So my birthday is around the corner and my 5-year-old is really excited. She loves birthdays (even if she isn’t the one getting the presents). So for weeks now she has been trying to figure out how we are going to celebrate. (I was planning on letting it pass silently since at my age we’ve pretty much stopped having pony rides and roller skating parties).
She knows that a good birthday party has a theme and so she was trying to figure out a theme that would fit me best. She’s had some great themed parties. Clifford the Big Red Dog, Strawberry Shortcake, etc. So as she racked her little brain for a theme that would fit me she came up with two.
“Daddy do you want a Jesus Birthday or a Phineas and Ferb Birthday?”
To be honest, It has never crossed my mind to have a “Jesus” themed birthday. She knows that I’m a big fan. She even went as far as to justify her decision when I expressed a little hesitancy… “We’ll you are a pastor (which she understands as someone who teaches people about Jesus) and so I thought you would want a ‘Jesus’ birthday, but then again we both watch Phineas and Ferb together so I thought you might like them.”
On the one hand I was blessed that my daughter would affirm that I have a true love or Jesus. After all we memorize scripture together, read the Bible together, pray together, etc. She has plenty of evidence outside of Church that I love Jesus and want her to know Him the way I do.
On the other hand, while working with students, I know where the culture is headed. I know the streams of thought that surround my daughter day-in and day-out at school, dance, the television, and other places. As a cultural we are on a path that I can only describe as pluralism meets consumerism.
Brands are replacing the “gods” of ancient culture as a badge of identity (some of the brands contain the name of ancient gods). We look to one brand for what to wear, another for what to eat, another for our entertainment, and still another becomes our “home” team. Products are marketed in a way to play upon your feelings and the way you want to present yourself. (Ford truck commercials generally don’t show a women behind the wheel talking about pastel interiors) We identify our individuality by the brands that we buy. “He’s an Auburn fan” quickly and quietly becomes an identifying mark right next to “he goes to 1st Church.”
To be sure even our churches are not lost when it comes to branding. We all have logo’s, themes, tag lines etc. to get you to self-identify with a local congregation. Perhaps if your a big enough fan you will carry our logo on the bumper of your car or right next to the “salt life” sticker on your back window.
Don’t dismiss the thought because you don’t see it at first, but really think for a moment. If I were going to attempt to make your Identity in Jesus blend in with the rest of the culture, rather than stand out… I’d give you a 1000 different ways to identify yourself as an individual to where your identity with Jesus was insignificant. Being a Jesus follower would fit somehow in the same bucket as you favorite football team and soda preference.
Maybe our culture worships more idols than we think. What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I wrote this post about four years ago and forgot to share it. I thought it still fit the times and published it for you today.