Originally published on the Forge Scotland blog.
I spend a lot of my time reading, and part of that time is dedicated to reading blogs from around the “blogosphere”. Some of my favourite blogs also make a feature (sometimes even daily) to post their own favourite articles from around the world, which really helps me get to the “cream of the crop”. It also leads to some interesting connections in my slightly bizarre brain.
It’s been interesting to see some of the fallout regarding this years MTV Video Music Awards. I wept with Trevin Wax1 as I considered the barrage of negative influences that my 6-year-old daughter will face in the coming years2. And I was blown away by Walt Mueller’s thoughtful, insightful, and just plain brilliant cultural exegesis of the event3. In my mind, though, these managed to connect themselves Nancy Pearcey’s article on transgender politics4 via one of the oldest challenges to the Christian church.
Let me (try to) explain:
Back in the first couple of centuries of the church there were a number of different sects that created a bit of theological angst. One of these groups were the Gnostics5. One of the main characteristics of Gnostic movements is a definite separaione between body and spirit, and in particular that the physical realm, including our bodies, is bad. As I read Pearcey’s article, I began to see so many similarities between this underlying Gnostic worldview, and the transgender worldview that is being presented increasingly in our culture, where our bodies merely become tools to be used to express and satisfy our “being”. Reflecting on the MTV Awards made me wonder whether or not part of the disconnect between the younger generation and their parents is a more gnostic approach to life, where what I do with my body is somehow disconnected from my “soul”.
We must not think that the church is immune from this kind of philosophical pothole, either. (Remember - the sacred/secular divide isn’t real!) Whilst we may have successfully differentiated ourselves from the overly ascetic (and somewhat gnostic), modernist, Victorian church, I worry that we continue to overemphasise a similar “dual nature” where the spirit is more important than the body. For those of us in more charismatic-leaning churches, we must also be aware that the Gnostic belief in “secret knowledge” is sometimes only a stones throw away if we over-emphasise personal revelation, or the role of the prophet, over Scripture.
Where am I headed with my meandering ponderings? Some points to consider:
As Christians, and especially as church planters, we must be avid students of culture.We must always ask ourselves: What is receivable, what is redeemable, what do we need to subvert, and what must be rejected?We must seek to lead people into integrated lives across all aspects of their “being” - physical bodies, intellectual mind, emotional heart and spiritual soul6.We must weep over the state of the world around us, pray for God to move in power, and stand up to declare the Gospel in all it’s offensiveness. None of these are optional.
“I Weep For Miley”:http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2013/08/26/i-weep-for-miley/ ↩
It is worth noting (and has been noted by other commentators, both Christian and secular (“Moby: ‘Blurred Lines’ Brings Pop Culture Misogyny into Focus”:http://news.linktv.org/videos/moby-blurred-lines-brings-pop-culture-misogyny-into-focus) that, quite apart from the nature of the MTV performances and the videos for the songs, that lyrically songs are becoming offensive, sexually driven and misogynist. It is amazing to think that, despite seemingly universal support (in the Western world) for equality without bounds, that these songs are legal, let alone purchasable by minors or desirable to anyone. ↩
“Lessons from 2013 VMAs: Disney on Parade”:http://learningmylines.blogspot.ca/2013/08/lessons-from-2013-vmas-disney-on-parade.html ↩
“Transgender Politics vs Facts of Life”:http://www.pearceyreport.com/archives/2013/07/nancy_pearcey_transgender_politics_vs_facts_of_life.php ↩
Or, more accurately, Christian Gnostics. This article isn’t really intended to be an introduction to gnosticism, though. ↩
There is a huge amount of debate over the nature of the body, and definitions for mind, heart, soul and spirit. I’m not an expert, so I apologise these 4 don’t match up to your current thinking on it…. ↩