I am reading a book which points out that a Christian lifestyle is not about being “narrow” or joyless. The author remembers how in his youth young Christians were discouraged from going to the cinema, etc etc.
I think Christian culture in Britain in 2016 on the whole is fairly free and happy, and this is welcome. Christians watch superhero films at Cineworld, read Harry Potter, wear jeans to church, go to pubs without shame, play sport on Sunday, and so on. Good.
It’s easy, as Jesus points out, to criticise the foolish ways of our ancestors, believing that we would never have behaved like that… Although I do as I said think things are better than they were, surely we still have taboos, rules of behaviour that reject modern culture when they don’t need to? Or sometimes they do need to, and are entirely justified… I wondered what our current Christian taboos are. Maybe they’re in fact middle-class Christian taboos; I don’t know. I am fairly irredeemably middle-class.
You may strongly disagree with any of the taboos below, or with my take on them. Or think they don’t exist. Or you may have noticed a lot more!
If thou art a Christian in 2016, thou shalt not:
Thou shalt not swear. This is seriously counter-cultural. In fact it manages to be counter-cultural without being seen as obnoxiously holier-than-thou; therefore it is an excellent witness. I don’t have a problem with this taboo/rule at all, when it comes to blasphemy, which is forbidden in the Ten Commandments, and does seem (to me) to show a grotesque lack of respect for God. I can’t be the only person who is offended by casual blasphemy in PG films, on T shirts, and uttered by very young children.
(We might want to remember however, that some Christian cultures are more casual with the name of the Lord – and this also changes over time. Highly virtuous young women in Jane Austen novels (Emma Woodhouse and Eleanor Tilney) say “Good God!” at moments of stress.)
About obscenity one may perhaps not be dogmatic – it’s all about not being hurtful or aggressive to people, or it should be. It remains true, as my Catholic Christian uncle said, that you need something to say when you drop the hammer on your foot.
Thou shalt not be puritanical. We are all encouraged nowadays to appreciate this beautiful God-created world. And be grateful for nice things. Not doing so is unreasonable. Provided we pay our taxes, tithe, don’t get into debt, and Put God First, we can have anything we want. This is a fairly recent attitude. I feel that nowadays any Christian who said, “No, we don’t take foreign holidays/own a TV/eat out, because that’s too much money just to spend on our own pleasure” would be regarded as a bit weird, maybe a bit judgmental.
Thou shalt not criticise another Christian’s lifestyle choice. As a taboo, this one I’m fairly happy with; I’m just saying it is a taboo that is culturally determined. The British are polite, and have boundaries! I certainly don’t want anyone saying to their neighbour, “So… you work for Moneybags Bank plc? How do you sleep at night?”
(Thou mayst however criticise their beliefs…)
Thou shalt not forget that thy body is a temple. Despite what I’ve said above, and despite the fact that we are allowed to dress down for church, and drink alcohol, I think many Christians think there’s something not merely foolish, but morally wrong about smoking, becoming obese, getting even a little drunk. Why?
…But thou shalt not over-decorate the temple. Maybe more of a middle-class thing… In the churches I know, a discreet tattoo on the shoulder, say, is OK. But how many of us would expect our housegroup leader to cover their forearms with indelible pictures, or their faces with piercings?
Thou shalt not dislike children. They are allowed everywhere, and they are allowed (most of the time) to be noisy. If you want to be quiet in church, tough.
Thou shalt not gamble. CS Lewis said that gambling and homosexuality were the only two sins he did not find a temptation. This isn’t the place for the same-sex issue, but is gambling wrong? (Obviously it can be addictive, but so can wine or blogging.) Would a Christian who won the lottery be embarrassed about it?
Thou shalt not sacrifice thy physical or mental health, or thy family, for any person or cause. (“You can’t lead worship every Sunday and manage the church finances and run the toddler group any more. You’re wearing yourself out.”) This probably is very sensible. I’m just not sure the Bible would agree. Where does God tell us we are entitled not to exhaust ourselves in His service?
No matter how many seminars thou hast led, or how many books thou hast written, thou shalt never ever admit to being good at prayer.
Finally… with some trepidation… No, I think I’ll leave this one for another time…
Love from the PPI Blogger