Failing Faith by Wade Bearden, Free for CAPC Members
In Failing Faith, Wade Bearden invites us into his life so that we might find a faith that can hold up under the weight of real-world realities.
Every Tuesday in The Kiddy Pool, Erin Newcomb confronts one of many issues that parents must deal with related to popular culture.
This past Easter weekend, my husband and I organized our third annual egg hunt. We gather a group of our friends and our children’s friends together at a local park, hunt for eggs, and spend some time playing. One of the reasons this is the third go-round is that I love hosting this event. I love the planning (and, yes, sometimes the color-coding) involved and I feel thankful and joyful to do something nice for people we love. Our elder daughter helped a lot with the preparations this year, and we spoke with her about why and how we serve others; that being blessed, we try to bless other people and that feeling joy, we strive to share our joy.
I know that there are readers who object to the secularity of Easter eggs, and I understand those concerns, too. I make no effort to connect the bunnies and chicks of a secular Easter celebration to our rejoicing in the risen Christ. For us, they are separate, just like my children know the story of Santa but don’t think he visits our house or provides the reason for Christmas. My point is that living in a secular culture, people of faith must always decide how and to what extent we engage with the profane. It’s not a new conflict. It resonates with the existence of Christ and Pop Culture, and it’s covered more extensively and eloquently than I can do here by H. Richard Niebuhr in Christ and Culture.
What I want to do here is outline some of the ways that my husband and I think through these conflicts, the process we use to determine the logistics of our relationship with culture. There is, of course, the Holy Spirit, whom we rely on to give us wisdom whenever we lack (and that’s most of time). When my husband and I talked about how to organize this event for many children of different ages, we joked about what a “Christian” egg hunt might look like. Mine ended up with a decidedly socialist bent because I wanted the children to emerge with roughly equal number of eggs; so I set a cap and asked them to be kind to each other. It worked beautifully. I wondered if it might be more Christian to find as many eggs for each kid and then share, as a kind of tithing, but my husband suggested perhaps a more apt model would be working as a single team.
Either way, I don’t recommend searching the internet for tips on how to organize an egg hunt, because you’ll come across a lot of folks who endorse a level of greed and competition that I can’t condone. I’m not an “everyone gets a medal” kind of parent, but I also don’t think everything needs to be a competition. My goal was fun, and I was proud of the way the kids helped each other and showed kindness to one another. We wondered if the most “Christian” egg hunt would be to hide only one egg and divide it among the whole town, but neither of us possesses those abilities. And while obviously these examples are tongue-in-cheek, we could see the ways that forcing something secular to be something religious doesn’t work.
What, then, ought our criteria to be? We realize that we would not celebrate Easter with my family at all if we refused all secular engagement with the holiday, and we don’t think that shunning people who don’t share our belief system (especially people we profess to love!) is holy. So is it possible, then, to participate in secular traditions of religious holidays without compromising our beliefs? I know I can’t answer this question for everyone or for every case, which is why I return again and again to the moving of the Spirit and a hermeneutics based on the fruits of the Spirit. Is this loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled?
Yes, I think so. And I’m comfortable with that decision for now and the idea that it might not hold forever. Maybe there will come a day when one of the ways I engage with popular culture no longer feels acceptable to me. Maybe it will be an egg hunt, and maybe it will be something else. I wonder, ultimately, if it’s not really even about egg hunts—to hunt or not to hunt—but about the motives in our hearts and the opportunities we have for glorifying God. And so I hope, and hope to teach my daughters, that, yes, it matters how we relate to culture and what relationship we cultivate between the sacred and the profane. But it matters too how we bless the times and the communities in which we are called to serve; and that, to me, seems the fundamental crux of a Christian to culture: we are heaven-bound but earth-minded, earth-bound but heaven-minded.
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