I have been thinking lately about culture. I know. Strange. And, with work at the Gathering as a backdrop, culture and the church. Now, in the last column I wrote about how we easily assimilate into culture, following the crowd without ever bothering to see where we are going. Which is often true. I see, however, another cultural phenomenon happening in the church at large. This phenomenon, I will call for the moment, snobbery.

We’re a really self-satisfied bunch when it comes to culture. Although we may be just as interested in money or success as the next person, we have our Christian music and books and blogs to listen to and read, which makes us a little better than the non-Christian, the non-purveyor of Christian goods. Holding a Christian book makes us a tiny amount better than the person holding a secular book. We judge each other by what book we’ve most recently read, or what type of music we enjoy.

I, unfortunately, have done this. I can look at someone’s musical taste and make sweeping personality judgments. And not just with non-Christian vs. Christian material. In college, a group of friends and I looked down upon a certain Christian writer, because his writing was a bit weak and shallow and didn’t make me interact with the gospel in a new way. Who cares that he was writing books that affected other people deeply and, as I’ve heard, he is an awesome, caring man? I looked down upon him because he didn’t pass a certain erudite, theological standard. Shame.

But I think this happens a lot, especially from the Christian culture at large to secular culture. We enter into secular culture, refusing to believe that we, too, are products of this culture. We enter with an approach of snobbery. Our music is better, our books are more edifying. If you look at secular culture at large you see what I’m trying to explain. At large, people feel like Christians have everything together, are stuck up (snobs), and are all too willing to judge. Whether it’s books or parties or music, if it doesn’t talk explicitly about Jesus, it’s no good.

What happened to all truth is God’s truth? What about the fact that when a movie or song portrays grace or redemption or love that this is glorifying to God?

We need to be people who are not snobs, but students. Students come ready to learn, to eat up whatever they can. They come to discuss and take away the good. If a student comes knowing everything, she’ll fall on her face. Trust me. I know.

If we are students of culture we come with our eyes open. We watch where the crowd is headed. We talk to the crowd — see why they like what they do. We find good things in culture to learn from and take home. We come face-to-face rather than mocking it from the side. May we be students. May we test everything, and hold onto the good. And may those we come into contact with — those we talk to and laugh with and pray for — never feel judged by our snobbery.