Monday, October 30, 2006

The Call: Identity and Cultural Pressure

"Only when we respond to Christ and follow his call do we become our real selves and come to have personalities of our own."*

This statement may be true in a perfect world but, as we all know, this world is less than perfect. I responded to Christ in 1979. It is now 2006 and I know less about my "real self" than I ever have. Part of the reason for this is culture.
Can anyone truly have a personality of their own? Perhaps if dumped on a deserted island and left to develop unhindered by culture...maybe. What I am trying to get at is that no one is untouched by their surroundings. Everyone succumbs, in one way or another, to their environment and culture. And, whether for good or for bad, it shapes us.
Growing up in a Southern Baptist church, I was severely affected by that culture. My ideas about God and faith have their foundations in that denomination. The culture of the 70's that surrounded me during my high school years shaped many things about me that are still within me. College art classes had a particular culture during the 80's that I was a part of. Some of that is still with me today. Attending a Southern Baptist seminary in the early 90's exposed me to a culture that, like it or not, still affects me to this day. Being a minister, first in a Southern Baptist church and then in a non-denominational one, placed me in cultures that, inevitably, would shake my faith to it's core. While in transition from the single life to marriage, I've attended a few churches whose cultures made me more than a little uncomfortable.
As a result of all this and more, I wonder if the quote I have posted can be true. Is it Christ that shapes our "real self" or is it our family or our work environment or is it culture or is it a synchronicity of all those things? I believe it's the latter.
As Christians, Christ is, of course, the ultimate model for us. But we're human beings and we can't help but be affected by what surrounds us. Even the greatest Christians in the world (whoever they may be) can't help but be altered by it. My wife and I once attended a church where people talked and looked and behaved a certain way. Alot of the men and women were becoming little clones of the pastor and his wife. My wife related to me an instance where someone she was shopping with picked out an outfit based on the fact that it looked like something the pastor's wife would wear. This is a severe example but these churches do exist. They are what I call "Stepford Churches."
So, how can we surrender our lives to Christ, follow his call and become our "real selves" without becoming baby Osteens? If you have an answer, comment away. I'm not an Osteen but I still haven't discovered the "call" and my "real self" as of yet. I'm still seeking.

*Source: The Call by Os Guinness

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