Friday, December 09, 2005

Christmas and Context

It has been in the local news this week that "our mega-church" (Southland) is not holding services on Christmas day this year (link).

This N.Y. Times article today has me wondering some more about the complexities of mission in this weird and wonderful country....especially that dicey interplay between contextualization (appropriate/strategic adoption of forms to incarnate the good news in a particular setting) and syncretism (contextualization "taken too far").

In the article, "our very own" Ben Witherington says this:
"I see this in many ways as a capitulation to narcissism, the self-centered, me-first, I'm going to put me and my immediate family first agenda of the larger culture," said Ben Witherington III, professor of New Testament interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky. "If Christianity is an evangelistic religion, then what kind of message is this sending to the larger culture - that worship is an optional extra?"

so here's my 2 cents worth after reading the article....It seems to me closing down a large vendor for religious goods and services on Christmas day makes sense. what doesn't make sense to me is having a such a large 'operation' in the first place. the mistake (if there is one) is not shutting the doors on Christmas day, it is in this hugely complex way of being church where the problem seeds are planted. if church is indeed a building you go to then we should be horrified that the church (or at least many of the big ones) will be closed on christmas day...however, if the church is something far more liquid and expansive and family is so much more than your kin, then religious festivals like Christmas can and should take all kinds of forms. if the church is the people of God in the mode of movement then making the choice between family and church on Christmas day is a false dichotomy. But i could be wrong...i am just a stranger in a strange land. perhaps the mega-church model (Christmas day closings and all) is the perfect shape (contextualization) for a culture where people are accustomed to shopping at mega-malls, eating at mega-food courts, and living in mega-homes.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

geoff - i think we met last year at alan creech's home.... i'm from Cincy (part of Vineyard Central).

i really appreciated your comments on this. you articulated well what i've been thinking. perhaps mega-churches are an appropriate contextualization, but i'm deeply suspicious i must admit. maybe they were appropriate in a highly affluent society that was deeply unaware of the needs in the rest of the world (ie. circa 1975-2001), but i digress.

i wonder if such a "model" of church can sustain it self? i wonder how flexible they really can be in such a liquid culture such as we have? i'm actually impressed that they can close on a Sunday - bringing such a large machine to a halt (a sabbath, if you will) seems monumental.

and then i wonder about the church being the People of God and then i feel better and look forward to my next opportunity to commune with said people the next chance i get.