The discipleship of my early 20’s fed on a steady diet of cultural critique. “The culture” was watermark by which I measured the church’s mission and my own integrity, and that measurement needed to exceed or oppose or supplant everything I deemed to be “cultural.” I fashioned myself counter-cultural.
The culture was relativistic. I championed truth.
The culture sought pleasure. I sought restraint.
The culture rewarded individualism. I cultivated community.
Of course, what I’ve learned since then is that there is no such thing as “the culture.” Instead, we live in a bazaar of cultures, where churches, parachurch ministries, and individual Christians are all taking part in various elements of multiple cultures, advancing their values, all the time.
I am the culture. My discipleship, my vocation, demands a counter-cultural posture, I still believe. Only now I suspect I need to be more specific about which culture I’m countering, perhaps even which values of which culture. And then I need to own all the other ways in which “the culture” is my friend and ally.
Because if “the culture” doesn’t exist, then neither does “the counterculture.”