“Engaging the culture” has become one of the biggest buzz phrases in American Christianity today. The idea of seeking new and better ways to connect with unbelievers so that we can more easily give them the gospel is currently enjoying immense popularity. But what if as a result Christians in America have become more interested in engaging the culture than evangelizing it?
Take Lecrae for example. Christianity’s most famous rapper has recently made waves with his new stand on producing music. Ignoring for our purposes the debate over Christian rap, I think it his new philosophy models much of what is common thinking among Christians today. Lecrae has changed his lyrics from being explicit gospel presentations to a more subtle message of Christianity in his music. As one blog put it:
Rather than preach to his listeners, Lecrae aims to form a common ground. He will not share the gospel in every song, but he’ll address issues which relate to everyone. This allows him to reach a broader audience with the gospel when he feels God give him the green light. Even when Lecrae is writing about non-religious cultural issues, he’s still doing so with a Christian worldview.
"Over the past seven years, the number of live births per 1,000 women between ages 15 and 29 in America has plunged 9 percent. At the same time, research by the American Pet Products Association shows the number of small dogs — under 25 pounds — in the United States has skyrocketed, from 34. 1 million in 2008 to 40.8 million in 2012."
In the conflict over fundamentalism and culture, meta-debate seems to have overshadowed debate. Healthy debate is what occurs when two parties look at the real points of disagreement between them and try to support their own position on those points.
Meta-debate is what happens when we debate about matters surrounding the debate. At its best meta-debate may help clarify and focus the real debate when it happens. It may lead to healthy debate. But it is not the debate itself, because the real points of disagreement are not in focus.
But meta-debate quite often breeds confusion and makes the truly differing claims and supporting arguments less clear rather than more clear. This sort of meta-debate takes many forms from trading insults, to assigning ideas to the other side that they don’t really hold, to framing the debate itself in a way that obscures its true nature.
One example of the latter is the phrase “imposing preferences.”
I’ve been hearing this term for years and still hear it quite often. If you’ve used it in communication with me recently, please don’t think I’m targeting you specifically. It’s an expression that has long lived in my “If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times” file.