Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Christian Ghetto - a rant

This rant is several months in the making. I chose tonight to write because I've got something of a block on my novel writing - NaNoWriMo is starting to wear on me.

Ghetto (from
1. a section of a city, esp. a thickly populated slum area, inhabited predominantly by members of an ethnic or other minority group, often as a result of social or economic restrictions, pressures, or hardships.
2. (formerly, in most European countries) a section of a city in which all Jews were required to live.
3. a section predominantly inhabited by Jews.
4. any mode of living, working, etc., that results from stereotyping or biased treatment: job ghettos for women; ghettos for the elderly.

Being a Christian in modern America comes with all kinds of "ghetto" trappings. We shop at Christian bookstores, wear "Christian" clothing, read "Christian" books, etc. Every new cultural phenomenon is accompanied by warnings about how it is to be avoided by Christians. I'm sure we all remember the Harry Potter psychosis. My daughter couldn't talk about her favorite books with her two best friends because they were not allowed to read HP or watch the HP movies.

The latest event in my life to highlight our propensity to be part of the Christian Ghetto occurred a week or so ago. Our homeschool group set up an art class for the last year or so. My daughter went a few times and enjoyed it. But, the new coordinator found out, quite by accident, that the art teacher was also an energy healer. The coordinator was quite uncomfortable about having her kids in a class (art class, remember) taught by this woman. In her attempts to have another person coordinate the class, the teacher chose to no longer continue teaching. There is a rumor that the church that hosted the class would not host the class because of the teacher's other vocation. This is an egregious example of the Christian Ghetto at work. Family's are so concerned about their kids being exposed to a woman who is an energy healer that they won't even allow them to take an art class with her.

The recent barrage of emails about "The Golden Compass" is another example. While I was happy to be informed about this so I don't send my kids off to see this movie without me, I have been apalled at the handwringing that this movie has invoked. I haven't heard people talking about using this book and movie as a teaching moment for your kids. I have heard how we need to boycott it. And some people are even picketing.

Those most involved in the Christian Ghetto tend to be like me in many ways. We are often Evangelical Protestants. We want to raise our children to love Jesus. But somewhere the desire to teach our children our values gets turned and twisted into bizarre protectionism. The response to the non-Christian world has become to run and hide when it should be to march out and engage. Jesus calls us to be "in" not "of" the world. Somehow, many Christians have decided that even being "in" the world is too much.

How should we as Christians relate to the rest of the world? First of all, we should not be remotely surprised that the world is hostile to our Savior. Jesus told us to expect persecution. Second, we should be prepared to engage our world. This means that we must have a grounded faith. But, it also means that we need to be able to defend our faith - and with more than just "The Bible says it!" We need to understand why people become atheists and how we can talk to them, not work so hard to avoid them. We must teach our children our faith, but we also must teach them what kinds of philosophies and ideas they will come up against in the world and how they can respond intelligently to them.

OK. Rant finished. You may continue with your regularly scheduled lives.


Anonymous said...

I've read the reviews about Golden Compass and seen some excerpts from the book it is based on. I wouldn't use the book or movie as a teaching moment for my kids because I don't feel right myself reading the few excerpts that I have seen. I boycott with my dollars. No need to go with a public protest or anything. I just won't pay for that kind of stuff.


Writing and Living said...

*standing on my chair and applauding*

Good post. I agree. While it's clear that we need to be cautious, I am so tired of Christians thinking we need to fear opposing viewpoints.