Sunday, June 22, 2008

Multi-Cultural Gobblygook from Young "Fundamentalist"

Do you see this article (click for link) as representative of a Scriptural way of thinking? Jason Janz, recent former owner of online fundamentalist forum, SharperIron, wrote this as a guest commentary for the Denver Post. I guess that this fits one of the stated "core values" for the work that Janz has started in downtown Denver, that is, "Culturally Engaged"---he believes cultural engagement is a fundamental value of a church. You won't find that in Scripture unless you put it in. By that, from this article, here's a bit of what he says it is:
"I also believe that celebrating another culture will enrich your life. Learning about another culture will teach you much about your own."

"You cannot fully understand your own culture unless you understand others."

"At the same time, you will see the differences between your culture and African-American culture as unique gifts from God to make this city a beautiful place to live and work."
Cultural engagement is closely related to cultural diversity, diversity training, and multiculturalism. As much as Jason Janz may say cultural engagement looks for similarities, it has long been about finding and accepting the differences. At least you better accept the differences or there will be "racial tension." Not to endorse the Ayn Rand Institute, but it has given a very good definition of multiculturalism and reflects what I have heard it's chief spokemen to mean when they talk about celebrating and learning another culture:
In brief, multiculturalism is the view that all cultures, from that of a spirits-worshiping tribe to that of an advanced industrial civilization, are equal in value.
Jason Janz may not believe multiculturalism, but I think he is an intelligent man, so I think he knows what he is saying when he writes this piece for the promotion of this African-American celebration that his church (if it is a church as of yet) is sponsoring (and every church that is sponsoring him and his church). Just like him, I too would show up to the event, except with a handful of tracts to pass to the participants, welcoming them to the one and only Jesus Christ (a real, historic, and Jewish Person). We did the same thing at the Sikh parade in our area, that "celebrated" their "peace-loving" qualities.
Our church is racially diverse. The school that we operate is racially diverse. In our church, whites, Euros, or whatever you want to call them, are probably in the minority. In our school, caucasians make up 25% or less. We got that way by not trying to be that way. We got that way by not caring about it. We are not culturally diverse. We have and promote one culture. We believe that all culture is inferior to it and that is Godly Culture or Biblical Culture. Everything is to be judged by the Bible. The way to become racially diverse is by racial ambivalence. If you try to become racially diverse, you will conform to the world system. His article smacks of liberalism. The way to become racially diverse is to be no respecter of persons in your preaching of the gospel. God has one way of salvation and it is the same for every one. Sanctification is the same for every race too. So that covers everything.
What is black culture anyway? Is black culture really African culture? Aren't white and black just colors? Aren't we just talking about pigmentation? We have plenty of Eritreans and Ethiopians and Kenyans among American blacks in our school. We have had a South African in our school who was an African American. He was white. Our church has a black man from Paris, France, a black family from Eritrea, another from Kenya, and then several from the United States. I've found that the "culture" of black America is much different than that of black Africans who live in America. Some of what we're talking about with "black culture" isn't something that a Christian, black, red, yellow, or white, should appreciate, accept, or even tolerate. A lot of popular American culture is trash that every believer should reject.
No human culture has anything to contribute to our learning and understanding. Most of it is neutral and the rest of it is bad. Jason Janz may say that he knows that, but if he did, then he would also be saying that he is merely pandering to multiculturalists and black people who are tuned into multiculturalism in many cases for political gain. There are plenty of black people who don't cow-tow to the multicultural way (think Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, and Walter Williams). Hip-hop is black culture, for instance, and listen to what John McWhorter says about that (click on link). The aforementioned men themselves know that you don't help black people by catering to multiculturalism. I would hope that Janz would read something like Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington or the works of Booker T. Washington (concentrate on his Sunday night talks given to Tuskegee students after they got back working in churches all day Sunday) from some good local library to see that Washington, who by far represents a Scriptural way of thinking, saw the world far differently than the W. E. B. Dubois Harvardian ideas reflected in multiculturalism.
I can see other doey-eyed young fundamentalists whose brains have been softened by the modern media picture of race relations. They want to go to the inner city to "make a difference." It isn't as though they were the first people to think about the inner city. I've gone door-to-door through the neighborhoods that black people cringe at when I mention them. I still play basketball places where I'm outnumbered racially 35 to 1. Many others have gone ahead of me to the inner city. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. You don't go anywhere with race in mind. You go with the only saving message.
To God be the glory. God isn't glorified when we tolerate unscriptural activity. Aspects of African, European, American, Indian, and Asian culture must be repudiated with no uncertain terms. The goodness of God will lead them to repentance. They believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them who diligently seek Him. Paul said that race relations broke down in Christ. Preach Christ. Forget the racial stuff. When we are reconciled to God, we reconcile to one another. And if you happen to be in a place with a lot of races, don't make a big deal of it. It doesn't mean anything once you're in Christ.
Read this speech given in 2004 about the thing that Janz is encouraging---by a former Colorado governor.

24 comments:

Jason said...

I had to burst out laughing when you said you'd go to hand out tracts!! That is so right. Are you sure this is not a parody?!

Good work Jason Janz. Connect with your culture. Preach Christ.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Jason,

You have a way of breaking things down that really makes it understandable. "burst out laughing" and "Are you sure this is not a parody?!" Effective.

The last line, I don't get. Jason wasn't connecting with his culture, but with another culture. And he said nothing about "preaching Christ."

Is that a picture of Spurgeon next to you? He wasn't a guy who connected with the culture. He would preach the gospel. I can't understand why it would be important to you to attach yourself to Spurgeon; you don't come close to being like him. He would roll over in his grave, if possible, with the way you handle yourself. I do think John Piper would fit though. That's to be conservative. I was thinking better, Mark Driscoll.

Maybe sometime we can really discuss something more substantively instead of your drive-bys.

Jeff Voegtlin said...

Actually, Jason's picture is of D.L. Moody.

Jason said...

Yes, it's Moody. But it could just as well be Spurgeon. I have great respect for Spurgeon as a man, a leader, a preacher, and a theologian.

You've used the fallacy of either/or in your Spurgeon statement ("He wasn't a guy who connected with the culture. He would preach the gospel."). Spurgeon did both and I believe we ought to as well. And btw, if a comparison with John Piper was supposed to be an insult... lol... it wasn't. As Moody said to Spurgeon when invited to preach at the Tabernacle, "I should be honoured to black the boots" of either of these men.

Regarding the "drive by" comment, I don't think that was quite fair. I stick around in case any helpful discussion arises. Thing is, I have to laugh. The only other option is to cry or become very frustrated. Or I could remove your blog from my RSS feed, but as I mentioned earlier when I commented on the book you edited, I think you are doing a great service to Fundamentalism by clearly verbalising these types of views unashamedly and unapologetically. At least that way it's on the table and people can either swallow it or reject it. So that's why I keep an eye on what's happening here.

Regarding Jason Janz, I'm sure he can defend himself. But honestly, do you think this cultural involvement is completely divorced from his standing as a witness of the power of Christ in his life? I don't. I think he's getting out where his light will be visible and shining. I agree with you that there is great danger in doing this. It's very easy to come to desire the approval of those we intend to influence. But doing the right thing is never easy or safe or simple. It was never meant to be.

Grace to you.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Jason,

Thanks for parking this time.

I do think it was an either/or for Spurgeon. I think what you are talking about is the modern idea of contextualization and Spurgeon, who I've read a ton of, didn't go for that at all. He wouldn't have shown up at this meeting to rub shoulders with pagan culture. He would preach to them, which is what I would do. And I mean one-on-one conversationally. He definitely wouldn't have gotten his church involved with the politics. I would love to get one Spurgeon quote that would show that he would do any of this. I think I could find something just the opposite in about 20 minutes.

I knew that John Piper wouldn't be an insult to you. What Janz is doing I think Piper would do. Piper isn't a fundamentalist. Janz says he is. This is far different than the salt getting out of the saltshaker, but the salt losing its savor, its saltiness. He is going in and joining this endeavor that is soiled with all of the dirt that comes with human culture. Jesus went to the people but he didn't become like them to win them, and when he went, he didn't join, but confronted.

I recognize that Spurgeon had good things to say about Moody, but I think if Spurgeon were alive today and saw the direction that Keswick theology took the Scriptural view of sanctification, he would be different about it.


Regarding the preseration issue, have you read the debate over at Frank Turk's, q & a debate blog. I would be ashamed if I were on his side of things. I can't laugh at anything, even though his explanations could be considered a "joke," to put it in the vernacular.

The power of Christ would not move Jason Janz to associate himself with the other culture at the meeting, bu to separate from that culture. Jeremiah said, Learn not the way of the heathen. That would be the better tack about the culture. And I would say the same of Western culture or any other culture.

Grace that teaches to deny ungodliness and worldly lust.

Jason said...

Kent,

Why the jab? ("Thanks for parking **this time.**")

You say "He is going in and joining this endeavor that is soiled with all of the dirt that comes with human culture." I would argue that all human culture--even Fundamentalist church culture--is soiled and dirty simply because it is "human." In other words, "cultural engagement" involves being with people who are sinners and that shouldn't bother us too much since we know that we too are sinners.

Now you also said "Jesus went to the people but he didn't become like them to win them." The implication is that Janz is becoming like them to win them, but I don't see how that's inevitable. In your original post you say "No human culture has anything to contribute to our learning and understanding. Most of it is neutral and the rest of it is bad." From my perspective, that's an unbelievable statement. While I see much that is negative and neutral about American culture, I can also honestly say that there are some wonderful things that I can learn from American culture and I would hope that I wouldn't let my pride keep me from doing so. The same could be said about our culture. There is clearly a place for honouring that which is good, just, lovely, and of good report in a culture without necessarily endorsing every weakness of that culture.

Again, I wouldn't suggest that it's easy. Surely there will be a lot of pitfalls along the road, but I would be much more encouraged if your post had outlined some of those pitfalls and urged Janz to be cautious instead of nailing him for being culturally engaged.

Ultimately, you have created your own culture in your life, your home, and your church. And I'm sure sure your family and church members have mentioned it at times, but I'll remind you again that it's not perfect. It's human. In fact it's a culture of human sinners. The most common sins may be internal (pride, lust, etc.) instead of external (immorality, lying, etc.), but it is still a human culture of sinners... in whose lives the gospel is active and working.

That is the goal of cultural engagement. To be in the world, but not to be of it. To be actively, passionately living the gospel as we interact with a world that has rejected the Christ of the gospel.

Grace to you.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Jason,

No jab was intended; it was just a play on words w/"drive-by."

I knew that anyone reading my anti-multi-cultural essay would find that one statement, the one you quoted about everything bad or neutral, the most difficult to believe, but it actually comes from verses like: Romans 10:10-13; Psalm 39:5; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 7:18; and James 3:15.

Anything good is from above (James 1:17). I think we can learn something from each other, but it has nothing to do with anything that we have done, but what he has done. Sure, God can use all sorts of things to teach us. We judge everything by God's Word and only that which is "of God" profits anything. You hinted at that yourself when you said, we're in the world but not of the world. What I'm saying is that if it is "good," then it is "of God."

Our country once had the melting pot belief that said we had a superior culture and that all other cultures would melt into this one. The salad bowl mentality is relatively new and I believe there are Scriptural principles to say "no" to that. This has nothing to do with race. However, what Janz says in that article is buying into and then actually selling the idea of multiculturalism. I have no problem in mixing with people, but not anything like learning from other cultures so I can understand my culture. Culture in the most simple understanding is "a way of life." I believe that the only way of life is the one acceptable to God. All races and peoples should seek after that. We aren't going to find that way by mixing with multiple cultures.

It isn't found in cajun cooking, in Asian gardens, or tribal dances. That's why I ask, what is African? Is it the animism of Africa? Is it the nature worship? Is it worship of ancestors? Is it the pulsating, sensual rhythm of the African drum? None of these are anything that we want to come close to looking like we might embrace.

I don't consider myself a fundamentalist because I'm not interdenominational and I don't unify based on primary doctrines or essentials, which is what fundamentalists say their history is. They accept baby sprinkling. However, I have a strong sympathy toward fundamentalism because they say they believe in the doctrine of separation. Jason Janz is going against that with this article that he wrote. I'm pointing that out. I think fundamentalists should recognize that too. I'm not one, but he says he is one.

Regarding me creating my own culture, I am hopeful that I have a culture of grace and peace. You wrote "Grace to you," and that's the culture I want, one in which it is ruled by God. I live in the world, but not of it.

When I preach, I do preach to the internal sins. You can't preach through most of the Bible and not see that God is interested in who we really are. If you go to our church website, listen to the two sermons on Isaiah 58 that I just preached. God deals with the motives of Israel.

Thanks for coming over.

Jason said...

Kent,

Thanks for your response. I'm sure you do preach to the internal sins. My intent was not to question that at all. My point was simply that until we experience final glorification, we are all sinners and as such, whatever culture we create, no matter how closely that may be aligned with Scripture, our culture will always have weaknesses because it is the "way of life" of a bunch of sinners.

Regarding your statement about no good coming from culture, I think that reveals a problematic view of total depravity. Total depravity is not that man is incapable of anything lovely or of good report. A mother's love is an example of the common grace of God bestowed on creatures made in His image. Total depravity deals with the marring of the image of God in every aspect of man's being. In other words, there is much good to be learned from almost every culture. For instance, the Hispanic culture tends to have a strong community focus, something that is closer to the context the Bible was written in. African-American culture has a strong emphasis on passion and expression. General American culture has a strong emphasis on personal responsibility and character. Australian culture has a strong emphasis on personal relationships and realness. We can all learn from the strengths of other cultures.

You say "I believe that the only way of life is the one acceptable to God. All races and peoples should seek after that." This implies that all Christians should have the same culture. Do you really believe this? Having spent considerable time in American churches and considerable time in other cultures, I find the notion completely untenable. Of course there will be cultural things common to all Christians because of our common authority and faith; however, to suggest that there will be a single "Christian" culture is beyond comprehension to me.

As a side note, I think your statement that "[Fundamentalists] accept baby sprinkling" is inaccurate. I certainly don't and I know very few who do. I think an accurate statement would be "Fundamentalists accept some people who accept baby sprinkling."

Grace to you.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Jason,

Good seeing you again.

With complete respect, I anticipated the common grace answer, but it serves my point. It isn't human culture, which is what I'm arguing against, but God's grace that we judge as acceptable. Anything good comes from above to draw something akin to that thought from Scripture.

Having one culture doesn't mean that everyone is identical. We can eat different foods, dress in different colors, drive on a different side of the road, have an accent, use a different language, have some unique sense of humor, and still we are looking for that one culture, where Christ is preeminent in everything, and that affects everything.

It seems that ultimately you are relying on "what you see." I believe that there are churches that are different in a bad way because they have been affected by human culture. That is one difference from how people view the world. There are things of culture that some judge to be non-Scriptural that are full of meaning and contradict God and His way.

I had thought through what I wrote, so this is not some seat-of-the-pants defense. I anticipated the arguments against. I'm open to criticism here, but I would want to get a Scriptural contradiction to what I'm saying. You attempted that with the common grace argument, but I was already arguing for the goodness of God as seen in the image of God in man, the conscience, etc., which are there as a gift from God.

Bobby said...

Janz's pandering is gross.

Kent Brandenburg said...

By the way, Jason, I think it would be good for you to know that baby-sprinkling is not a deal-breaker to fundamentalists. Many fundamentalists are baby sprinklers. Many other fundamentalists don't break fellowship over that issue. Listen to Mark Minnick in the Dever interview and he point blank says that.

Jason said...

The point is, it's not about the source of the good. The fact is there is good and we can learn from it and it is wise and humble and proper that we should.

Your description of the one Christian culture is simply a redefinition of culture. In other words, you're saying we do all have different cultures, but some common values. That's fair enough. But it's not what you said.

Also, you said "I believe that there are churches that are different in a bad way because they have been affected by human culture." That would be all churches. Every church, yours included, has been affected by human culture in a bad way. That's not some crazy accusation. It's just obvious. Your church and mine are made up of sinners who are in the process of sanctification. Sure I can stand up in pride and make judgments about your church culture, but the fact is, I have some issues in my church culture too.

Grace to you.

Jason said...

Re: baby sprinkling, I don't think you understood what I said. I know that baby sprinkling is not a deal breaker for fundamentalists. It's not a deal breaker for me either. However, it is inaccurate to suggest that I agree with baby sprinkling. I don't. I'm completely against it. So are most Fundamentalists.

The point is that since we don't view it as a fundamental, we are willing to maintain fellowship with those who are for it under condition that it is not viewed as a means of saving grace, etc.

Bill Hardecker said...

Why is it that baptism isn't a deal-breaker within Fundamentalism?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hey Bill,

It isn't a deal breaker for fundamentalists for two or three reasons: 1) They are interdenominational; 2) BJU has baby sprinklers on faculty; 3) Most of them are universal church so they pick what's essential to break fellowship over, and baptism isn't one of them.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Jason,

Some culture from above is good. Being different doesn't make it good. And we do have some information about what makes certain cultures different, don't we? So we know they don't add to our lives. They will hurt lives. Condoning them clashes with God, the Gospel, and therefore evangelism. You don't choose to comment on that stuff though. That's fine, but you are still solar systems over the top with your "parody" charge made in your first comment.

Nothing coming from human culture is worthwhile unless it comes from God, which we can judge and say is good. That's my point. I think you get it.

Jason said...

Honestly, one of the biggest benefits of learning to respect other cultures is just in having to admit that someone else does it or sees it differently and maybe even some of how they do things and see things is *better.* That's humbling and that's mind-expanding. The first step toward objectivity is admitting our bias.

Regarding the "parody" thing, I didn't mean it as a "charge" or an attack. It just smacks of the thinking that every problem can be solved by some more soul-winning, a mentality that has been the cause of much damage in Fundamentalism. Please understand that I'm not accusing you of having that mentality, but was just pointing out that this particular comment seemed to hark back to that kind of thinking.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Jason,

I say everything with a kind of smile or grin or friendly look here, even if the rhetoric seems edgy. And I mean that all the way through; we've never talked in person, I don't think.

Anyway, I'm around different cultures all the time. Perhaps there are people that live fairly antiseptic lifestyles that never come into contact with anyone. I'm out there all the time, so it's not like I don't get to give a good look at what everyone is doing.

I respect what God said. I know other people have different languages. God did that (tower of Babel). They eat different foods. God created all those. They wear different colors. God made all those. There really is nothing to respect or disrespect there. I'm ambivalent. Hand me some salsa. Give me chopsticks. Pour me a bowl of Vietnamese pho. Give me the French-English dictionary. I can learn something there.

But that isn't what Jason Janz is doing! He is pushing multiculturalism. Do you know what that is? Some of what you said in the last comment sounds like it---its media driven---this language is new and it started with liberal socialists pushing their agenda through the media. I'm not looking for a better way. I've got the Bible; it's already proven by real evidence and it tells me what my culture is.

I live in the SF Bay area, the most culturally diverse play, perhaps, on earth. They love their multiculturalism. But these cultural things mean something. I may expand my mind to see if they're Scriptural and I grow in discernment, some ancillary benefits, but by now I've had a lot of time to judge and Asian culture is greatly influenced by the Eastern religions, African by what went on for centuries there, Indian by Hinduism, Middle Eastern by Islam. Do you get my drift?

You act like you don't get this. You seem to have a need to read some material on culture. I suggest the Christian Worldview series that was put out by Crosspoint. I'm not attempting to be condescending. Thanks.

By the way, readers, do you get what I'm saying? Other readers besides Jason. I know Bobby gets it, but others? Or is this too hot button because Jason Janz is involved and he's untouchable for some reason.

Kent Brandenburg said...

By the way, this also relates to methodology and the place of the gospel. Jason's thing smacks of contextualization. Israel contextualized in the OT. They got in touch with culture. God said, "Learn not the way of the heathen." And that included how they dressed, talked, etc. We are talking God's people and the Philistines here.

On top of this, African Americans are free. In certain ways, they're more free than me today. I don't mind explaining this if you need me to. But this thing of go to the celebration to stand in solidarity with them? That is the parody, by the way, Jason, if there is one. Solidarity against what? I've got three words: Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, Clarence Thomas. Most blacks don't like the last two. Why? Is that African?

The gospel doesn't get helped by standing in solidarity or soaking in white guilt over practices of ancestors. "I feel more guilty than you do." "No, I do!" "Do not!" It is wrong to give people the impression that this is "ministry." On top of that, you go and accomodate many, many unScriptural beliefs. And you also propagate the "I've been ripped off" mentality that doesn't help anyone.

Jason said...

I think I understand your drift. So does the fact that Asian cultures have been strongly influenced by Eastern religions mean that there is nothing you can learn from them? That they should all change to think like Americans or like your church culture does? Do you understand how that sounds to anyone who is not convinced that your particular brand of Christian, American culture is basically God's culture?

And I think I understand the issues at stake here. It would be one thing for you to caution Janz about the pitfalls in being involved in a cultural event like this. It is a far different thing to nail him to the wall and call it "Multi-Cultural Gobblygook."

I live in perhaps the most multi-cultural nation I've ever seen. I agree that multi-culturalism has some serious dangers and I am no advocate of multiculturalism. But what we're describing isn't pure multiculturalism. Multiculturalism denies the authority of Scripture over culture. As believers we can't insist that anything cultural is ok and to be respected because we understand that some cultural practices or ideas can violate God's Word. On the other hand, in a case where two or more cultures exist, it is not multiculturalism merely to celebrate one of those cultures and/or to seek to understand and learn from those cultures.

Again, it takes humility to admit that there are things we can learn from another culture, especially a culture against which, for legitimate or illegitimate reasons, we hold a particular resentment. And I wonder if that is not at the heart of the issue here.

Grace to you.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Jason,

Janz isn't meeting with an Asian church group or any church group. He as a pastor is getting together with "a" group and instructing to accept and learn from their culture. This is at the root of the problem. Let's say it was European culture and he was getting together in celebration of that. It would be the same thing.

I've been to a cultural celebration that was essentially all the cultures of a community. The town I live in the US is 50% Filipino-American. There's a lot of Filipino stuff in it. As a pastor, I don't associate our church with "Filipino culture." We have several Filipino-American families in our church.

Answer me some questions. What does Christian learn from secular culture? Any secular culture? What do they take from it and use?

There is lots of resentment in the world, fighting, warring, lusting (James 4:1-6). The lust of the flesh manifests some of that (Gal. 5). I don't know what a Christian could resent of any culture, however. From that standpoint, I don't get what you are talking about. What I think you are saying is that "resentment" must be motivating this whole post. I have no idea where you're coming from on that. I'm going to guess that we've got way more ethnicity in our church than any church you've ever been in your life. This is the kind of psycho-babble that enters into the modern toleration movement. We all need to get along, put down our differences, and hold hands on things. That isn't Scriptural unity. We come together based on the truth, not on toleration of someone else's "preferences." The barriers and walls drop based on conversion.

I reject Western culture too. It has degraded to something less than acceptable to a Christian.

There are two aspects at the "heart of the issue":
1) The gospel isn't aided by toleration as a methodology,
2) We aren't helping others by acccommodating the sinful aspects of their culture, but by separating from it (Eph. 5:11).

We don't see Spanish converted by standing in solidarity with them at cinco de mayo, strumming a guitar and dancing to salsa music.

In my opinion, we have reached an impasse on this, Jason.

Bill Hardecker said...

Mahusay! (Tagalog for "well" or "good") meaning good job. I am with you on this culture stuff.

Jason said...

I agree that further discussion is probably futile. It's not that there aren't good answers to the questions, but that we're not even talking on the same planet. Our paradigms for understanding the world around us and God's Word specifically are so vastly different that we can hardly communicate a thought to the other party effectively.

I've mentioned it before, but I think the real issue behind all of this has to do with epistemology and hermeneutics.

So, from my planet to yours, grace to you.

Anonymous said...

Kent,

FWIW, I am fairly certain that there are no longer any "infant baptizers" on faculty at BJU anymore. Those guys are all at Geneva Reformed Seminary (Faith Free Presbyterian Church in Greenville) as of 6-7 years ago. The BJU bookstore is another story :-).

Take care,

Mark