Thursday, December 15, 2011

Baked Ham for a Blog Carnival.

So I while back I was conversing with this crazy person from Montana that I know. He had this goofy idea that a bunch of us who write blogs ought to pick a topic and all write about it. That would be the genesis behind this particular post. Once all of the other bloggers have completed this task, we will link up each other's various sights to our on. (So you may very well have to come back to this post down the road to see the other links.)

For the record, the subject is loosely based on "Unconscious Cultural Assumptions." Which is a fancy way of saying "We've always done it like it must be right."

So here goes...

Stop me if you've heard this story before: A young wife is going to bake her first ham for Easter Dinner. She asks her mom for advice on what to do. Her mother gives her a great recipe, and then reminds her to cut 2 inches off the end of the ham. The daughter asks her mom why she should cut off the end by two inches. The mom explains that this is what her own mother taught her to do. "We always do it like that," she tells the younger. "It's the right way to cook the ham." So new wife calls up Grandma to ask why she should cut off the end portion. Grandma explains, "It's the right way to cook the ham, dearie. We've always done it this way." Granny concludes with, "It's how my mother taught me to do it." So, new wife heads over to the nursing home to commune with Great-Grandma about this puzzlement. In between gulps of prune juice from a cup & oxygen from a mask, Great-Grandma simply states; "I had to cut two inches off from the ham because the pan was too short."


And so it is with all of us. We are all products of our environment, culture, family and upbringing. We make assumptions about "Truth" based on a many layered foundation that we rarely think about. A good deal of the time, this "Truth" might not actually be true at all...or at best, partially true or even merely "Functional" and expedient. In fact, even if it is working at the moment, it might be a very short-term "Truth" because it is only relevant to the immediate circumstances.

I'm a Believer. I follow Jesus. More often then not, I'm probably fairly lousy at following him. Still, he is the one I long to be with. I'm guessing that not everyone in on this blog carnival comes from this perspective, but this is my particular world view. So...

I see these "Unconscious Cultural Assumptions" at work in the American church all of the time. In fact, one of my main beefs with the American church is how it has largely been co-opted by the culture at large. "Neo-Paganism" is my own coined term it. (Gotta get that copy written one of these days.) For some odd reason, we seem to think that representative democracy & capitalism are Jesus' preferred & blessed forms of being. They may in fact BE a better form of government than North Korea's, and a better way of creating a decent economy for the society at large. But that hardly makes it biblical. In fact, I will bet you $10 right now that the average American christian only believes this because he/she has never experienced any other form. "We've always done it like this"...ergo; "It's the right thing to do."

My contention is that current American Evangelicalism has been hijacked by secular political forces. (Mostly, but not exclusively, from the Right.) We see a painting of George Washington praying in the snow and we assume that he would sign the statement of faith for students at Bethel University or Northwestern College. We listen to a candidate drop the "Jesus" word in his advertisement and we may begin to think that he/she is god's anointed candidate. (That and the fact that he is not a secret Muslim who was actually born in Kenya.) We make assumptions about this "Christian" country based on "Manifest Destiny" and other types of cultural mythology. And because that worked at the time, we then layer on further assumptions that stand on top of the previous ones. The next thing you know, what ever American stands for Jesus does too...even if the particular issue directly contradicts the bible. The end result is that if you criticize this country, you are somehow less godly or a not a "Christian" at all.

Oddly enough, Jesus was surprisingly silent about ballot initiatives. Nor did he have a great deal to say about Capitalism, Socialism, Collectivism, Mercantilism and so forth. He did, however, say crazy things like; "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (Matt. 25:40) Also, he did mention on a couple of occasions that when his kingdom was finally established, it was most likely not going to be a democracy, but instead something along the lines of a divine-right, absolute monarchy. (But that could just be my editorializing.)

When I listen to guys like Rev. James Kennedy and Pat Robertson...and Jerry Falwell before them, I often wonder what would happen if they were to be dropped off in a foreign land for an extended period. Would they still even know what a "Christian" was, or how to be one? (I mean, how could one possibly live in Canada and love Jesus?)

There is nothing unique about the American church doing this. Every nation before it that claimed to be a "Christian" nation did the very same things. The same could be said of much of the theology and biblical understandings that are at work in the American church. We take it as given and for granted that whatever position we hold is the right one. Often it is. However, because we are prone to being "Religious," which is a fancy way of saying that we are always trying to earn our grace and be self-righteousness, we often take things way out of context. (I'm big on Context.) We assume they are true because that's what we have grown up with.

I'm neither a Calvinist nor an Arminian, but I like to tease hard-core "Calvis" at bit when they get up in arms about their position as being the only proper and obvious one. They will claim that their theology is based on the unchanging, infallible, inerrant, inspired Word of God. I like to remind them that Christianity didn't figure that out until the 16th century, and had merrily existed for 1500 years before that. I then like to ask them how people knew they were following Jesus before that if they didn't have the proper "Head Knowledge?" (I usually get some confused looks after that.)


We all have these bags that often need to be unpacked when we talk to each other. Because of these unconscious assumptions we can often be speaking the same language, but mean very different things. I know that I can certainly be a big dope and speak with certainty about issues, not realizing that my sage & wise knowledge is based upon previous experiences that I haven't fully thought through.

When we do things like that...taking things out of context and simply assuming they are true because "that's just whatcha do," all we're really doing is cutting off two inches of the ham for no good reason. (And that's just less really awesome left-over sandwich meat for you, buddy.)


Anyone who knows my blog, knows that I try to find an appropriate video that will help illustrate each post. In this case I'm running a bit dry. However, since I first ran into Iggy (The guy whose idea this whole thing was) while looking for pictures of the Ramones, this one seems relatively fitting...



P.S. The following are links to the others who posted in this blog carnival.


  1. Hi Joe. I try and post appropriate videos with my blog too. I was able to find one on "Culture" which you've probably never seen because it's an obscure old New Zealand band.

    Love the Ramones :)

  2. Well, don't leave me hanging. What's the name of the song AND the band?