Saturday, March 15, 2008

A World Without Cool

Ever been enticed to keep up with the latest "cool" thing? Ever had a child worry about whether their clothes, or more critically, their presence at some event, would come across as "cool" or not? Of course you have. Ever had your church feel the pressure to imitate the latest "cool" event another church has? We live in an ever-changing world of "cool-ness," that keeps us unsettled, unsatisfied, unhappy, and always looking for what's out there. It's a climate perfect for those ready to market and sell us on the next best thing.

The other day I read Ariah Fine's blogpost This Is How It All Begins about Adbusters Magazine
and their "anti-cool" issue. His post shows an ad with the following quote:
“I want to live in a world where nothing is cool, where things actually are as they appear. That would be extraordinary. I want food and a living environment
that are not part of some suit’s strategic vision. Cool has betrayed all of us. I want reality.” - Jessica Masse, Maine, USA
I'm sure the reality Jessica wants is not the stuff of made-for-TV reality shows. But what is it? Is it the non-packaged, or marketed, authenticity of life? How can the church offer its authenticity in a commercialized world of "cool-ness?" And, more importantly, does the church remember how to offer the message of redemption in a world without cool?

The church was not designed for a “consumer” oriented world. Ever since we basically allowed ourselves to be defined as consumers, it has required an adaptation to make the relationships and nature of the church apply. Some churches have done well, finding ways to make trade-offs, and sometimes force-fitting the life of faith into the world of the market. They continually keep up with cool, and they have enjoyed acclaimed success for their efforts.

There's a large group of churches that are so turned-inward that they pay little heed to relating to the world. And then there are a few who circle up the wagons and see themselves as an alternative to the world. They define themselves by exclusiveness.

I think most, however, fall in between the extremes, not sure how much to adapt, or how much to compromise, and end up simply looking for something that “works.” They don't expect to lead the way in the church coolness factor, but they do like to show up at the party. So we try to relate to the world by keeping up with the latest jargon, incorporating the latest visuals and songs in worship, going for the trendiest materials from the publishing houses, and doing whatever else we can think of to show the world we're trying to reach that "we're players in the game (of coolness.)"

You think I jest? In just about any town you can find homes where the family chose to join a certain church because it's the coolest one in town. They like having the church's logo on their car and clothing, to show others they know how to be at the "right" place. Nothing wrong with them enjoying the cool events being offered, but you quickly get the feeling that church is just another piece in the family's/individual's "coolness" ensemble.

So, what would "church" look like in a world without "cool?" What would happen if we determined to relate to the world through service rather than trends? What if we put down the cool, and took up the cross?

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