Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Friday is for Friends: Michael Mercer

This week’s Friday is for (our and from our) Friends is from Michael Mercer. Read this post, think about it and give us your reflections because he’s asking some probing questions about Christ ad culture.

Reflections from the Bible Belt

While volunteering at my son’s public high school for a band
competition today, I noticed various motivational signs and banners
posted around the building.

    It’s who you are when no one’s looking.

    Each person must live his life as a model for others

There were signs for “respect,” “honor,” “knowledge” (you’d expect that
one), “responsibility,” “leadership,” and other moral virtues and
practices. Near the main lobby, a prominent display case held pictures
of those who had won the “Set a Good Example” award. This award,
sponsored by a local family in memory of their son, honors young people
who show exemplary character, leadership, and who serve as role models
for their fellow students.


I know many of the teachers, coaches and administrators in the school, and it is clear that these signs and honors are not just for decoration. The qualities represented are actively promoted and urged upon students and the entire school community.

Of course, I am thrilled to have had my children attend a public school that seeks to foster moral character as well as academic and extra-curricular achievement. And this is not surprising to us. We live in a small Midwestern town that is filled with churches and conservative folks, surrounded by an entire region of such communities. A “Bible-belt,” you might say.

Which got me thinking. If you mixed in a few “Jesus” words and a couple of hymns or praise songs, what I’ve seen at our son’s public high school would represent many churches around here. You have a community of caring people, an emphasis on learning, discipline, moral education, all served up via a full program of activities for having fun, building community, and encouraging growth.


My question is, “How should Christ-followers think about this situation?”

    * Does it show that the Christian message has infiltrated local culture to such an extent that our secular institutions reflect the light of the Gospel, at least in moral terms?

    * Or does it show that churches (at least in “Bible-belt” regions) have become mirrors of American conservative culture, serving as little more than reflections of the God and country, family values, law and order, bourgeois middle class ethos? Have many congregations become “Christian activity centers” that primarily serve to promote morality and the “righteous” status quo?

    * Perhaps it is some of both? What is positive about this state of affairs, and what may be negative, even harmful to the growth of genuinely Biblical Christianity?


Furthermore, when Christ and culture seem to complement rather than radically oppose one another in a given setting, in what ways is the church called to be counter-cultural, and in what ways may it cooperate with the institutions in that community to fulfill the Mission Dei?

From Chaplain Mike
aka Rev. Michael Mercer

Comments read comments(5)
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Derek Leman

posted May 1, 2009 at 9:38 am

We should not be surprised to see Biblical humanity among unchurched folk. Jesus is a man, not an alien. His goodness is a reflecting of the image of God which all people are made in.
The Church (and Israel) are called to be the leaders of renewal of humanity toward the image of God. We are not called to have an exclusive patent.
Meanwhile, we must affirm rather than criticize the good we see outside of the congregation.
Derek Leman

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Jim Marks

posted May 1, 2009 at 9:46 am

Why does it particularly matter whether it is the one, the other or both?
Good moral and ethical behavior is a good thing. Full stop.
Religion is, always was, and always will be, cultural. Full stop.
Truth is Truth is Truth. Full stop.
We need to stop running around with an armload of solutions looking for problems.

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posted May 1, 2009 at 9:48 am

In todays Jerusalem Post(May 1) is a beautiful
echo of Derek’s comments. Go to the “Jerusalem
Post” newspaper, click on the banner under the
header for “Jewish World”, then scroll down
to the section “Judaism”.
Read the article Parashat Aharee Mot Kedoshin,
Holy life, holy death by Shlomo Riskin.

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posted May 1, 2009 at 10:20 am

It’s a little bit of both and little bit of something else.
Yes, Christian morals have become part of our culture. Yes, our culture affects what American Christians see as moral.
And, morality is morality. There is a lot of agreement between cultures and religions as to what is moral because there is only one morality. We all have “knowledge of good and evil” after all. What is unique about Christianity is not the morality that it teaches for the most part. It is the claims of Christ and the offer of grace.
“what may be negative, even harmful to the growth of genuinely Biblical Christianity?”
When Christianity is misrepresented (as it often is in our culture) as just one of many similar moral systems, this common morality makes people think they have no need of Christ. We have to convince them that God takes their failures seriously and sees their successes as filthy rags; then we can show them the solution to the problem.

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posted May 1, 2009 at 5:23 pm

That’s what I was thinking ChrisB. It’s like when the christian political right start talking about a christian morals nation. They forget that it’s supposed to start with Christ. A story : as far as I knew, my dad wasn’t a christian. He was a seeker that was for sure. He was in AA 25 yrs before he died and there’s spirituality in the 12 steps. I’ve seen nonchristians more surrendered to their higher power than many christians are even aware of needing to do. Anyhow, my dad would call me with thoughts he’d been thinking about christianity or questions. One time near christmas he said he thought he’s figured out what it (christianity) was all about – loving others. If he were a christian I’d give a hearty amen. But what was still missing from the equation for him was it all starting with God, me with God. Loving God with all and because he loved us first. Loving others through reliance on the holy spirit not in our own strength. It’s God in the equation that makes all the difference. Christianity is not about morals, it’s about relationship with God.

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