The Last Evangelical Hipster
Yes, here is one more blog post opining on the Duck Dynasty kerfuffle. Like the man I work for, Dr. Russell Moore, I’m not fan of reality TV. And as a child of suburban Chicago, I don’t really fit the Duck Dynasty demographic, though it’s widespread appeal clearly shows that the show resonates with more than bearded backwoods hunters. I’ve never watched one single episode. And I’ve been pretty proud of myself for that.
However, this moment in American culture demonstrates a shift. We are entering an increasingly post-Christian age where true followers of Jesus will no longer be affirmed for their beliefs. To be sure, the comments by the Duck Dynasty chieftain were not in the spirit of Jesus’ model of truth and grace. But as we saw with the Lou Giglio flap earlier this year, those who demand widespread acceptance of a new cultural sexual ethic don’t discriminate between the holy and profane. When it comes to isolating and then publicly shaming those who hold to orthodox Christian beliefs, no amount of winsome nuance will help you escape the new designation of village bigot. So evangelicals have a choice and a series of choices to make.
First, there will be no evangelical hipsters left. What I mean by this is not that Christians can’t or shouldn’t try to exegete the culture, live in the times in which we are called, or enjoy beauty and art in all of it’s eclectic forms. What I mean is that there will be no way to thread the needle, to uphold distinctly Christian views and be universally loved by the masses. We’ll have to choose between love of the world and love of Christ (James 4:4). In a sense, this is the choice every follower of Jesus has had to make since Peter’s tragic bow to cultural pressure in the shadow of Golgotha. But American Christians have long lived in a protective bubble, unique in all of church history, that has allowed us to be both Christian and mainstream. So, we will either have to deny our desire for acceptance and take up the cross of Christ or we’ll bow to the demands of the world and fashion a Jesus who looks nothing like the real thing.
Secondly, we’ll need to evaluate our expectations. There needs to be no false nostalgia for a mythical golden era that never existed. We were created for these times, to joyfully stand for Jesus in a world that doesn’t like Him. Like Paul, we must find joy and urge others to rejoice even while suffering for our faith. So far little genuine persecution has actually occurred here, but it could be on the horizon. Small cultural slights like the removal of a favored reality star, the banning of orthodox believers from inaugural prayers and the compelling of businesses to act against conscience should prepare us to suffer willingly if and when graver perils arrive. This expectation, encouraged by Jesus (John 15:20) should warn us away from an apocalyptic, doomsday outlook , the disguising of our own sin as martyrdom (1 Peter 3:17), or the chasing of endless conspiracy theories. Remember who was writing the New Testament commands to joy: the same men who were about to lose their lives for Jesus’ sake.
Thirdly, we’ll have to understand that the truth of the gospel will overshadow the love in which we deliver it. Speaking with grace is not a tactic to be tested. Though the gospel compels us to care for the poor, love our neighbors, and pray for our accusers, no amount of charity will overshadow the stumbling-block that is the cross of Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:23). Consider that the Southern Baptist Convention operates the 3rd largest relief operation in the world and yet it’s stand for Christian orthodoxy overshadows this.
Bottom line: Christianity will continue to cost us something, as it was always intended to do. There can be no avoiding the culture wars when the battle arrives on your doorstep.