I’ve always been fascinated by subcultures. As a child, my dad was really into Christian rock music. While much of it was admittedly pretty lack-luster, it was the subculture I was raised in, going to music festivals and listening to Petra tapes in the car. By high school, I was solidly into the “underground Christian alternative music and skateboarding” subculture. Sure, it was a niche group, but it actually existed, complete with it’s own magazine. I suppose it was it’s own subset of the “underground music and skateboarding” subculture. (Does that make it a subsubculture?) Anyway, I was also into the “hiphop” subculture a little, as well as the “youth group coffeehouse” subculture.
As I grew into adulthood, my ties to these subcultures faded, and were replaced by new subcultures. I consider myself a part of the “tech nerd” subculture, among others, and I enjoy finding and identifying subcultures that I’m not a part of. It’s sort of my own little Audubon Society for subculture spotting.
In the American church, and in our own church, there is no shortage of subculture. Form the “Duck Dynasty loyalists”, the “mainstream quasi-hipsters”, and the “social libertarians”, to the “Bible-study intellectuals”, the “uber-conservative Christian right”, and the “red-letter liberals”, our culture is full of subcultures. And this is reason to celebrate.
The fact that we serve the same God, read the same scriptures, and are so very different from each other says something about our Father. It can also teach us something about grace. And it’s not always easy.
What comes easily is deciding to what degree someone is a follower of Jesus. Things like, “well he goes to church, but he drinks,” and “he votes differently than I do, so he must not be a true Christian,” tend to roll off of our collective tongues. Does God feel this way, or does he accept each of us as we are? Some Christians smoke, some go to movies, some are racist, some are gay, some drink, some sin more than you, some sin less, some curse, some aren’t very nice. The hardest part of this for me is that, when people do things that I don’t think are very Christ-like, it’s much easier to judge them than to love and accept them.
The wide range of subcultures in the church should underscore what a loving and graceful God we have. We all have our messes. The beautiful thing is that God meets us in our messiness, embraces us, and moves us toward holiness. Not in a get-yourself-together sort of way, but in a real way. In a way that serves others, clothes the poor, loves enemies, shares Jesus with the lost. That’s the type of subculture I want to be a part of.