In their book The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can’t Be Jammed, Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter address some of the myths surrounding the countercultural movement. They state, “traditional political activism is useless”, giving numerous example of how the very attempt to force the system or cultural to change actually became part of the system they were trying to replace. A great illustration of this can be found in Jan Kershner’s book Little Dogs On the Prairie: Pride, Prejudice and Fudge.
In a small western town, occupied by prairie dogs, the owner of the general store hires and opera singing snake to help in the mailroom. The other prairie dogs hear Stanza the snake singing opera as he works, but they do not know who it was. When they realize that he is a snake, they insist he be fired and run out of town. The owner of the general store, a successful capitalist, refuses to give-in to the threats of the crowd and will not get rid of the snake. It wasn’t so much that he loved the snake, but that Stanza was a good worker and helped his capitalistic business be more successful. The town grew frustrated at the store owner’s insistence on putting his own financial gain over the good of society. After all, a snake posed a great potential threat to the health and well-being on the community! In an act of solidarity, trying to stick it to the man (or should I say the prairie dog), they did what anyone else would do to enact social change; They announced a boycott. In the midst of chanting “boycott, boycott…” someone pointed out that if they were really going to boycott the only store in town, they should stock-up first. The chant quickly changed from “boycott, boycott…” to “stock-up, stock-up…”. Within minutes they had purchased everything in the store. When Stanza the snake found out that the boycott had happened, he left town and wrote a note to the store owner apologizing for causing the boycott. The owner’s response was that the boycott was the best thing that had ever happened to him and that now he could afford to retire. He also admitted that he liked the snake, even though he made obscene profits off him.
This simple story illustrates that realty of the typical countercultural efforts. Heath and Potter do a great job of showing how countercultural movements quickly become intertwined with and actually help sustain the very systems they are trying to dismantle. Whether it is a rapper getting rich off selling records with a counter cultural message or bikers working long hours to buy a $30,000 motor cycle to “be a free rebel” on the weekends, the results are the same, the message is rendered defunct by its dependence on consumerism and market capitalism.
Heath and Potter make an argument that rules and not inherently bad. In my experience, when I encounter people who rebel against societal rules and insist that rules are only there to oppress them, I usually find that they want to do away with all rules that apply to them, but still expect others to follow rules. They feel that they should be able to say or do anything they like, but do not want people to say or do things against them. Heath & Potter point out that “Some kind of social control is required in order to maintain the system that generates the mutual benefits—hence the punishments for disobedience.” They go on to say, “it is important to draw a distinction between acts of rebellion that challenge senseless or outdated conventions and those that violate legitimate social norms.”
My question is this, as followers of Christ we are called to be in the world but not of the world. How can we impact culture around us for Christ without falling into the same trap of simply being part of the culture? I believe that we have a call to live under different “norms” than the world, but as I look around the Church, sometimes it is hard to see much of a difference.
 Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter, The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can’t Be Jammed (Toronto: HarperPerennial, 2005), 7
 Jan Kershner, Little Dogs On the Prairie: Pride, Prejudice and Fudge (7 Quick and Easy Bible Lessons for Combined Ages) (Group, 2001).
 Heath & Potter, 79.
 Ibid., 79