What piece of the culture puzzle do you find yourself in? Woke culture? Church culture? Music festival culture? Food & Bev. culture? Mom culture? Yogi culture? Medical field culture? Party culture?
Which culture category spoke to you most? It is likely you fall under at least one of these. Perhaps more than one. If so, that’s a good sign. For you may not have to read on if that’s the case. But, please read on! In this piece, we’ll explore how to become more conscious of what groups we’re conforming to and how important is to be in several at once.
One of my biggest fears is to be acclimated and seen as someone under one culture and one culture only. At this period in life, “mom culture” and “church culture” are the ones I wrestle with most. Here’s an example.
I just finished getting coffee this morning with a close friend of mine, Ginger. She disclosed that she got into this ministry class with her church. She was using words I found a bit too “church culture-y” for my liking. As a close sister sometimes knows your flaws more than you do yourself, I knew she could feel the judgment spewing out of me like rocket fire. In her gentle honesty, she admitted to feeling my disapproval.
I knew I went wrong.
Ginger’s bravery to be direct helped me address something that has been lingering in my heart for a while now. Church. The culture of the church. I don’t understand it. I don’t understand the people in it. I find something wrong with any and every church. It’s like everyone forgets the point of faith in the first place. Yet we’re supposed to be there to connect and honor God? Hmph.
As someone who did not grow up in church, this whole church thing is still so new to me. Sure, I have a fresh lens into it than most people. But, the wrestle still present itself.
You see, I had come to faith before stepping into a church setting. I lived out in California surrounded by nothing but serene cedar trees, dry pine needles, vast mountains, and peace when I entered into my relationship with God. There was nothing attached to my faith, just bare naked holding his hand everywhere I went with no disturbance in sight. No people. No building. No traditions. Nothing. Just me and God and his miraculous planet- oh, the most stripped, precious, and tasteful time this was. Just Him and me against the world.
However, just like any human love relationship, that romance phase can only last so long. I wanted to keep that initial fire alive by learning more about Him and about my newfound faith. Being taught by those who were further along in their walk was something I longed for pretty early on. Cultivating a relationship takes work and I was willing with Him. With that being said, where did I decide to go to scratch this itch? Somewhere free that attained all my needs as a young believer. Ch-ay-uchhhh.
I didn’t view Sunday services as a chore. It was actually something I looked forward to more than anything. As Friday came along, I found myself counting down the hours until I learned more about the wondrous and wild guy Jesus again. I didn’t know anyone in this small Truckee church at this point, so that stillness of just myself and God remained the same inside a building as it did in the middle of the woods.
But in moving to Charleston, I was ready for friends.
The first church I attended was a non-denominational mega-church. Loved it for some time until I took a step back and saw the culture I had conformed to. I started dating Ross who went to a more traditional Anglican church downtown called the Cathedral. I started going there (because, duh Ross, my love) and realized how opposite this type of church was to the megachurch. But there were things I liked and didn’t like about both cultures.
During coffee, the reasoning behind my rocket fire of judgment was nothing to hide. I had reached a point where I had to be honest. So I told her what I did and didn’t like about her non-denominational choice, as well as the flaws within mine. Here it is:
Non-denominational churches emphasize too much on growing their church in numbers, not the point of the church whatsoever. Turning non-believers into projects to convert, creates a superior & inferior mentality that pumps the ego. Too much on maintaining purity, leads to legalism and approval of those around you. I’ve also found that this group is more likely to only befriend those inside the same denomination.
As for the current church, my husband and I attend, I believe there is too much emphasis on the traditions surrounding the Anglican tradition. The white robes, the gigantic cross necklaces, the push to be confirmed, the “we as Anglicans” talk that I could do without. I thought we were Christians, why the hell do we have to add another title to our names… that makes no sense. My church draws in more calm, laid-back, intellectual and logical Christians. There’s a lot of that old southern status culture within there as well, a total turn-off for a northerner like myself. As a collective whole, they are more closed off to themselves and others which makes it harder to establish deeper relationships. Maybe a bit more uptight and serious than what I’m used to, less likely to laugh and goof around and have a good time. Life should be fun. It’s heavy enough already, why make it heavier than it already is? Loosen up, have some fun… we’ll be okay.
So you may be thinking I should just walk away from church altogether and return to my simple faith as I did in the mountains of Lake Tahoe? I’d understand this to be your understanding. But, bear with me, there is a point in all this whether you’re a church-goer or a yogi-goer or a covid-goer. Stay with me.
I’m wrestling with all this still, but here is what I’ve come to find out. Accept that there is several flaws in every single culture that exists. I must immerse myself in multiple cultures to protect myself from becoming exclusive to others. I shall celebrate what I love about every one of them. If all these things align, no bitterness can take place, no superiority can take place, no condemning judgment can take place. As much as I feel at war with the church often, I know I need it. It’s good for me. It sharpens me and makes me better. I’m actually rediscovering who I am through it.
Just so you don’t think I hate every church and make myself go because “it’s the right thing to do”, here’s what I do like about it.
I love the non-denominational church for their expressive worship and their emphasis on God as a loving being. That we should jump for joy in our salvation. Their heart for God and their determination to serve so many people around them is unmatched with mine.
Here is why I enjoy my more traditional church: the depth it brings to my faith. The people appear to be grounded, strong and mature in their walk and I need that of them. They ground me. For those that know me, you know I need to be grounded. They teach me patience, prudence, and gentleness.
That being said, church isn’t the only culture I need to practice accepting, loving and embracing. It’s the others too. For example,
I understand the woke culture and their longing to be unashamed of how they feel.
I understand the mask/covid culture and their fear of losing someone closest to them. My biggest fear is losing my wonderful husband.
I understand the non-mask/covid culture and their love for a human-to-human connection. I value prioritizing mental health and what fuels good mental health, is pure connection.
I understand the yogi culture and the desire to tap into something unseen, something supernatural, to experience a different level of consciousness.
I understand the mom culture and their longing to alleviate the loneliness felt in raising a child by surrounding themselves with other moms only.
I must be involved in all these cultures. From different churches, different groups, believers, non-believers, atheists, elders, kids, nurses, etc. By no means am I remotely close to achieving this yet and I’m not sure if all this is even possible, but I shall make this a constant everyday practice. Because a judgmental a****** is not a person I wish to become.
Let’s remain impartial. Neutral. Let’s step outside of ourselves and constantly ask if what we believe, how we speak, and how we act are truly our unique authentic selves or if we have trapped ourselves in only one group of people.