Today’s contemporary society is obsessed with the idea of ‘cool’. But can you be cool and a ‘child of God’ or are the two mutually exclusive? Can the two ever meet? Is being a lover of Jesus ever cool?
Let’s be honest. This culture we live in is a culture that is thoroughly diverse and considers cool to be what's relevant now. This might include consumerist ideas around the latest styles and fashion trends, ways of thinking, people to hang out with, social circles to flaunt on social media and events to attend. If played carefully, you can deal yourself more street cred and rise in the rankings of what it means to be cool.
Implicitly, the word ‘cool’ has an association with being confident. Cool is knowing who you are and being confident in your own skin. It has to do with ego and self-improvement. It is about magnifying your self-image so that other’s see you as a trend setter, someone to go to and be inspired by. Of course, none of this has anything to do with your religion or faith, or has it?
Perhaps the question is – what does it mean to follow Christ within this context? If cool is about standing out from the crowd, then perhaps being a Christian should always be ‘cool’ – after all, true Christians are called to be a ‘peculiar people’. Let’s dive a little deeper. Some argue that that streak of rebellion is the nub of the idea of what’s cool – an idea that changes its face dependent on how old you are. When you're younger cool means to fit into a certain social group, but when you’re older it means being a true individual, with no obvious attachments. In other words, you are always part of a certain social stereotype. Whether you’re a goth, a grunger, or a gangster, you still subscribe to be something that is easily and readily definable by the world’s standards i.e. you are an ego that puffs its chest out in order to be seen and heard. This even applies to people who want to define themselves as alternative or anti-conformist. Ironically, this has now become a group in and of itself and what has happened is that one has simply changed one group for another. ‘Loving Jesus’ and following his humble path with other like-minded believers is something that takes no notice of ego or individualism, and yet is radical and revolutionary at the same time. My hunch is that being a Christian is ‘cool’ in a totally different way.
Outward Individualism is an illusion because there will always be someone else who looks like you
An ancient King called Solomon once said, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”
Ecclesiastes 1:9 (a different point, on how being cool is being ‘new’ – something that is impossible to do)
Another interesting trend in the culture’s understanding of coolness can be summed up in one line. Cool is what is considered to be ‘true’, and what’s true is what’s relevant! Ask a youth why something is cool. The simple answer is, “It just is.” In other words, it's true! Relevant magazine says, “ ‘Cool’ is such an interesting ‘idea’—but an idea that is always changing’.
Isn't it interesting that we see a complete overlap with how the culture understands the meaning of cool with the meaning of ‘truth’ today?
Getting slightly philosophical is necessary here. The modern understanding of truth has dramatically changed within the last century. The culture has now embraced the idea of relativism which has been defined as, ‘The concept that points of view have no absolute truth or validity within themselves, but they only have relative, subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration.’ (Wikipedia)
In the context of defining what ‘cool’ means, it is simply, what's true for you is true for you and what's true for me is true for me. There is no absolute truth, it’s all relative. So if there is not absolute truth, then there is no absolute ‘cool’ either. Comparing Marlon Brando to Justin Bieber, or Mahatma Ghandi with Obama, in terms of their level of ‘cool’, is all together a futile task, since it is the truth inherent in the observer that is the deciding factor. Of course, it takes a certain amount of faith to believe the idea of relativism (since nothing is absolutely true), making its philosophy somewhat unstable.
Having said all this, common sense (that gut feeling) tells us that truth isn't relative. It doesn't change over time. To use an obvious example, under what circumstances is it not true that you will be incinerated by the sun if you flew a space shuttle into it? Relativism is in stark contrast to the Biblical idea of truth which originated with God and His Word. Biblical ideology says that what it calls truth never changes regardless of cultural trends or fashions. It is a sure foundation, not subject to the temptations and strains of numerous winds of teaching.
This raises an interesting question which relates back to our original topic. Our culture defines truth as what’s relevant, which makes it cool. But the Bible says truth is not relevant, it’s an absolute – an attribute that conversely holds that everything that the Bible says is true. What then is cooler than scripture, or Jesus for that matter? We’ll let the relativists think about that for a while…
Coming back to the original problem - what does it mean to be cool in today's contemporary society vs what does it mean to be a child of God? Can the two ever meet?
The answer is that in this dynamic, ever changing world of fashion trends, of quick-fix problems, of a million different voices all saying something slightly different, handing out a slightly different course of logic to follow, no one ever stays cool enough for long. To do so you must be a follower, changing with the times, keeping your ear to the ground so you don’t get left behind in the cultural paradigm. Ironically, that movement, that rebellion, is exactly what makes you uncool. You lose yourself, selling yourself short, leaving you empty and unsatisfied. When people say ‘be yourself’, you no longer no who that self is. Not cool!
But did you know The Bible says you can become a child of God? He will accept you just as you are. All you need to do is repent and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. This is a one-time deal and is what The Bible calls being born again.
'He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.'
That’s how you become a child of God, by receiving Jesus into your life. This means that He accepts you for who you are now. But more importantly, it means you’re cool with him, and really, when looked at in the most legitimate way, it means you are cool full stop. Absolutely. Because when the ground shifts beneath you, you’ve got someone to hold onto that is a constant, meaning you’ll always know that you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. Now that’s really cool.
Adam Brennan is a Digital Producer at Premier
Harry Keir Hughes is Senior Digital Editor at Premier