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A real culture club: church community is the only real response to cultural cacaphony.

It's become popular not only to make fun of the church and people of faith, but to attempt to attack or topple Christian tenets. Books like The Da Vinci Code and documentaries claiming archeological discoveries of the bones of Jesus and his family appear to threaten the very foundations of the Christian church. Our society has forgotten and neglected its roots, and we've lost the Sabbath. Church has moved from the essential institution at society's hub to a blip on the weekend radar, wedged between hockey practice and the scratch-and-save sale at Sears.

If anyone can prove Jesus was married, there's no call for gnashing teeth and rending garments. My guess is that the PCC, at least, will honour the fact by adding marriage to our list of sacraments. We will strongly encourage all those who are so joined to treat each other as a sacred blessing, and the church will continue uninterrupted in its role as Christ's hands and feet, serving to bring good news and hope in this weary, war-tom world.

We live in the midst of surround-sound noise where we've opted to accept, even invite the bombardment of near-constant stimuli from TVs, cellphones, iPods. Our culture is one of rabid consumerism, egoist entitlement, video violence, cult of celebrity and seeking spiritual support from a Pilates mat. Secular media tell us we should be threatened and keep picking away at us, perhaps hoping we'll burst into tears and have a red-faced breakdown, crumbling under the weight of their trumped-up truths. Surely there are more important aspects of Jesus' earthly life, death and ongoing life that could and should deeply impact Canadian culture.

Miraculously, church culture survives. Of course we have our issues. We get into fits over the price of programs and forget their real value. We get tangled up in church court regulations and forget that the soul of God's law is grace. We panic over empty pews and forget we're called to go out. But that's how we know there is a God who loves and forgives us, because if mortals were entirely in charge, the church would have died centuries ago. Love, grace and truth are bigger than all our petty concerns.

Walk into virtually any Presbyterian church on a Sunday morning--it's familiar and comforting and lends a sense of belonging. Our bulletins are similar across the country, our committees and volunteers from coast to coast are doing similarly good works locally and globally, and you can't beat our potlucks for great people, great laughs and great food. We give our time and talents without expecting to be paid; we send cards and casseroles to convey love and concern; we collect clothing, shoes, glasses, loonies, books, sandwich fillings and furniture, all to give unconditionally to people we'll never meet across town, across the country, across an ocean. This is our culture; it's wonderful and worthwhile and springs from our collective desire to appreciate Christ's example, then go and do likewise.

What we' re about has substance, personal relevance and eternal meaning. There will always be new and better ways to get people's attention and tell the age-old gospel. Try them! There will always be new perspectives on our traditional definitions. Study them! But let's never do anything merely because it's popular or hip or gains us media coverage. We can be a positive voice and regain our place as a cultural norm in Canada only by remaining true to the Word, and by having the institutional integrity to do what is right by God's standards.

Rex. Jane Swatridge, formerly of fyi--for your inspiration urban ministry --is currently seeking a call.
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Author:Swatridge, Jane E.
Publication:Presbyterian Record
Date:May 1, 2007
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