Amish, Barbie and Everything In Between


What does Barbie have to do with an Amish woman? I'm glad you asked, because I taught a Sunday School lesson yesterday that involved both a Barbie doll and an Amish woman (well, as close as I could get, with a Thanksgiving Pilgrim doll). 

The lesson was on Culture and how Christians related to the culture at large. How do we live out verses like John 17:14-15, talking about being in the world but not of it? 

What difference does it make? 
Have you ever asked: should Christians go into politics? Could we try something new like a Christian art festival as an outreach to our community? What is my personal responsibility to social issues like poverty or homelessness? Should we homeschool our kids? Have you ever walked out of a movie that was just over the top or boycotted a store for its political stance? These are all questions related to culture and how we interact with it.

On the one hand: separatism
On one side of the issue are separatists. This is the Amish view of culture. Culture is seen as evil and should be avoided. They see it as an either-or choice, so they choose Christ and reject culture altogether. They want nothing to do with cars, electricity, modernity, politics, wars, etc. 
There is a biblical basis for this view. Here are some of the verses that separatists use to justify their position. 

1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.

1 Peter 1:16 Be holy as I am holy 

Psalm 101:3 I will set no evil thing before my eyes.

They also point to the example of Israel in the Old Testament as a model to follow. Israel was set apart to the Lord and God commanded them to be distinct from the surrounding pagan nations. He wanted them to reject the culture of those other nations and live as a holy nation before Him. 

The Amish doll was my representative for this position. I put her on one side of the room. 

On the other hand: embrace culture to the fullest
On this side of the issue are those who see absolutely nothing wrong with culture and want to embrace it. Christians who live at this extreme see the culture as a way to connect with unbelievers, using culture as the connecting point, the "plate to serve the gospel on." Those on this side will have no problem getting involved in politics, political causes or social justice programs. 

There is a biblical basis for this view. Here are some of the verses to support this position. 

1 Corinthians 9:19-20 Paul saying "I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews, I became like a Jew to win the Jews." Sometimes this is summed up as "be all things to all people so that you might win some." 

Jude 1:23  Save others by snatching them from the fire.

Matthew 5:13-16  You are the salt of the earth... You are the light of the world... let your light shine before others.

They also point to the example of Jesus Christ Himself, who spent time interacting with gluttons, drunkards, tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 11:19). 

Barbie was my representative for this position. I put her on the opposite side of the room from the Amish doll. 

Talk it out:
We talked through the descriptions and verses related to each side. We looked at as a spectrum, with many people landing somewhere in the middle between the two extremes. 

We considered the "cons" of each position. Too far "Amish" is to lose all effectiveness and influence in reaching the culture. Too far "Barbie" is to risk becoming consumed by the values of the culture and losing all influence because you look just like the culture.

Wrap It Up:
We considered these verses as we finished our discussion. 

Philippians 4:8 Whatever is pure, lovely, good, noble, admirable, praise-worthy... think about such things.

Romans 12:2  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. 

Ask yourself if your values line up more with God's values or with the world's values. Are we chasing worldly pleasures or seeking only to glorify and worship God above all else? Tough questions. Yet God can enable us to live transformed counter-cultural lives when we submit to Him and seek His ways... whether we lean towards Barbie, the Amish, or anything in between!


Ethan and Moriah said...

What an excellant lesson. What age group did you teach?

My Heart Song said...

It was an adult class (college-age on up to 30-something adults). I've always found the "Christ and Culture" views fascinating and it comes up fairly often in our marriage, as talk through issues especially related to the kids, parenting, what's appropriate at what ages, etc. Parenting, to me, often starts out closer to the Amish side of things as it relates to sheltering/protecting and then moves to the other end as kids get older, can handle more of the culture and can discern the good from the bad, etc. Fascinating topic.

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