone or behavior, it suddenly became something to be explained away or avoided. Some of my fellow Gen-Xers who were involved in Christian culture in the 1990s may remember when we were all supposed to stop listening to Amy Grant because she “sold out” and had “secular” hits, for example. There was also the time the Canadian teen show “Degrassi High” was booted off Approved Christian Island because one of the characters had an abortion. (The show was probably only on there in the first place because one of the actors was supposedly a Christian. Honestly, it wasn’t a particularly “Christian” show and dealt with a lot of realistic, mature themes.)
What I find sort of disturbing about the whole thing is that it never seems to touch any Christian who has managed to remain on the correct side of the behavior-policing flavor of the moment. So long as a professing Christian isn’t divorced, gay, unmarried but singing about something that sounds vaguely sexual, acting in movies with “immoral” themes, or publicly saying anything that challenges mainstream theology, that person is completely safe. It’s why, despite the sheer volume of bizarre beliefs, Kirk Cameron consistently gets a pass. He regularly acts like an ass, but he’s apparently not doing anything naughty. Rob Bell, on the other hand, couldn’t even publish a relatively innocuous book that sort of almost kind of hints at universalism without being labeled a heretic.
At the same time, Christian “leaders” are frequently allowed the freedom to either screw up royally (“Look! He’s really, really sorry!”) or simply say the most vile things without being called on it. For the life of me I can’t figure out why Mark Driscoll continues to enjoy such popularity nor his sermons so many contortions of apologetics. There is simply no excuse for defending this man or his strangely hypersexual theology.
And right there is the problem with fundiculturalism. The distinction made between right and wrong is skewed so that “braless” selfies are bad, bad, bad but commanding wives to “service” their husbands orally is entirely acceptable. Loving, committed gay couples trip the gag reflex, but churches cover up rape and sexual abuse. Music, clothes, and movies are monitored but not whether we’re taking care of “the least of these.” Fifty Shades is taboo because of all the sex but not because of the overt domestic violence. Bullies and abusers get a pass because we extend “grace,” but victims and survivors frequently don’t.
How did we get to this point? How did we arrive at a place of such legalism? I can’t answer that. What can say is that I’d rather listen to “Highway to Hell” than a Mark Driscoll sermon or give my teenager Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye than Joshua Harris’ I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I’d rather hang out in the company of people the church considers misguided or sinful than sit at the feet of most of the well-known preachers.
If you’re coming out of fundiculturalism, what things are you trading in? What have you been denying yourself?