“Since the 1960’s, many conservative Christians have sought comfort in a protective cocoon, circling the wagons to keep the “good people” inside and the “bad people” out, only occasionally venturing out of the cocoon to do combat with the wider culture. They view popular culture as a threat because it conveys beliefs, values, and behaviors antithetical to faith, and they wish not to enrich culture by actively participating in it but rather to isolate themselves from culture or to prevail in culture through the political process.” (Dick Staub, The Culturally Savvy Christian)

For those of us inside a denomination or theological tradition the notion of fences isn’t passe, its normal. We’re used to fences that keep others out and in fact a life without fences isn’t very desirable for many of us. It is the building of further fences within our enclosed area that ought to concern us, not the mere presence of a fence. Are we giving enough thought to our fences, their ‘why’ and their ‘what for’?

Dick Staub’s comments above suggest that one of the habits of conservative Christians since the 1960’s was to form protective cocoons from culture. I want to suggest that many times our fences or cocoons that were meant to give us a sense of solidarity with one-another, and a sense of social identity can and do become ways we flee from our fears we have of the “other”. Now the “other” can either be traditions or denominations or theological conversations outside our own or they can be people within our fences who enjoy (to often to our liking) a venture outside the fence for coffee and conversation. Staub goes on in that same chapter to suggest that it was this cocooning process that has lead modern Christianity into a period of “mindless, diversionary, celebrity-driven superficiality.” Ironic isn’t it that sometimes politics within our denominations or theological traditions often carry the spirit of that same description – mindless, diversionary, celebrity-driven superficiality.

I believe what happens is that we forget the original purpose of creating fences – for solidarity and social identity sake so that we can be MORE, not LESS, emboldened to march out and explore the brave new worlds around us with the assurance of having community both with us and behind us. Once this is forgotten we begin to create fences within our own fences, sort of like the pic above, and this only furthers our own inability to have access to the outside world around us as the holes in our fences get smaller and smaller.

In this sort of ethos, fears and suspicions of those who are able to bring voices inside our fence grow because on a whole our ethos isn’t used to hearing those voice very often due to the density of our newly renovated fences. What I’ve personally learned from these tendencies is that once we forget the ecclesiological and missiological original purpose of our fence then our very own social-identity project will begin to close down on itself.

Fences aren’t the issue, its the ‘why’ in their construction sisters and brothers…