with•ful

adjective

1.  Having or expressing a desire to be with someone or something: I really wish he would stop isolating himself and start being withful instead.

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“Oh, no. Oprah’s doing a seven-night series called BELIEF? Let’s boycott.”

“The new Muppets show is promoting a progressive agenda? Let’s boycott.”

The New Normal is normalizing new things? Let’s boycott.”

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is not intended to sarcastically endorse any of the above television shows. That is completely up to you. The point of this blog post is to ask the following question:

If Christians are so quick to boycott the stories with which we disagree, how can we possibly hope to engage the society in which we exist?

Here’s the deal: our neighbors, coworkers, family members and friends are watching these shows whether we like it or not. Sure we can try to apply pressure to certain studios and companies by threatening to remove a significant segment of their viewing audience, but is it really changing the conversation?

What I am not saying is that we should just watch anything on TV without passing judgment or without the option of turning the channel. What I am saying, though, is that we shouldn’t be so quick to withdraw ourselves from the general discourse of society.

In the United States, we already find ourselves living in a culture that is becoming more and more “foreign” to the Christian church. What I mean is, 50 years ago Christianity was a substantial part of the cultural language and that is no longer the case. The more that Christians isolate themselves from the cultural dialogue, the more we lose the ability to speak the language of society.

Instead, let’s take our cues from what missionaries have been doing in foreign cultures around the globe for decades. Missionaries don’t withdraw from the societies they are trying to reach; they move in, learn the language and customs, and live with the people. They don’t stop discerning right from wrong or compromise their fundamental beliefs, but they open themselves to experiences that exist outside their boxes of comfort.

Missionaries don’t perpetuate the cycle of withdrawal which leads to the increasing foreignization of the “other;” they work at eliminating the cultural differences and walls of separation by practicing “withful thinking.”

This returns us to the question: If Christians are so quick to boycott the stories with which we disagree, how can we possibly hope to engage the society in which we exist?

We can’t. We have to find creative ways to engage society by being with society. Like Paul at the Areopagus in Acts 17, we have to speak the language of our neighbors, coworkers, family members and friends. And in today’s culture, that means not boycotting and withdrawing from certain television shows because we disagree with their premises. It means practicing “withful thinking,” watching these shows and listening to their stories, because this is the language of our culture—whether we like it or not—and we need to be able to speak that language.

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