Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack
A crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

– Anthem, Leonard Cohen


His demeanor displayed anger as he said, “Our young people are heavily influenced by today’s culture. All those TikToks and stuff. It takes them away from the church.”

As usual, when something goes wrong, it’s the messenger that gets a black eye.

There was a day when I was learning what it meant to be in the world. It was my own church where I was growing up that made sure I heard it loudly and clearly. Years later, I thought of it as an upside-down education. There was an extreme lesson in the way a church elder made sure that girls would not be allowed inside the sanctuary in miniskirts. He stood by the door on Sabbath morning with a ruler.

As I was on my way to study in England in 1966, my own father was worried that I might walk off the Adventist “straight and narrow” road. “You are inclined to imitate those beatniks,” he often said. He asked one of the church leaders living in England, Bert B. Beach, to look after me. Obviously, I needed a chaperone.

My dad told him that I tended “to enjoy too much of that pop music,” which was partially true, and my hair was longer than what Adventist youth ought to have. “You look like one of the Beatles,” he would tell me. A few years later, I was nearly sent home from university unless I got a haircut. It was regarded as a bad influence on other students in an Adventist school, so I was told. Much, much later, Bert jokingly remarked, “You enjoyed that music, didn’t you? Today, I must admit,” he said, “their music is closer to what I imagine we will hear in heaven.”

When talking about culture, through which all of us meander, whether it is art, music, literature, or fashion, my own experience with it was an expression of who I was. My own Bible study made me realize that my religion is not expressed by the volume of religious words I use. Such words and concepts come when they are needed. Christian presence and its media content makes a difference when motivated by the values of one’s faith.

If I were to evaluate the capital of my spiritual country, it would have to be Scripture. The location of my geographical bearing is centered in the Holy Word. And Scripture is at the foundation of the culture by which I am surrounded, that I know and respect.

There was a moment that made the Scripture meaningful for me, and meaningful in ways that charted each of my todays and tomorrows.

Once upon a time, in the 1970s, I was involved with the life and work of Poland’s premier artist, Czesław Niemen. He was a composer, a singer, a painter, a poet, and a friend. I helped him with his professional activities, traveled with him, even organized a tour or two, translating into English some of his lyrics. I will dare to say, what Bob Dylan is to America, Niemen was to Poland …

Niemen’s art was serious. His was a spiritual presence for the nation—a contemporary expression of who the Poles are, coupled with a call to continue to revise our lives. He sang: “Strange is this world, a world where a man hates his fellow man …” He called for a revival where values are reclaimed. Where we move toward each other and respond to our common needs. Niemen’s faith and his religious background made him a bridge builder between the world of needs and the world of God’s compassion.

Enter a day when I decided to share with him my personal worldview, a view described by singularity of purpose as defined by my Bible. Niemen was raised in a home and community where a priest read what he chose from the Scriptures. I introduced Niemen to my Bible. I said: “Czesław, read it for yourself.”

It was a few days after I gave him a brand-new translation of the Bible that I saw him again and he said: “Why did you hide this treasure from me for so long? Are you serious about what you stand for? Listen to this.” He opened the Book of Job, chapter 29. I’ve never forgotten to go back to that passage again and again. From that day in 1979, I was given my marching orders … Niemen impacted my life by pointing to an alignment of the internalization of practicing and sharing what God says in His Word.

“Good faith Christians are rounded in Scripture and practice the art of seeing people,” words that polish my Christian attitude and put me where I am.

Our culture always gets richer when we base it on God’s Word. It takes practice to make a difference. It requires creative relevance. Consider the attitude of Apostle Paul: Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. … I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it! (I Cor 9:20-23 MSG).

Rajmund Dabrowski is editor of Mountain Views. Email him at: [email protected]