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A photographer in Vancouver has presented a thought-provoking take on the role of religion in our current culture. Gods of Suburbia is Dina Goldstein’s “visual analysis of religious faith within the context of the modern forces of technology, science and secularism.” Between Jesus in the Vancouver slums, Satan as a tow truck driver, and Darwin in a casino, no one’s religious notions are exempt from being poked and prodded.

Jesus’ meal with the apostles is reimagined as “Last Supper, East Vancouver.” The table is scattered with beer cans and the apostles are captured as chain-smoking derelicts. Goldstein says,

My reenactment of history’s most famous dinner party is meant to portray the treatment of the most vulnerable by society. I have placed Jesus and his Apostles, a street gang, specifically in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. This is Canada’s poorest postal code and a place of chronic drug abuse, alcohol addiction and mental illness. Jesus and the Apostles consume the diet of street people: cheap packaged noodles, cheap beer and canned tuna, while Judas plots his betrayal of Jesus.

Check out the Huffington Post’s video coverage of her shoot:

What thought about who Jesus would hang out with are provoked when you look at these pictures? What do you think about the intersection of other religions and suburbia?

ImageMy salvation experience came just over ten years ago and since that time I’ve made too many mistakes to count. Some of the ones that make me recoil the most about are those of the Pharisaical variety. You know the ones–when your self-righteousness rises up to help your superiority complex (or, shall I say, god complex?) which tries to subjugate everyone around you. We do this, perhaps, in response to our own insecurity. Sometimes it’s because somebody has put us down or make us look foolish. Sometimes we simply don’t know how to be relatable in our newly discovered faith.

Whatever the reason, I want to make the observation that as Christians we tend to adopt this psuedospirituality so we can show others around us how connected to God we are. But instead of inviting people into an authentic relationship with Jesus, we end up erecting roadblocks to genuine community with His church. And we land in this current situation in society where people have respect and affection for Jesus but not for His followers.

This all leads up to a quote I came across in the book Culture Making by Andy Crouch:

Jesus was a cultivator of culture. He did not just acquire enough maturity to get about his real, “spiritual” business of saving the world and then wash his hands of responsibility to tend and conserve his cultural heritage. He spent prime years simply absorbing, practicing and passing on his culture–not preaching, not healing, not introducing the dramatic innovations that would bring him into conflict with the nation’s leaders.

Simple wisdom for the proud. It’s good for those of us who are so bent on spiritual zeal to reach outsiders and impact society that what Jesus first did was to immerse Himself into His cultural heritage. What this means for us is, though Christianity is a culture of its own, we must work diligently to be in our culture to serve it. We can no longer settle for the wholesale rejection of our society and the resulting escapism into our Christian huddles. We need to drop the insider lingo that makes us sound pious and ultra-holy and relate to people on their level.

I know this brings up more questions than it answers, which is good. My simple point is that we need to look to Jesus as our example and to follow in His footsteps in cultural engagement. He was the most spiritual Man around, yet also the most approachable and connected to the goings on of His surroundings. We desperately need to recover and apply His approach.

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