Swimming Against the Current

Driving the babysitter home she said something that made me feel old. It was only 1990 and I was only 29 years old, but her words made me realize how quickly time was passing.

“In history, we are studying the counter-cultural revolution,” she said. Not wanting to appear as clueless as I was, I replied, “Really — what are some other names for that?” She said, “My dad calls it the hippy movement. You know, the sixties.” Now, I was just a prepubescent kid in the sixties, but I was alive. And I was struck by two things: First, that a period of my life was now considered fodder for tenth-grade history teachers, and second, that the hippies had a name that made them sound quite impressive: counter-culturalists.

The Little Falls at Toccoa

Counter-culturalists. I think it’s a safe bet to say they show up in history books more than any other kind of person. Why? Because counter-culturalists make history. Whether it’s Socrates corrupting the youth of Athens, or John Hancock signing his name boldly enough that the king could read it without his spectacles, or Teddy Roosevelt riding his horse through what later became known as D.C.’s Rock Creek Park with pistols firing, or a group of college dropouts in a VW van with a peace-sign painted on it — people who make an impact, good or bad, are people who swim against the current.

So Laurel and I are sitting on a rock watching the family climb up “The Little Falls” and she recounts a story of someone criticizing a church for “accepting just anybody”. The suggested criteria is irrelevant, but Laurel’s friend was distressed because this church was not discriminating regarding the cleanliness, clothing, intelligence, social status, race, marital status, relationship status, sexuality, addictions, or biblical literacy of those it was allowing to come and worship. As Laurel told me the story, I remarked, “What we are doing at Curwensville Alliance is like trying to swim up these falls.” Laurel nodded quietly.

It is. We are swimming against the current, pushing against religious wisdom, countering the culture. And it’s a challenge. But isn’t that what makes history, not just in the secular world, but in the spiritual world?

  • God pushed Moses into pressing against the culture.
  • Samuel, anointing a shepherd boy while Saul was still on the throne — that’s pressing against political norms.
  • Elijah calling out the prophets of Baal — that’s a little out of the ordinary, pressing some buttons of people like Jezebel.
  • And Jesus… Yeah…. Jesus…. He was all about violating cultural norms, whether they were regarding prostitution or propriety in worship, Jesus made history by pressing against the religious culture — a religious culture that grew from what he had decreed centuries earlier through men like Moses.

At CvilleAlliance we are swimming upstream. But that which floats downstream is generally lost and forgotten. It’s not that we want to be remembered in history. I really couldn’t care less about whether I am remembered a generation from now. And that’s probably good — because I will not be remembered. Can you name your great-grandfather’s favorite Bible verse? I didn’t think so. We’ll almost certainly be forgotten by those who come later, most likely within two generations.

But what we do as we swim upstream can have impact that will change history — and in that sense, while our names will be forgotten by this world, the difference we make will influence all eternity.

In the words of Josh in his message today (2/10/2013), Press On!