Sunday, February 10, 2008

Metropuritan

It's time to explain the name of our blog- metropuritan (a word I made up). Let me start by telling you about a bad word I learned in college.

Ready?

"Puritanical"

In academia, "Truth" "Conservative" "Intolerance" are equivalent to some crass words- but the King of all swear words in college was "Puritanical." In semantics class, I learned that you should never desire this label. These are the outcasts of society, the right wing, abortion center bombing, religious radicals, "evangelical", gay hating, politically polarizing, fox news watching Americans that- for all the enlightened minds can figure out- are spiritual nut jobs that came from outer space.

Tragically, so many people from the past are forgotten, misunderstood, or even demonized in our modern culture. One example- the Puritans. Although modern scholars encourage a low view of the Puritans, I esteem them. They weren't perfect, but they were the people of conviction, faith, and perseverance that founded this great country. Of course they were flawed. The more I read about them, I'm actually shocked at how flawed they were (some of their treatment of Native Americans was shameful, their intolerance toward other expressions of Christianity was overboard and often hypocritical- all for another blog), and yet how divinely destined they were to found what is now the U.S.A. But how is a study of them different from a study of characters from the Bible? Such standouts as Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Rahab, Apostle Paul, Apostle Peter- liars, murderers, immoral, prostitute, and violent men- are the "heroes" of our heritage of faith.

So this is the etymology of the word...

"Metro" (short for metropolitan) is "a person who has the sophistication, fashionable taste, or other habits and manners associated with those who live in a metropolis. Esp. in culture, accepting and combining a wide variety of people, ideas, etc."

"Puritan" is "a member of a group of Protestants that arose in the 16th century within the Church of England, demanding the simplification of doctrine and worship, and greater strictness in religious discipline"

I love culture. I love history. I love hip. I love radical Christ followers.

Therefore, "metropuritan" seemed to be a nice blend of these, juxtaposing modernity with antiquity.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed reading your blog. It always gives me something to ponder and it's encouraging to see someone else trying to daily live out their faith.

I'm glad you addressed the title of your blog as I've been wondering about it. So the "puritan" part represents being a person of strong conviction--that's cool, I can get behind that. But the "metro-hip" and "culturally relevant" part have been rolling around in my brain for awhile.

So are you saying that you are "metro" meaning: "a person who has the sophistication, fashionable taste, or other habits and manners associated with those who live in a metropolis" yet you also say you try to avoid narcissism? Isn't saying you are "metro-hip" saying that you are set apart/better than others in some narcissistic way? I'm sorry if this is coming out harsh, but I struggle myself with pride and need to rid my life of it. When I see other leaders embracing things that seem prideful then that encourages me to justify my own narcissism.

I'm wondering if you could explain the "culturally relevant" part as well. I really don't know how to sort this issue out in my own life. I'm guessing that you mean if you are familiar with pop culture (like watching "The Office") then you'll have an "in" to talk to people about the trivial stuff of life and then you'll be able to develop a relationship where you can talk about deeper spiritual issues. But what about someone like Billy Graham? Is he culturally relevant? He's definitely not metro-hip--look at that hair! :) Being metro-hip will serve you when you're young, but when you are 60 if you are still trying to be "metro-hip" you will look ridiculous.

OK, last question. I like shows like "The Office" too. That show is so sharp and well-written, but it's also filled with coarse jesting about sex. If I want to be Purtian-like, meaning having strong convictions then how can I continue to watch it? How do you sort these things out for yourself? Maybe you can help me. I'm sorry if this comes out as too harsh, but I really am honestly struggling with these issues.

The Arants said...

This is the best comment on our blog to date. Excellent insights and challenging questions!

I have so many thoughts on this, where do I start? I think this could be a book...

1. Humility. As Bono said, "it's impossible to meet God with sunglasses on." More importantly, as Solomon said (and Peter reiterated) "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." No one is sophisticated or fashionable before God- we are desperately depraved people in need of Jesus. When I was in fourth grade, I remember tucking my shirt in over my back right jean pocket (for that was the pocket with the “Guess Jeans” label.) I would make sure my girlfriend (the one I dated, but never talked to) was right behind me in order to see what coolness was before her eyes. I think this is the pre-teen narcissism that’s obviously ridiculous.

2. Context. That said, being "metro-hip" does not necessitate pride. It's more about our humanity and position in the world. It's about being sensitive to our context. This is sort of the point of being a metropuritan. I think it would be absurd to stroll into the Leatha orphanage in Malawi with American Eagle jeans, Abercrombie shirt, etc. thinking this attire is going to help me connect with the people. You should see me when I travel overseas (to developing countries)- I look like a scrub. The same is true in America- if you live in rural Montana- dress like a rancher, if in small town Iowa, wear boot cut jeans and cowboy boots with a big belt buckle, if in suburban Chicago, wear tight jeans and skate shoes…? Fit the context. Many Christians have a fortress mentality and get stuck in a sub-culture of style, music, entertainment (?), that, frankly, insulates them from reality. Don’t be a metropuritan if you live in Missouri- be a redneckpuritan… But have a mentality of being engaged and being relevant to your context. “Metro” seems to fit the ethos of our mission field here in Ames.

3. Age. I don’t know what I’ll look like when I’m 80. “Bald” and “Belly” might be two descriptives. I hope I’m sipping my McDonalds coffee reading the paper solving the world’s problems with all of my other elderly friends. I’ll be wearing some stylish SAS shoes I’m sure.

4. Anointing by God trumps this whole conversation. John the Baptist, Billy Graham are examples of this. It doesn’t matter what they wear. They just show up and preach and people respond. I would rather be anointed than relevant, but I’d rather not have to choose. Take a guy like Mark Driscoll in Seattle- he is a great example of guy who has both. He speaks the language of the indie listening, coffee drinking, tight jeans wearing culture of Seattle.

5. Entertainment. In most cases- it’s lame to use passages like 1 Cor. 9:20-ff to justify entertainment choices. I don’t watch the Office so I can be a more effective evangelist- I watch it because I think it’s funny. If the theme of an episode is offensive to me, I don’t watch it. Last year Leatha and I stopped watching an incredible tv series. Although we loved it, I couldn’t watch it with a clear conscience. At this point, I won’t even name the show, because I don’t want to project my conscience onto you. I should also mention that the puritans would be rolling over in their graves to know what entertains us… Personally I strive to keep a clear conscience before God, enjoying all the good things he has made (i.e. laughter) while dismissing the bad. The more you try to make a moral guide to entertainment and project that onto others (i.e. Never see an R rated movie), the more you will struggle with self-righteousness.

CP said...

Mark,
I am glad you addressed your name because Mo and I were talking about the other day. Well, I brought up reading your blog and he asked me what a Puritan was so I was explaining that to him and he thought your name was a little off and rather silly (though I'm not sure you can ever use the word silly and Mo in the same sentence unless he's in 3rd grader mode). So thank you. Oh and I was going to skip MMP cuz I was really tired then I thought back to your week in the life of a pastor blog series and I was like: Man, I don't have 4 kids so I can suck it up and get there. Thought you'd enjoy that.

Curtis

The Arants said...

I also think (per my comment related to context) that "hip" is misleading (therefore I've removed it from our header). It not only smacks of pride- it's not really the word we're looking for. The idea is to be culturally relevant, not necessarily "hip." I already used the redneck and urban examples. But another clarifying example I thought of- if you are in academia (which is also part of the ethos of our community), you need to be "metro" in the sense that you are aware of the high culture books, music, movies, arts, etc that are appreciated by your peers. You don't need to listen to screaming bands (i.e. Underoath) or pre-teen pop artists (Hannah Montana) to be culturally relevant to your context. But it just might help you to know about Bach, Impressionism, opera and Tolstoy. It's not really being "hip" but it's being "metro" in the way I mean it. Does that make sense?

A great example that comes to mind is our friends, the Scheibes. Mary is in a reading group with some other faculty wives. I know she has to read through many books that she wouldn't naturally pick. But it helps her engage this group of women in a way that is unique- in a way that the books become a means to relationship. And of course, I'm sure she's still the token Christian in the group who brings up less than scholarly ideas of faith. But she is modeling this idea of being relevant to her context.