Friday, 3 January 2014

No News Like Good News

I contributed this week’s ‘Connecting with Culture’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.

News aficionados have been looking back at what made the headlines in 2013, from the sublime to the ridiculous and everything in between: Barack Obama inaugurated for a second term, the remains of Richard III discovered under a Leicester car park, the House of Commons vote on same-sex marriage, Andy Murray’s win at Wimbledon, the birth of a royal baby, a new Pope, a new Archbishop of Canterbury, a new manager for Manchester United, ongoing civil conflict in Egypt and Syria, Typhoon Haiyan, the passing of Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela, twerking, selfies.

All this raises the question as to what 2014 might hold, aside from what we can already anticipate: the centenary of the start of the First World War; the referendum on Scottish independence; the FIFA World Cup; the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan; the second cinematic installment of The Amazing Spider-Man and the third of The Hobbit; new non-fiction and fiction from Germaine Greer, Hanif Kureishi, Alain de Botton, Stephen King, Naomi Klein, and Martin Amis. 2014, like 2013, will offer plenty of opportunities for Christians to ‘connect’ with culture.

As we do so, we can feel confident about bringing a Christian perspective into everyday conversations. To be sure, we’ll want to consume discerningly, critique carefully and contribute positively. But we can do so with complete trust in the God who has promised to bring all things under his gracious rule. So, we engage with culture with a conviction that comes from being people of the gospel – where the gospel is not a set of good instructions or a piece of good advice, but the good news of what God himself has done and will do for the world through the work of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

A.N. Wilson arguably caught something of the spirit of that in a Christmas piece in The Telegraph, insisting that ‘the alleged fading of Christianity cannot rid it of its power to transform lives’. That the transforming work belongs ultimately to God doesn’t reduce us to a passive, beleaguered people. Instead, we are a sign and embodiment of God’s redemptive presence in the world, where the grassroots practices of church life and discipleship spill over into active citizenship and cultural engagement. Marked by the character of Christ, we seek to be people of good news as well as bearers of good news.

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