This is the second Adam. (No, not Jesus, although Adam might have a Messiah complex! Just kidding!) What I mean is this is Adam's second post. It's an insightful look into what it means to be a Christ follower in American culture. Enjoy!
I recently finished Niebuhr's Christ and Culture and am currently reading a new book, unChristian, which considers what Christianity's reputation is currently in young culture. In some ways, these two books are dealing with the same issues, the same issues that people have been dealing with since Noah stood alone before God as a righteous man, or perhaps even before that. More recently, Christ became the ultimate example of what it looks like when God interfaces with culture.
Some Christians, following their reading of Jesus, have chosen to distinguish themselves from their surroundings by taking the countercultural approach. In Niebuhr's terms, this paradigm is "Christ Against Culture," and their hero is Jesus the revolutionary. This is very much in vogue, as it is already in the larger culture. For example, Shrek is the counterculture of Disney and its modern retellings of popular fairy tales. The rise of the emo kid or the punk in contrast to the athletic jock is a victory for outsiders everywhere. In like fashion, some Christians have chosen to define themselves by what they're not. This is where unChristian chimes in its insights: the foremost concepts that come to mind when young culture thinks of the Christian faith are hypocritical, conversion-focused, antihomosexual, sheltered, too political, and judgmental. Predominantly, these concepts are negative and define Christians by what they're aren't, what they don't, or what they're against. So, if countercultural is the target, we certainly appear to be succeeding.
Yet, I challenge this belief that because Jesus was countercultural, we should be also. I am not saying Jesus was not countercultural. He certainly disregarded social norms, religious traditions, and governing powers in dramatic fashion. But Jesus was countercultural in relation to a specific culture in a specific time and a specific place. Yet, because culture is always changing, we do not face the same culture that Jesus did. Certainly there may be some parallels, but by and large our cultural landscape is far different—economically, socially, religiously, politically, you name it. That Jesus was countercultural in that Jewish-Roman culture means only that. To say that Jesus is always countercultural in all cultures at all times and in all places is to misunderstand what motivated his intentional and specific disregard for authority.
What motivated him is much more exciting than simply the prospect of having the reputation of being a rebel.