I've been working through David Gibbons The Monkey and the Fish, which will be the topic of a future blog post. But his essential point is that the day of monolithic culture is gone. America, as with the rest of world, is becoming a mystical, magical blend of cultures - ethnic, socio-economic, generational - and the best churches (or any institutions, really) will find ways to navigate this new world, seeking out the best in cultures, learning to be fluid as change and blending becomes the norm.
It's a little tough to put words around, but, like with so many things, art proves the way.
I went with some friends and family to the Olalla blugrass festival last Saturday. Now there's culture: banjos, mandolins, western twangs, fiddles, and blueberry pie. Yum.
The final band was the Canadian group The Paperboys. Have you heard of them? Have you heard them? Count me as a fan.
No, they're not truly bluegrass. No self-respecting bluegrass band would include a drummer, a saxophonist and a trumpeter. Or an electric guitar.
But what they are is marvelous. Take some Scotch-Irish pennywhistle, throw in French-Canadian fiddle reels, add in ska brass, Mexican rhythm section, and bluegrass guitar, and you have the Paperboys. In an instant, I had Gibbons "Third Culture" defined by one band, a group that could begin with an old Irish folk tune, morph into indigenous Mexican music, and end with a fiddle dance tune. A group that could pull off a Bob Marley-John Denver mashup. A group that turned "Rollin' in My Sweet Baby's Arms" into the most rockin' dance tune ever. Really. It was a veritable mixture of all sorts of worldwide cultures, and it was one of the most enjoyable sounds I've ever heard. And the crowd agreed. This American Bluegrass crowd was on its feet, dancing and do-si-doing and clapping and shouting and generally experiencing a great time.
If you want to hear what I'm talking about, go to their music page, and listen to La Primavera. Listen how it switches back and forth from Mexican rhythm to Irish fiddle tune. In fact, listen to how the fiddle tune plays over top of the Mexican rhythm. Neither gives way to the other, both carry on simultaneously, a mashup of cultures complementing each other, each existing in its own cultural form, but both coming together to create something beautiful and unique.
I couldn't help but think this is what the kingdom of God is supposed to look like: all sorts of cultures blending together in a joyful, spontaneous celebration of creativity and community and laughter. And fun.
Go check out their website, listen to their music there. If you ever get a chance, go see them. Be amazed, and see the future coming to us now; thankfully, it seems to be in good hands.
(oh, on another note, I also became a fan of Northern Departure. A bunch of kids, but they know how to pick. Plus they hail from my old stomping grounds.)