This past weekend I took my youth group to Acquire the Fire, a national traveling youth convention. The theme this year was “Normal’s Not Enough”. The basic premise was that Christians should stand out from the crowd. Whatever is considered normal, cool, or even ordinary should not be adjectives we use to characterize Christians.
On the surface it may sound like a simple statement, but going into depth on it makes it much more applicable to our lives. Our very inner beings long to be accepted by the masses. We want to be considered normal. We want to be up on what is considered “cool”. We want our opinions to conform to the ordinary. The problem starts when you try to define “normal”. The problem continues when you realize that what is “cool” now, won’t be in a few days. The problem comes to a head when you realize that “ordinary” is boring, life-draining, and purposeless.
1 Corinthians 3: 18-19 says “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in the world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” The Bible is filled with these type of anecdotes that vilify the popular thinking of the world and glorify a mind that is set apart. Another is found in 1 Corinthians 2: 4-5 “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”
Here at GraceWithSalt, I see this concept in action all the time with atheists and Christians alike that we debate on science issues. People are very willing to give science an automatic rating of ‘infallible’ while just as quickly giving the Bible a ‘fallible’ rating. I wonder why this is the default setting for most people? We have elevated the words, findings, and interpretations of sinful men studying a fallen creation over the timeless, unchanging, unfailing word of God! Why would we do this? We are naturally programmed to want to fit in. We want to be perceived as educated, and not ignorant. It takes a bold individual to stand up against the system. We see an example of this boldness in the person of Jesus Christ himself. Jesus was not the simple good teacher, peacemaker image we quite commonly get fed. He shook up the system. He challenged the traditions and laws of the times with new ways of thinking. Inevitably he was put to death for this.
People fear change and despise challenges. We saw a recent example of this in what happened with Kirk Cameron’s stance against homosexuality. He took a stance that is not considered popular, normal, cool, or ordinary. He was vilified in the media. No matter your personal opinion on the matter – all he did was exercise his right as a US citizen to free speech. He was asked a question and responded. He stood up against ordinary. The lesson here is – if you are constantly fitting into what is considered normal ways of thinking and acting by the world’s standard, you are probably doing something wrong.
Throughout the weekend we talked a lot about the things that grab a hold of our lives – specifically media. Interestingly enough I had just wrapped work on a 17 page paper for school on the effects of media on adolescents. Here are some excerpts from that paper:
Children entering adolescence in today’s technologically modern world are facing the most intense onslaught of mass media in all of history. Teenagers today are inundated with media at every turn. Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and texting are staples in the average teenager’s daily life. The easily negative influences of today’s popular movies and music are the soundtrack for many of our young people. The most popular video games contain extreme violence, prostitution, and swearing. On top of all of this, heavy advertising permeates each one of these means as well as on every page of the internet and anywhere we drive in form of billboards.
How much time is appropriate for media consumption by teenagers? Anderson, et al (2001) contend that it is the content of the media that “should be more important in determining the relations between them than is the total amount of time devoted to either one of them” (p. 26). In other words we really should be focusing more on the content of the media ingested rather than the total amount of time spent consuming.
I am often asked why Christians feel the need to have their own special brand of music and movies. In other words, what is so wrong with the popular media everyone else is enjoying? Often times these questions are followed with excuses such as – ‘yeah, I know there’s a little bit of violence and nudity, but it’s not that bad’. At times like these I like to use the brownies analogy I have heard many times. Michael Meredith retells the story on his website kidsagainstdrugs.com. Would you eat a brownie if you know it contained trace amounts of dog poop? If it were 95% delicious chocolate, would that rule out the measly 5% excrement? Meredith (2009) tells the moral of the story this way: “everything we put into our minds and bodies tend to stick. Images of violence, bad or suggestive language and music, nudity in movies, or drugs into our bodies is just as bad, or worse, for us as dog poop in our food” (p. 1).
The overall point of the paper is that media consumption is inevitable. It is everywhere! Overuse, although an issue in today’s society, may fail in comparison to the content of the media being ingested. Christians should not alright with a little poop in our brownies! We should not be alright with being considered normal. We are to be a light in the darkness. You cannot be a dark light. There’s no such thing. You are either light or dark. Matthew 15: 8-9 says “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me … in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”
Normal is not enough. As Christians we need to be fleeing from the diseases of “ordinary”, “cool”, and “normal”. You cannot be a light in the darkness if you resemble everyone else. If you are asking yourself how close you can get to the darkness and still be “Christian”, you don’t have it. This message may sound radical or too hard-hitting / in-your-face, but it perfectly echoes the most stern message from Jesus given in Matthew 7: 21-23 –
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’