Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Theological "Cool-Shaming"

The idea of cool-shaming is when we fear that we might not look cool in the eyes of others. I ran across the term from Doug Wilson's two interesting posts (here and here) where it expounds in the idea of being "cool-shamed." As near as I can tell, he picked up the term and is making hay with it--good hay I might add. Yet, he only applies the term to politics so far wheras it has caused me to reflect more on how it goes on in the Christian community and the way we interact with culture. On politics he writes:
The ruling elites have a deep set of pathologies going, and many of them have by now manifested themselves as severely dysfunctional. But one of their pathologies that still works on a lot of people is their ability to act convincingly like they are still the arbiters of cool.
He borrows it from a comment thread where someone remarks:

"The shrill left approach is effective, though, when it comes to people easily embarrassed or cool-shamed. I think a lot of hard conservative types aren't willing to associate with things generally liked by mainstream red-staters who lack nuance. To them, liking Palin is similar to openly liking The Blind Side or Fireproof. Being seen to have unsophisticated tastes (even by one's enemies) is just too much to bear . . . the last thing we need is a leader with nuance. We need the right principles, black and white vision, and an inability to feel fear (or poll pressure)."
I can't help but wonder if this is something that my generation is particularly susceptible to, regardless of your political leanings. In fact, I think we might argue that if can be found in the church more than in politics. In fact, those in my generation who hold to conservative theological beliefs that are in line with historic confessional evangelicalism and the orthodox creeds are particularly susceptible to being "cool-shamed." We want people to know we are relevant, hip, socially conscious, etc. I can't help but wonder if this dynamic is in play when Frank Turk over at TeamPyro recently wrote an open letter to Derek Webb for public comments that Webb made over in a Huffington Post interview--without rehashing all that went on, suffice it to say one can't help but wonder if rather than evaluating the truth of such statements if people jumped on the bandwagon of the popular and cringed about 'tone' because they  felt a tinge of "cool-shaming".

And while our theology might be Biblical accurate, we cringe when those who are theologically "left" of us pull out the tried and try stereotypes of fundamentalism and call other moral-ninnies. Rather than evaluating the rhetoric for what it is--style over substance and lame stereotypes, we buy into it and feel the need to further distance ourselves from those deemed 'uncool.' While it is true that there are 'fundamentalists' who have no experience with the gospel, we allow those stereotypes to be applied to a whole host of people who stand up for orthodox doctrine and orthodox Christian ethics. 

We cringe at anyone who speaks publicly with moral clarity--in fact sometimes we fear so being misunderstood on the gospel of grace that we won't speak up about evil, lest we feel a certain sense of shame from our peers. We talk less about holiness but expound on ethereal conception of "love" and "tolerance" that have little or nothing to do with Jesus' ethic of love--which could show mercy and at the same time us the "s" word (Sin, not the other "s" which is seen as the 'cool' and 'authentic' one).

For myself, as a young pastor, I think it is easy to be susceptible to cool-shaming. I can think back to how it worked in high school--but I think even now I am not always sufficiently inoculated. Maybe labeling the disease is a good first step.

Consider this:
"I’ve come to the conclusion that this has been the Great Dream of my generation: to position ourselves in such a way that we’re beyond mockery. To not look stupid. That’s the biggest crime of all–looking stupid."

And then go and figure out from 1 Cor. 1:18ff where we should stand.

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