Not being “worldly” sums up about half the messages I heard growing up in the church. Whatever being a Christian was (separation and personal piety?) it was not like the world.
The world drank and danced we didn’t, though to be fair most of us probably couldn’t have danced even if we tried.
The world gleefully watched movies that were filled with debauchery and sin, while we only saw movies rated R when it was for violence. The world favored political movement we opposed, social trends we preached against, and the abandonment of biblical principles we held dear.
Faithfulness to God looked like defining ourselves over and against the world outside our doors. And the thing is, there was something to that. The Scriptures do tell us not be of the world. We had a harder time with the other part of that verse, that we should be in the world, but it was better than nothing right?
Well, perhaps not.
See over time I’ve noticed something. In much of Christian sub-culture the ways we claim to oppose the world around us may actually serve to inoculate us against facing the reality that often we are the worldly ones, the ones who are participating in the systems of sin and injustice.
So that we focus getting Christ back in Christmas, while engaging in the worship of consumerism and exploitation of cheap labor that the season entails. We will sacrifice to the gods of the market, as long as there is a nativity in front of the mall. Sort of an adventure in missing the point.
We pour money into political candidates who take our side on issues we’ve decided are key to our worldview (despite being nowhere in Scripture) and turn a blind eye to that candidate’s actions against the poor and the alien, two groups the Bible speaks of from beginning to end.
We insist that women dress modestly because they have value before God, a value that culture is trying to take from them, and then in all sorts of ways treat women as second class citizens of God’s kingdom.
The Bible tells us we should be in the world but not of it. Somehow we’ve often managed to do the opposite. We avoid being in the world at all costs, but look just like it. Our participation in the system of sin and injustice simply has a religious veneer to it which inoculates us from seeing the reality of our lives.