Today, there are voices calling for Christians to isolate themselves from the culture lest “contamination” happen.
Ironically, these voices are from both committed Christians and anti-Christians. The Christians fear being contaminated by The World, and the Worldlings fear contamination from the Christians.
Of the committed Christians, one side wants to “hunker in the bunker”, Holding The Fort, and waiting the seven Angels, the Seven Trumpets, and the Seven Bowls of Revelation. The other side wants to strap on its rusty armor, sit on Rocinante, take the lance from Sancho, and go tilting at the Windmills of the “Culture Wars”.
Legitimate concerns, all of them. And to be sure, there are plenty of opportunities for self-righteous “ghettoization” of Christians, of the Church, of creating an inbred sub-culture. No matter whether one choses isolation or engagement.
C.S. Lewis remarked in the Screwtape Letters the best way to harm an age is to protest against the opposite of what is happening. In an age of dullness and laxity, to preach against “enthusiasm”. In an age of wantonness, to inveigh against “puritanism”. In an age when the Church is selling its heritage in order to fit in with the popular trends, to speak against “isolationism”.
Christians should be separate from the culture! Even when the culture is Christian-saturated (perhaps especially even then) Christians should maintain a certain distance. To say or act otherwise is to presume there is nothing wrong with the culture. And — if there is nothing wrong with the culture, there is no reason for Christians to exist. Plenty of Social Justice Warrior groups exist already. (But the SJW DO burn out and go away, do they not?)
No, Christians should always be separate from the culture, because the culture always requires (and usually does not want) the moral critique provided by the Church. This is not to say the Church should not be involved with the culture. How can Christians know what needs fixing if they are not intimately involved with the people who are not Christians? How can you mend something you neither understand nor love?
As Pope Francis says, pastors should smell like the sheep, and truly, the sheep should smell like the sheep also. Can’t smell like sheep without rubbing up against the sheep. Can’t minister to the sheep if there’s no external reference to give cause and method and destination to that ministry.
So, be sheepish. (Couldn’t resist, my bad.)
If anyone notices, I stole the title for this essay from a book by John Brunner, a sometimes popular Science fiction author of the last century.