How I Learned to Be Very, Very Un-Cool

not cool not-cool uncool veryI learned a long time ago as a Christian minister that I can’t hope to out-cool our apostate culture, and if I try, I’ll gradually create followers who crave coolness and will gravitate to a “community” cooler than mine.

I learned also, however, that while I can’t hope to compete with our cool culture, that culture couldn’t compete with a churchly culture of Biblical truth, Gospel reality, and holy living. After all, if our apostate culture could compete with such a church, it wouldn’t be apostate.

So, I learned by God’s patient, illuminating grace, that if I preach the Bible (the entire Bible) with Holy Spirit power, theological richness, and moral imperatives; spearhead an evangelistic message that refuses to separate salvation from discipleship; inspire prayer in which believers pour out their souls to God in expectation of his answers; administer baptism and communion to families and individuals with stress on both the goodness and severity of God; encourage content-rich music both older and newer that brings honor and glory to the Triune God; foster self-sacrifice among the saints; and, most importantly, lead the congregation to understand and act on the fact that everything flows from worship — I learned, I say, that if I can do these things, God will bless me and bring sinners and saints who long for the un-cool, Triune God.

I learned that if my church is right with God, it doesn’t need to be cool.

4 thoughts on “How I Learned to Be Very, Very Un-Cool

    1. Cool is a difficult mistress.

      For me cool is rare, novel, interesting, and fleeting. Cool offers a fresh perspective on a perhaps tired/worn concept. Cool breaks free of cliche but is in danger of becoming cliche in direct proportion to its degree of coolness. Cool is new. Cool is fashionable. Cool is as attractive as it is mercurial. It is the twin brother of temptation–insubstantial, intangible, appealing to the imagination. Cool is much ado about nothing. And that nothing is something…something indefinable yet visible to all.

      Cool is born of perception–defined by those whom we trust/admire, who seem to have keener insights than most. It can be neither packaged nor contained. It can only be mirrored and imitated. But this imitation is just that–often more noticeable–like bad acting in a stage play–and often looks ridiculous, borish, repulsive. William Hung was cool, and the producers of American Idol knew it. But they knew they could only show one contestant like that. Cool has rules, yet cool has no allegiance. Without notice cool forms a new allegiance, and it’s denizens are equally unfaithful.

      Without any effort at all cool dupes the young with a false confidence while it saps them of their youth. Seeminly simultaneously it abandons them–betrayed, old, unhip–still enamoured of the old cool (like a bad investment or casino habitue) and drains more of their precious life with no return on investment. Cool, however, is defined the few who often manipulate it for their own gain. Tom Wolfe is cool among his followers, and his critics appear jealous/envious in light of his talents. Greg Gutfeld is cool–and it’s difficult for his critics to say he isn’t, detest him as they might. Moby Dick was crucified by the critics, but it was embraced after his death. Even the left cannot control “cool,” try as they may. Dickens’s Old Curiosity Shop is cool, yet some like George Bernard Shaw would think otherwise.

      I know atheists that find John Milton cool. They revel in his gifts despite the fact that he’s militaristically Christian. Yet Milton is avoided by most English majors–perhaps due to its difficulty and their thin knowledge of Christianity. They don’t get it. Cool is a matter of taste, but it’s also reflected in one’s level of education and upbringing.

      I know some very bright Brits in the Lake Tahoe area who think Lady Gaga is cool. I had no idea who she was, and then I Googled her. Awful–and not just because it’s repulsive. It’s garbage. That one I don’t get.

      But I know what you mean, Andrew. Cool is enveloped–perhaps imprisoned–by style, a recent trend, a fashion, a new approach…a new vocabulary, ensemble…perhaps even a new insight or perception. There’s certainly nothing wrong with being witty and clever. But there are degrees–and a lot of cool, while being difficult to define, can be superficial. Andy Warhol was and is cool/playful–at least from a pop art perspective. His carnal leanings are certainly dated, stale, common, and uninteresting. Shakespeare’s Angelo in Measure for Measure recognizes our attraction to pure innocence and the feelings of lust/covetousness that can grow of that. This characterization is honest, telling, instructive, and good. Shakespeare’s sonnet 129, Hawthorne’s the Scarlet Letter, and Measure for Measure are all examples of this attraction and the thoughts/actions it engenders. Telling, instructive, dramatic, honest. I find them incredibly cool yet timeless. Classic is always cool, but cool is rarely classic. Classic is timeless.

      We fool ourselves. As Hamlet says, “There’s nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.” It’s all in the mind, man’s imagination. We determine our goals, we set out to accomplish them, and we live with the results.

      “All this the world well knows; yet none knows well.
      To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.”

      When LAUSD dresses an old, failed concept in jargon, it’s not cool. It’s deceptive. They sculpt a new face on an old witch and fool no one but the newly initiated.

      Cool happens. Those who pursue it are the ones with the least of it. Cool is sang froid. It doesn’t crave attention, yet it gets it regardless–like a beautiful woman with hair tied back in a pony tale and no make up. She will get noticed.

      While cool is a matter of taste, faith is a matter of strength.

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