Elevating the Cultural Conversation

Erik Cooper —  September 26, 2011 — 2 Comments

It was easily the most beautiful hotel I’ve ever seen. And that’s saying something, because I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to some incredibly exotic places in my lifetime.

The Hotel Del Coronado is not only one of the nation’s top resort destinations, it’s also a historical landmark. Opened in 1888, it’s housed presidents, royalty, authors, actors. The global elite.

And now, somehow, me.

My dad runs a non-profit, and one of their partners invited him to a meeting/fundraiser/golf outing in San Diego, CA. The tournament required a two-man team, so with great sacrifice my wife and I cleared the calendar and made the long, cross-country trip. Sometimes you have to take one for the team.

As the concierge walked us to our room, she gave us the $500 (SoCal’s version of the nickel) tour.

“President Obama was recently here, and a lot of the L.A. a-list celebrities enjoy our hotel because they can remain relatively secluded if they so desire. You know, private chefs and sorts. See those 3-bedroom cottages over there? They rent for $5,700 per night.

Record screech. Excuse me, what? Did you say per week? Per month? Is that a down payment?

“Yes, $5,700 per night. But think about it, that’s really not that bad if you split it, you know, between three families.

Three Arab oil princes’ families?

And in that moment I was confronted with a reality for which I had absolutely no context. And it wasn’t just the money. It was the culture. A mindset that could drop nearly two-months wages on a place to sleep for one night. As hard as I tried, I simply couldn’t grasp it. I couldn’t cross the divide.

It probably wasn’t coincidence that my co-pastor Nathan LaGrange forwarded me an Indy Star article while I was there outlining the differing values and thought processes for our city’s poor, middle class, and wealthiest citizens. A fascinating read about cultural expectations, and how one pastor is bridging the gap.

The greatest barrier for connection is often an inability to process the world through the lens of another.

As a pastor, this type of incarnation is my greatest challenge. Not only comprehending the conflicting mindsets of different socio-economic classes, but even learning to elevate the conversation around the controversial cultural issues of our day. To recognize that grasping another person’s context is not the same as approving of it.

But perhaps above all, I’ve been deeply challenged to remember that the ultimate objective is not to win people to a new social mindset. It’s to introduce them to the Savior. That’s always where new life begins.

And He always starts from wherever they’re at. Shouldn’t I learn to do the same?

How can we better elevate the conversation across cultural barriers?

2 responses to Elevating the Cultural Conversation

  1. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and desire to share Christ with others. You know those people who spend $5700 a nite need Jesus just as much as someone who cannot even afford a place to live. There is no culture or no socioeconomic status where Jesus need not be welcome.

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