the world’s got cooties! get it off! get it off!

November 29, 2010

Thankfully, the majority of the five boys under my roof still think, at least to some degree, that girls have cooties.  I’m all for it.

The day will soon be upon me when their vision will be transformed.  Girls will no longer be mystifying, unexplainable… weirdos.  They will soon become equally mystifying and unexplainable… yet irresistibly appealing.  Such is the way of the world, I suppose.

Achhh!  The world! Culture and the flesh… partnering up again to infect the innocent.  My boys’ upcoming hormonal hurricane is just another stroke in the case against this world and all of its carnality and rottenness.  Wouldn’t it just be EASIER if my boys thought girls had cooties… right up until they say “I Do”?

There is a growing movement in the Christian community… a sub-culture within the sub-culture. It is family focused, protectionist, and isolationist.  And it tends to view the world around us as if it has cooties.  Only these cooties have real spiritual power, and once they take root in a believer, they spread like a cancer.  Sucking the spiritual life out of a person with small temptations that lead to moderate indiscretions and overlooked compromises, which easily turn into large scale sin problems, which will eventually grow into full blown apostasy.  Beware the power of this cultural leaven, which is sure to tarnish the whole loaf.  Beware the corruption of culture. The world has cooties, and these bad boys are Ebola to the soul.

So, for protection of the family, Christians don a HAZMAT suit of their own construction, finding support in the Bible for keeping the culture at arm’s length.

What does this cultural HAZMAT suit look like? Kids are home schooled.  Kids are often not allowed to attend a church Sunday School or Youth Group because of the influence of the unregenerate hooligans who attend.  Besides, the spiritual instruction of the children is a PARENT’S responsibility, anyway…  not to be left in the hands of another believer who may or may not share the same scriptural convictions.  In fact, many families are actually deciding against participation in an organized congregation with traditional pastoral leadership, opting instead for home church, led by dad… or maybe shared leadership with a few other like-minded families.  TV, movies, music, etc. are closely monitored for signs of cultural cootie-ness.  And life centers on and revolves around the godly home – the family. Children are “trained up in the way they should go,” and a healthy concern for cultural contamination is modeled and reinforced.

Here’s an honest moment for you… that sounds AWESOME.  We actually DO home-school our kids (for a number of reasons), and I LOVE my family.  So I would love to hunker down with them and make my boys and my bride our primary platform for Christian fellowship.  I hate the effect of sin on our culture, and it breaks my heart to see my boys’ innocence lost as we have to help them understand murder, lust, greed, perversion…  My kids light my world – and so does Amy.  If I could pull it off somehow, I recognize the draw of the HAZMAT suit. I wish… often… that I could more adequately shield my family from the cooties of the world.

Can you understand, from a Christian point of view, why this isolationism has appeal and is gaining steam?  Doesn’t it make sense in this perverse culture not to “conform to the pattern of this world” (Romans 12:2) and to “go out from their midst and be separate from them?”  (2 Corinthians 6:17)

In other words… to be OUT OF the world, and NOT OF it.

BUT...  (and this is a BIG “but…”)

Honest question:  is the culture our enemy?

Should we circle the wagons and don the HAZMAT suit and protect our kids from a case of the cancerous culture cooties at the cost of cultural engagement?

I can’t answer that question for you.  I have good friends who have gone the isolationist way.  I know families – good families – who love the Lord and are doing their best to honor him by reflecting a DIFFERENT way of life – a separate and distinct, transformed life with their family.  BUT…

I have some significant concern as I see this trend growing – gaining strength – a movement away from not only culture, but even from organized church fellowship in many cases.  I see intentional disengagement from the world we live in, with all of its hurt and need.  And lost people.  Dying people.  Damned people.

With humility, I submit we take our cue from Jesus Himself on this issue.  He did not come to condemn the world (John 3:17) – and his harshest words were not for the culture around him.  Christ came as a transformer of culture.  He came as a Redeemer – literally to “buy back” from the tyranny of slavery the souls of dying men and women in His culture and in ours.  Jesus didn’t endorse or participate in a separatist lifestyle.  Instead he used positive illustrations from culture as parables.  He participated in His culture, engaging it, and shining a light into its dark corners.  In His last hour of freedom before being captured and taken to his death, Jesus prayed in John 17 for ALL believers… both then and now.  And what was that prayer?

“Not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.”

Like I said before, it is not my place to choose for you how to live out your faith.  But I submit this for consideration… CULTURE is not our enemy. Sin is.  Satan is.  I see culture as a theater in which God’s glory can be displayed – to both the redeemed and the resistant.  Instead of being OUT OF and NOT OF the world, maybe we are called to be IN, but NOT OF…  Maybe in order to be salt and light, we need to rub shoulders with the needy people in dark places.  If not us, who will go? Culture is a minefield.  It is dangerous, without question.

I submit that we need to embrace the danger inherent in engaging our culture, for the sake of the Gospel.  And instead of relying on the safety of a subculture to protect us or our children, let’s echo and trust Jesus’ prayer on our behalf.  No more HAZMAT suit.  No more cooties.  Our family will be a redemptive force in the lives of those we rub shoulders with on purpose.

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Psalm 24:7 & Luke 10:42 >> Like David, and Mary, I'm in pursuit of my one thing. I'm the Pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Pastor, teacher, writer, communicator, designer, and drummer. I definitely got the better deal in my marriage to Amy. And I couldn't be any more proud of my five amazing boys. Deeply grateful.

20 responses to the world’s got cooties! get it off! get it off!

  1. Josh, this is an excellent post. Thank you for being so bold and speaking out.

    • Thanks Rachel. I know this is a personal decision – how to live out one’s faith and how to raise a family. I won’t pretend to try to change minds with one blog post. But I think it is good to consider our level of involvement with culture – prayerfully, and purposefully. Love your family, Rach. God bless you all – keep shining bright and be courageous!

  2. speaking from personal experience (and giving an endorsement to the Amish here) – I’m all for families giving their kids a chance to see the culture – one cannot adequately reject something unless they know what it is, and if they aren’t exposed to it to some degree as youngsters, like isolationists not exposed to the latest cold or bug, I tend to think they run the risk of falling later when the choices and lifestyles chosen for them fail to deliver at a key moment.

    That makes no sense – but I have a cold


    • Actually Russ, it does make some sense. I want my kids to see me dealing with people I disagree with in love. And I don’t want them to think relationship building with non-Christians is something to be avoided. The OPPOSITE is true! So we’ll walk that tightrope… exposure with protection. Other than prayer, and biblical instruction, my best defense will be open communication lines. So far so good… but my oldest is only 12, so we’ll see how that goes in the next few years. I expect it will go well. 🙂

  3. Josh you spoke so boldly what my heart has been so troubled by lately. Thank you for
    Sharing!!! I can’t thank you enough!!!

    • Thanks for the encouragement Julie. Every good idea has the potential to be misapplied, or twisted into something it was never meant to be. I think ideologies are refined and strengthened when we continually press against them with scriptural principles. I hope on this one we can all learn to discern baby from bathwater. I’m all for STRONG families – and even a healthy dose of “sheltering” as our children are shaping their ideas about God and the world… but there comes a time to engage, and risk.

      Bless you guys, and thanks again!

  4. To quote Geoff Moore…”Got a Christian car and a Christan school got a Christian Code-a-phone, and if people don’t like it they can just leave me alone…Go to the moon!”

    We can’t teach our kids to fear the mission field. We need to teach them discernment- and exercise the same.

    Where to draw lines? Don’t watch the Victoria’s Secret “fashion show” with your kids, and don’t send your first grader off to minister to a trained secular humanist teacher. But after that, use some Godly discretion and live robustly and boldly in- not of- the world.

    • Yes – preach it brother Wade! I would just suggest we both drop “with your kids” as a qualifier on the Victoria’s Secret fashion show ban. No qualifier is necessary to keep it OUT of our house. 🙂

      This I love: “Use some Godly discretion and live ROBUSTLY and BOLDLY in – not of – the world.” Absolutely yes. Bless you and the family and Living Word Church! I love hearing from you – every time.

  5. Amen! Amen! … from the Monseth Men of St. Michael!

    • I LOVE those St. Micheal Monseth Men! You guys are living out your faith with conviction, consistency, and without the HAZMAT suit. You guys are a HUGE encouragement to the Skogerboe Men of Plymouth! Between and through the 12 of us men, I’m praying that our King makes a significant Kingdom-advancing change in the world! IN but not OF! Soli deo gloria, boys. 🙂

  6. I really appreciate this post! I’ve experienced a taste of both worlds in the transition from attending a public high school to a private Bible school. Now that I’ve entered the world of church planting and working part time in a secular environment, I’m learning the importance of balancing both worlds: becoming friends with my non-Christian co-workers while also being actively involved in my church family.
    You can’t make disciples out of disciples… Making disciples requires investing in people who don’t know the Lord. It’s tough, and it’s not always fun, but it’s what Jesus has called us to do, and I believe Him when He says it’s worth it 🙂
    Thanks for this challenging and thought provoking post!

    • Steph – thanks a ton for checking in here. I can relate to you in many ways. Coming out of a public High School (20 years ago now) I went straight into a Bible School environment for 2 years. Then a Christian College. Began working in ministry, which I’ve done for 16 or 17 years now. Full time until this last July… and now I’m in Seminary full time and still working as paid staff in my church. That’s A LOT of Christian environment sauce right there. Also, we made the move to home schooling our 4 oldest boys last year, and we’re totally LOVING it. So for me – for us – we haver to be intentional about staying connected to the souls around us, and stay engaged in this culture on purpose. I’m not talking about listening to Jay-Z or watching the Saw movie series to stay culturally relevant. Just… up to speed and in conversation with unbelieving neighbors about their real life. I think you’ve got a great perspective on this, Steph. Because at the end of the day, what has Jesus called us to do? MAKE DISCIPLES, love people extravagantly, and love God with abandon. That means getting to know – and love – some of those hard-to-love sinners you work with and live next to. Me, too. 🙂

      God bless, Steph! Thanks again for contributing to the conversation.

  7. “Maybe in order to be salt and light, we need to rub shoulders with the needy people in dark places.”

    This sounds so much like what Jesus DID in His time on earth that I couldn’t help but comment on it. 🙂 Great way to put it.

    ” I know families – good families – who love the Lord and are doing their best to honor him by reflecting a DIFFERENT way of life – a separate and distinct, transformed life with their family.”

    Tyrants with good intentions. And hearts that want to honor God. And honestly, a separate and distinct life is not always bad nor is it wrong. But when you see believers who not only refuse to stoop to loving non-believers but also refuse to associate with the “wrong kind” of believer then you have a huge problem.

    I agree that a “different” kind of life is something that will, just naturally, distinguish believers from others. But what shows that difference? Clothing? Educational choices? Family integrated churching? Finding all the nuanced details of what exactly you think God has to say about every detail of your life and then living it out and forcing it on others?

    If you think those things make you “different” in a godly way, that leads to problems. That “different” kind of life is just self-righteousness dressed up to look godly. Good intentions and a heart for God don’t make it better. It’s not the Spirit’s fruit, but fruit of our desire to control our own Christianity, our own “godliness,” our own sanctification.

    Your last paragraph said it perfectly. 🙂

    • Hi Rachel. Thanks for the kind words and for digging into this stuff. I sense some emotion and conviction in your comment. I know how personal this subject matter is. I’m trying to walk that tightrope – in the place where the best results are born in tension between two competing good ideals. To humbly but confidently take a stand for something in the tug of war between piety and freedom, protection of the family and cultural impact. It is not an easy, clear-cut road.

      I guess I’m calling attention to issues of shades and degrees here. It’s a challenge to be clear without painting with too broad a brush and without swinging my judgment hammer.

      In many cases of this isolationist movement, I’d agree with you that the danger of self-righteousness runs high. Of course, on the other hand, those who celebrate their freedom in Christ run the danger of slipping from grateful freedom into careless licence. We live in the tension of being redeemed saints and still working out our faith daily.

      My concern in this post is for those on the far edges, sequestering their family to the degree that they are really no longer “in the world” to any meaningful, intentional degree. I also think you have a point in highlighting the potential for self-righteousness as believers lean more and more on a carefully constructed system of rules and a smaller and smaller unit of fellowship with only the most like-minded of believers as protective measures against the corrupting influence of the sinful world. That kind of rigidity is what Paul was speaking to in Galatians chapter 5…

      “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

      Culture is NOT the enemy. Pray, live boldly, and love intentionally. That’s my challenge.

      God bless you, friend. Grace, peace, and deep joy to you and your family. 🙂

  8. Jesus’ imperative wasn’t, “Go build your bunker and don your hazmat suit!” It was, “Therefore, Go, and make disciples of all nations.” The Pharisees hunkered down. Where are they? If the early church had decided to suit up and stay home where would we be?

  9. Well, I should just add my two cents too! First of all, about 9 years ago I started building a bubble in my backyard where I planned to put my 9 year old daughter, however my Home Owners Association wouldn’t approve it, so here we are living “in the world.” 🙂

    My life has been filled with many non-believers. My family and friends range from flat out heathens to born again Christians and everything in between. As the born again Christian in my family I can say that I am constantly focusing on the importance of building a strong spiritual foundation in my daughter (and myself), while teaching her the importance of loving those people in our lives who do not share the same beliefs as we do. In addition, I want my daughter and I to live out our faith so as others will see that we are set apart and different – different and intriguing. Appealing! Hip! Cool! Fun! Our family and friends know exactly where we stand. We could not make this sort of impression if we lived a secluded life away from the people we know and love simply because we didn’t want their worldly cooties.

    In terms of children growing up in the world. I believe I would be doing my child a disservice if I trained her up in a hazmat mentality. That’s just not realistic. Sooner or later our children will be faced with the ugliness that continues to consume our culture. This is a battle that I want my daughter to be prepared for! I believe it is my responsibility to EMPOWER HER to be strong in her faith so that when faced with the temptations of the world she can make the right decisions regardless of the influences around her. I realize this is potentially idealistic thinking, however it certainly is a step in the direction of setting her up for success! I also feel that in order for my daughter to be a light to the world she must be connected with the positive elements of our culture. Guess what? There is really cool Christian music out there that you can dance around in your kitchen to! There are secular music/movies/books that are positive and encouraging! I want my daughter to be able to watch a TV show, hear a song on the radio, or read a book and be able to discern for herself if this is information she should be allowing into her mind. She will need to learn how to guard her own heart and mind. She won’t learn how to do that stuck in a bubble in my backyard. I want her to be able to relate to the world so that others can relate to her. They will see that she is different and others will want to know what she’s got – JESUS. She will be an example of an amazing young woman who has a heart for God, AND is the hippest and coolest Christian chick out there! She will be set apart from the women of the world who are striving to fit the Victoria Secret model mold. Just thought I would throw that reference in there. Great post Josh!! Of course.

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