Archives For Culture

Here’s an article I wrote for the Christian Century Magazine, reviewing James KA Smith’s new book Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology. Here’s a snatch of it:

It’s not that Christian engagement with culture fails to result in transformation. It’s that Christians often are the ones who are transformed as the culture, controlled by the enemy, baptizes them through its own liturgies of false worship and disordered love…


Formed by the loves of the earthly city, we infiltrate the heavenly city’s outpost, where we, as culture crusaders, transform the church. This explains theologically what I’ve intuited as a workaday pastor: Christians’ primary loves and convictions are not formed by the church. Instead, secular liturgies, which are both omnipresent and effective, form the primary loves and convictions that Christians then bring with them to church…


People select churches based on the convictions in which the culture has already formed them. Those formed primarily by the liturgy of the flag will choose a Southern Baptist church where they know their values will be mirrored, while those formed primarily by the liturgy of individualism will opt for a mainline church where they know inclusiveness will be a shared value. We choose churches the same way we choose political parties. This is why so many Christians know so few Christians who disagree with them. It’s why our ecclesial culture so neatly replicates the polarization in our wider culture. And it’s why so few mainline pastors thought it odd that, when the Festival of Homi­letics was held in D.C. this year, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker spoke but no Republican politicians did…


Full disclosure: I’m a card-carrying member of the Hauerwas mafia. I’m moved by his vision of the church forming Christians into a contrast community. But I’m also sufficiently appreciative of Smith’s work to concede a point that he doesn’t make explicitly but that necessarily follows from his work: we the church are not anywhere near sufficiently forming Christians to achieve either Kuyper’s or Hauerwas’s proposal for public theology. We’re playing chaplain and cheerleader to people whose faith is being formed elsewhere, shaped by another who just might be the enemy.

Click over to read the rest. Here’s the link:

Andy Crouch in his book, Culture Making, argues that the early Christians transformed their culture and eventually the world by converting those in their society who were at the top of culture, the culture-makers. Artists and writers and leaders. With the notable exceptions of the Catholic Church and some emergent churches, this effort to reach culture-creators has largely been abandoned by the Church.

We’ve got contemporary Christian music, which is largely pop imitation of other bad pop music. We’ve got our own Christian book and film industries which primarily create content for Christians by Christians.

We don’t have an intentional reach to those you’d about in the Arts section of the NY Times, but they are the ones who presently creating what will be mainstream/pop down the road.

So, I’ve taken Crouch to heart and want to make a deliberate push to the artists in our community and region.

Submit me a tattoo design based on one of the Stations of the Cross passages below. I’ll get a jury of 1 professional artist, a pastor, and a lay person to judge them. ‘First prize’ will win $500 and the honor of me getting your image tattooed on me during Holy Week. 

All of the submissions will be a part of our Stations of the Cross exhibit that will be open to the church and community during Holy Week 2013.

Submit to: 

More Information at

If you got an artist in the family, if you got skills, if you’re a teacher and want to pass this on to students, if you’re a pastor and have someone in your congregation that might like to participate, if you know someone who doesn’t consider themselves a Christian but might like to try this…please pass this on.

Here are details from the flyer:

Rev Jason Micheli of Aldersgate United Methodist Church invites artists and students in the region to create an original illustration of one of the traditional scenes of the Stations of the Cross.

The Stations of the Cross, also known as the Way of Sorrows, are the ancient way Christians have reflected and meditated upon human sin and Jesus’ sufferings during the weeks leading up to Easter.

Each ‘station’ is an image from the story of Christ’s Passion as told in the Gospels.

From the inception of the church, visual art has been used to help depict and understand the passion. The images submitted will be part of that legacy as Aldersgate and the surrounding

community will use them as part of their Holy Week devotion.

The designs will be juried. Top Prize: $500.00

And Rev Jason Micheli, will get your design tattooed on himself during Holy Week. Members of the Aldersgate community will also participate in getting tattoos selected by our juror.

To participate…. Deadline: February 15

Station 1- Wash (John 13)

The night he’s betrayed Jesus takes off his robe, takes on the role of a servant and washes his friends’ dirty feet. It’s a symbolic action showing how God has taken off his divinity and come to us as a servant, Jesus. What it means to follow him, Jesus says, is for us to wash one another’s feet. To serve.

Station 2- Pray (Mark 14.32-42)

In the Garden, knowing his ‘hour’ of suffering/glory is fast approaching, Jesus prays to God to move this ‘cup’ from him; that is, to move Jesus off the path of suffering. The fear, alienation and sorrow Jesus experiences in the Garden is meant to evoke the experience we all share apart from God.

Station 3- Betray (Mark 14.43-52)

Jesus is betrayed by his friend Judas. He’s betrayed by a kiss for a token amount

of money.

Station 4- Put It Away (Luke 22.47-53)

When the soldiers come to arrest Jesus, Peter, a disciple, pulls out a sword and attacks them. Having already taught his followers that ‘blessed are the peacemakers; Jesus tells Peter to put away the sword.

Station 5 – Deny (Luke 22.54-71)

As predicted by Jesus, Peter denies ever even knowing Jesus. Denies him three times as the rooster crows.

Station 6 – Crown (Mark 15)

Not matching our expected notions of power or majesty, Jesus is mocked,

scourged and crowned with thorns.

Station 7 – Carry (Luke 23)

Beaten and forced to carry his cross to his place of execution, Jesus is helped by a bystander in the crowd. Simon of Cyrene carries Jesus’ cross while the crowd hurls insults at him.

Station 8 – Forgive (Luke 23)

Jesus is crucified, but as he dies on the cross he prays that God forgive his

enemies for ‘they know not what they do.’

Station 9 – Promise (Luke 23)

Jesus promises heaven to a guilty thief who is being crucified on the cross next to him.

Station 10 – Rise (John 20.24-29)

Jesus rises on the third day and invites Thomas, who still doubts it’s Jesus, to touch his wounds for proof.

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