Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Christian Culture? – By Cobus Van Wyngaard

Cobus is a guest publisher this week on the blog. A Pastor with a vision of Church that is biblical. You can read more of his stuff on his blogs
If you park and enter on level 6 of Menlyn mall, on your way to the movies, you used to walk past the tattoo-parlour and then CUM books. According to some the tattoo-parlour was quite dodgy, with the girl with the leather straps which only cover the most needed parts decorating the front window.
Right next to it was CUM. Surely one of the biggest symbols of Christian culture here in South Africa. I’ve always found this two shops next to each other a beautiful picture of the tension in which we live. Until yesterday…

When I walked past, I noticed that the tattoo-parlour was gone, and CUM busy to be enlarged, into the space previously occupied by the tattoo-parlour. The tension is gone. All that remains is Christian culture. And then I walk through CUM, where book after book is selling different forms of prosperity theology of fundamentalism. Christian consumerism.

And then we have to be church. And I have to preach. And as a preacher I am by default being associated with CUM. By default so many people expect that the church must support the typical CUM book. I mean, its Christian. O, and by default I suspect the church is supposed to rejoice because of the closure of the tattoo-parlour with the girl with the leather straps. But I’m not rejoicing.
I struggle to see the crucified Jesus in the bigger CUM books. Menlyn level 6. No books make such a sale as Christian books. CUM reminds me that the church is not under oppression, that the church is in a position of power. And we must cry about that. We must cry about the church that is driving the tattoo-parlour with the girl with the leather straps out of society to make more place for Christian consumer-goods.
What then about being church? I don’t know how to formulate it yet, but in a way I feel like we have more need for a church that is asking questions about the big Christian bookshop next to Menlyn’s movies, a church that can be a counter-cultural voice against the reigning Christian culture. I hope the church can do that…


  1. Interesting. Here in the UK things seem to be going the other way in a way: the Christian book/retail trade has gone/is going through a major crisis and a metamorphosis.

    What was our single biggest chain of Christian bookshops, Wesley Owen, fell apart in the aftermath of the great STL crash last year when Biblica pulled the plug on its UK ops. Most of those shops have now been picked up by a new organisation, Living Oasis, which seems to be going through an identity crisis: a mission statement that they want to be a Christian presence on the high street combined with an emphasis on "de-Christianising" the shop windows...

    Back to yours though: I somehow think we'd be more likely to find Jesus in the tattoo parlour chatting and joking with the girl in the leather straps than in the supposedly Christian bookshop...

  2. I liked the illustrated parable. Thanks, Cobus.

    However, I doubt that you have a sound premise in the assumption that the Christian Bookshop had any relevance in the life and demise of the tattoo parlour.

    Just as various "themes' come and go in waves of popularity, as in 'new titles' and 'latest releases' within the bookshop, so also pure business considerations would have closed down a shop with too little turnover to be housed in such a large and expensive Shopping Temple.

    CUM did not drive it out; CUM was simply offered the extra space when the parlour's contract expired.

    That CUM had absolutely no relevance to the existence of a tattoo parlour as its neighbour, is, of course, a greater condemnation/judgement of the whole christian commercial enterprise.

    But it is my projection, of course. It is not more valid than yours, and I like yours better.

    At least it allows for "God working in mysterious ways," or affords "victory" for the the intercessors who took it upon themselves to cursed the place in the Name of Jesus, and plead His blood over the hallowed hallways of the Menlyn Temple of Mammon.

  3. Dear Cobus. I can relate to your apparant dislike of being associated with a broadbased 'Christian' institution like CUM, although for different reasons. There is nothing about CUM that should equate it to being Christian, except the perception of Christianity. The mere fact that certain of the goods sold are Christian related, does not make it a Christian institution, merely a creature of opportunity. Similarly we get people/churches/pastors labelled as Christian because certain things they do appear Christian like, but in fact they are very far from it. This is very sad and I'm sure you are right, Jesus would in all probability be in the Tattoo Parlour!
    Your parable was however not lost on me and I enjoyed it very much.
    My parting thought relating to CUM is that I find it somehow disturbing that people are in such a search of God and then taken up with all the 'various themes'. It seems as if it promotes all these side issues, but not really Christ, just as we are taken up with all the side issues instead of living Christ.