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I caved and bought Coldplay tickets on the day of the concert. Despite the price tag I wanted to go for a number of reasons. You may not like Coldplay, that’s fine, but I enjoy their music because their songs are the type you don’t need words to sing along. I wanted to participate in the concert experience with 20 000 other enthusiastic people. I wanted to hum along and take part in what become not only a concert, but a spiritual experience.

Coldplay may not be beautiful, but their music is. I find celebrating culture, the clash of times, spaces, and people, a beautiful expression of humanity. We have an urge to connect into beauty. We love what is captivating and pretty. Not just to the eyes, but to the soul, ears, heart, and mind as well.

However, some think culture, society, what’s ‘fun’, is immoral and untrustworthy at the best of times. Should we fear our embrace beauty in culture?

Some people have opted to discard culture and subsequently the beauty attached with it. “There is too much evil in culture so we can’t trust it and certainly shouldn’t associate with it,” or so goes the idea. There’s so much distrust that some have gone to lengths to create parallel cultures so their kids and lives don’t have to intersect.

A bit of a strange attempt. Firstly, it’s hard unless you’re Amish/Hutterite, (but even they have TVs stashed in their closets) to get away from culture. There is intersection no matter how hard you try to avoid it. Secondly, if you’re coming from a Christian perspective, it’s not biblical.

Jesus Christ spent almost his entire life intersecting with culture from the religious elite to the street walkers. Why should our churches and Christians be different? Some churches in our city today operate as if they’re porcupines–pricking any outside influence from getting in. The thinking goes, “God needs a place where he can stay, free from all the evil outside.”

I assure you God is not confined to a building on Sunday, nor does he require a ‘sacred building’ to dwell. In fact, back to Jesus, the greatest example of entering into culture was himself. Jesus intercedes into the history of humanity, and since in Christian orthodox thinking Jesus is God, he is the supreme example of a God connecting with humanity in a very real way.

If that’s not celebrating humanity and culture I don’t know what is. If that’s not affirming culture and beauty then I don’t what does.

Jesus’ message wasn’t one encouraging people to live a new life outside of culture. He didn’t come to show people how to create a Utopian society. In fact, the times he bashes any established component of culture is when he was trying to right social injustices or criticize the religious institution. The life of Jesus was marked by his counter-cultural

You see, Christians should operate under the concept that they are within culture, celebrate it, but don’t necessarily accept everything within it. It’s OK to be counter-cultural for some things, but it’s not OK to be out-of-culture.

There’s too much beauty in our environment, in our mountains, in our rivers and trees. There’s too much happening in our festivals, concerts, and art galleries. You don’t want to miss out on these experiences that celebrate our city and our humanity.

I remember I went to the final 2009 CPO (Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra) concert where they had arguably the hardest song in the piano repertoire–Rachminoff’s Third Concerto in D Minor, Op. 30. Rachmaninoff is reported to have gone crazy writing it, players (the movie Shine) have gone crazy learning it, on that particular night it all came together in a flawless performance.

Here it all came together, the Brazilian pianist (Arnaldo Cohen), the Brazilian conductor (Roberto Minczuk), the local orchestra of all sorts of cultures, the Russian composer, the Calgarians watching, intersected space and time to combine for a memorable performance that will never be repeated in the same way. (First time in a long time as well that I’ve seen the crowd give a standing O to force an encore.)

How could anybody reject such an expression?

To stop celebrating culture is to stop celebrating humanity. Some have done this and have become negatively affected–they are parched for culture. If you only experience mediocre culture you’re not only completely out of touch with the world around you, but you cease to develop fully as a human being.

Coldplay brought 20000 people together to raise their arms, close their eyes, and sing the same songs. It’s electric when this happens. Kind of like how some churches try to be only this time the music and experience was way way better….

If Coldplay’s song ‘The Hardest Part’ was about rejecting culture they’d be right:

And the hardest part
Was letting go, not taking part
Was the hardest part

We need to spend more time enjoying and cherishing our culture, environment, and more, all of which combine to confirm our humanity and celebrate capability of calculated expression.

Embrace beauty, embrace culture, embrace humanity. These are important elements of a Christian identity, these are foundational elements of being human.

P.S. To celebrate the collision of culture check out the Calgary Jazz Festival taking place in our fine city until Saturday.

[tags]calgary, jazz festival, coldplay, CPO, philharmonic, Roberto Minczuk[/tags]