"...those who hide in a separate Christian subculture lose the ability to communicate effectively with those who are outside. We grow more and more fearful and suspicious of those outside the camp, until we slowly begin to think of them as a hostile 'other' whom we must destroy, rather than broken and exiled parts of our own selves, whom we are commanded by God to heal and restore." ~ Eric Metaxas, quoted in Mission to Metropolis
I would argue that the message of Christ is summarily lost if we abandon the culture in which we are planted. Ahh, the familiar tightrope: how to be sufficiently different as to pique interest and stand out from a crowd, yet sufficiently conformist to understand the rules and customs of the crowd and relate effectively within it? What amazes me is that the grace of God, as in all else, blurs the borders of acceptable human choice in this matter.
Case in point: I was raised without a TV or popular music exposure, reading the King James Bible, singing hymns centuries old, in a house devoid of immodest clothing, contemporary gender roles, tattoos, or alcohol. Yet the joy of the Spirit shone through brilliantly: my mother's impromptu operettas while housecleaning, head banging without music in the woods with my brothers as we celebrated the wind through the trees, my father's jazz instrumentals floating on the summer wind as he typed a paper, or the crack and fizz of a ball game on the radio to the rhythm of his maul while he chopped wood. I was on the edge of that fine line, the different edge. Homeschooled, long haired, meek and mild, shy, passionately opinionated, aggressively evangelical. Somehow that upbringing translated easily and seamlessly to who I am today: blues-loving, beer-tasting, pants-wearing, dancing at weddings and blaring French hip hop for our morning dance-off in the living room - and loving Christ, passionately, wholly, through all those joys and pleasures.
Indeed, His grace is sufficient (II Corin. 12:9). Although I don't think we should isolate ourselves in the hallowed enclaves of our temples (or our homes or communities of faith), we must remember that we serve a great, tenaciously soul-seeking God who will not let us stand in the way of His glory. He will use the loose-living Christian and the strict fundamentalist to reach totally different groups of people, most likely. Mark Driscoll, the "cussing preacher", boasts a following of tattooed machismo that would never be caught dead in the quiet halls of the Lutheran church down my country road. Yet the seventy year old farmer's wife who attends there would never sit quiety by while her pastor swore from the pulpit. I am reminded, as I contemplate how to raise my children, that Christ has a purpose and plan already laid out for these young ones I tend. He knows whether their mission field is blues festivals or the Navigators, family members or the far-flung poor in some distant nation. As I live out my faith in the confines of these four walls, illuminate an example of grace for their innocent eyes, I hope that they learn both the power of Christ in my weakness as well as the freedom of Christ that redeems us from silly human ideals.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1