Monday, July 10, 2017

Memes + Romans

As I've been reading through the book of Romans, I am struck by how diligent Paul is to communicate to the Roman Jews in ways that they can understand. He takes it back to Abraham. That's who the Jews identify as their "forefather according to the flesh" (Romans 4:1) 

Many Jews believed that because they were circumcised, they were justified (seen as sin-free by God) by keeping the Law. Paul speaks to them using their presuppositions about themselves and Abraham. He points out that they believe Abraham to be righteous. Then, he points out that God credited Abraham as righteous BEFORE his circumcision (Romans 4:10-11.) He uses the Pentateuch (the first five Old Testament books that contain Israel's history of the Exodus and God's covenant to them as well as the Law) to show this. He used the Pentateuch because they cherished it and they were familiar with it. 

I like to think of this as the meme usage of the New Testament. I, like any good Millennial, am obsessed with memes. A really good meme can be biting, cuts right to the heart of the issue, and evokes a familiar thought or feeling across a large variety of people. 

I know a lot of Gen Xers and Boomers do not get the phenomenon that is memes. But I would like to suggest that memes (really, any cultural phenomenon) holds untapped potential for relating to people in a way that they understand. When I see a good meme, I am instantly delighted. I've connected with something in it's message that has resonated about me. For instance: 

This is an easy connection for women especially to make in the days of Pinterest. The message here that I see and identify with is
 "Other moms have their ish together. They bake delicious, homemade everything and look perfect doing it. They, of course, never yell at their kids because that's not what good moms do. I am the mom on the right - kind of frumpy after a few kids, but still kind of trying? And obviously a dinosaur bearing teeth because I definitely yelled at 2/3 of my kids yesterday. But instead of feel bad about this, I'm going to embrace the weirdness that is myself and laugh about it because I know that this is relatable to other people too, no matter how they pretend to have their life together."

See how that goes? 

Yep. A meme told me all that. A cultural phenomenon told me something about myself and the way I relate to others. I think it's easy to get really stuck in religious terminology and phrases. I am so guilty of it. I like to learn big words! I like to learn the "-fications." I like to talk to people who know a lot about the Bible because it's fun and intellectually stimulating. But at the end of the day, talking to people about something they already know doesn't help others hear about something they've never heard about before. 

This is where being relevant comes in. I cringe typing that - I am a product of a movement in the church where they tried to be "relevant" and it was just a weird, Christianification of everything in the world. That's not what I'm talking about here. I don't want to just do bad art or bad music or bad culture in the name of Christ. I want to take what people already identify with in culture and use it to help them see their need for Christ. It's there if we have eyes to see and it's our responsibility to be able to communicate the Gospel in a relatable way. 

What are some of your favorite ways to communicate the Gospel using something in culture. Any ideas to share?

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