Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Trickle-Down Missionomics

In Carl Trueman’s recent post on the seeming obsession that many Christians have with popular culture, he lists a number of areas of caution, beginning with what he calls a “coincidence of concerns of the cultural Christian types and those of the middle class chatterati.” He writes:

Plenty of talk about Christian approaches to art, music, literature, sex, even international politics. All very interesting subjects, I'm sure, and the topics of many a chardonnay-fuelled discussion after a hearty dinner party. But what about subjects that aren't quite so interesting? Take street sweepers, for example; or hotel lavatory attendants; or workers on an umbrella manufacturing line. Why no conference on the Christian philosophy underlying these vital callings and trades? After all, imagine how gruesome a Christian conference on international poverty would be if it was held in the pouring rain in the Ritz Carlton hotel in some big city, but there were no road sweepers, lavatory attendants, and umbrella makers. Wet, dirty and unhygienic, I would guess.
Amen and Amen.

I have been observing for years how that the market-driven Catholicity that fuels much of the missional movement is concerned primarily with all things artsy and fartsy rather than nitty and gritty. To state it differently, if you want a write-up in the latest issue of Authentic Church Planting magazine, your target audience should be Hunter the Poet rather than Joe the Plumber.

It is sad that the modus operandi of the market also fuels so much of the American church. Just as prime real estate would never be given to build low-income housing, so neither would prime missions funding be given to reach the people who live in low-income housing.

Three cheers, therefore, for those who follow the footsteps of Jesus and spend themselves for the poor and unnoticed. And for those who insist that God has a special place in his redemptive plan for (the hip, edgy, bohemian parts of) “the city,” well, it may be the case that this approach to missions is the ecclesiastical equivalent of trickle-down economics: Sure, the blue-collar proletariat will get a morsel here and there, but only if it happens to fall from the table of the cultural bourgeoisie.