If you’re like me, you grew up in a culture war between sacred and secular. Certain shows were off limits, and while some of us lined up to buy Harry Potter books, others forbade consuming them lest their children were going to join a Wiccan community. And when it came to music? It was a steady diet of contemporary Christian music in which we listened to songs about potential martyrdom, the end times, and also how there’s a God-shaped hole in all of us.
And I’m not here to hate on it. I get the strange and wonderful nature of the church in the 90’s. We hosted trunk-or-treats, and I actually owned a shirt that said “I pray like a GIRL” with neon flowers against a highlighter green backdrop. Carman was a rapper (or maybe a spoken word poet?) who fought in a boxing match against the devil himself during one of his music videos, and you could not convince me that there was a better band than Superchick. Still, as I got older and moved my way out of the church bubble I’d been raised in, things started to get a little . . . complicated.
First of all, there were threats that never came to be. No one was going to beat me up if I claimed to be a Christian, and no one was asking me to join a satanic cult if I listened to something other than Rebecca St. James. And the most interesting thing happened when I started to study theology: I realized that God existed outside of those safe and hyper-spiritualized contexts. He wasn’t only on K-Love; He was also found in gas stations and art museums and books by people who didn’t have a single title on the shelf at my local Christian bookstore.
At first, if I’m honest, it was jarring. I don’t think we intentionally villainized the whole world outside of the walls of the church, but in a well-meaning attempt to protect kids from the darker things that exist, we closed off our imaginations. We said, “It can only be this way,” when the truth is, sometimes we have to have hard conversations because someone’s going to discover the world and it’s important to know how Jesus offers even more.
I studied theology for my masters and something that came up over and over was this refrain: All truth is God’s truth. What it means is that when something is true, no matter where it comes from, it can honor God. For example, someone can sing a pop song about how much they hate being lonely. And it’s true! We’re made for community, and God designed us that way. Or someone can write a book about how complex gardening can be. And it’s true! We see how God provides the miracle of new life in plants and how He created seasons for us to grow too. We see His goodness in the harvest and His provision in the food it yields.
I thought for a long time that if I just avoided words that weren’t written in red letter, I would stay holy. But now I rejoice that God is so big that His hand is seen in countless examples of the human experience and that He is the answer for the aches in our hearts. When Sandra Oh talks about the beauty of diversity or when Katy Perry sings about the desire for unconditional love or when Dax Shepard talks about addiction and how hard it is to overcome, all of these statements are true. And most importantly, they reveal the heart of man and the kindness of a God who is endlessly creative and entirely loving and who satisfies our deepest cravings.
Jesus says that He alone is the way, truth, and life. In a world desperate for answers, it is good to know that our longing and restlessness all point to a need for the truthiest truth of them all: God. He is, by nature, Truth. And in the same way our little glimpses of goodness can point us toward His ultimate good, small truths in the world around us allow us to look up to the one who is the Truth and who sets us free.
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