The difficulty in preaching God’s righteousness in any culture stems in part from the inherent inability of the finite mind to comprehend the infinite. However, through the analogy of language we are able to have some comprehension of the truth, albeit not an exhaustive understanding. We can know that God is righteous and that on our own we are not even if cannot comprehend fully what that means.
Recognizing the limitations of finite understanding, we are still compelled to preach the righteousness of God within any number of cultural specific settings. Jeremiah 9:23-24 makes it clear that to some degree God is knowable and Romans 1:20 declares that we are without excuse when it comes to not knowing God.
I minister primarily with the context of a Canadian subculture i.e. the “cowboys” or perhaps more accurately described, those with an affinity for the western lifestyle. This group of people, broadly speaking, tends to be blue collar workers or hold lower level white collar positions. Many have vocational training, some have college degrees and relatively few hold any form of graduate degree. Someone once said of this group “They are long on wisdom and short on schooling” and while that might be a bit of a caricature there is some kernel of truth.
This group tends to have high exposure to general revelation from nature, given their affinity for the outdoors. There is a general awareness of God (however one might choose to define that term) and an understanding that we don’t measure up. You can find evidence of this in their music and their literature. A common response is found in the words of actor John Wayne “I’ve always had deep faith that there is a Supreme Being, there has to be.”
Prevalent in the western novel and movie are typically well defined “good guys” (white hats in the old movies) and “bad guys” (black hats). The bad guys (outlaws, desperados, those on the owl hoot trail, riding for the border, or on the dodge,) are typically portrayed as one of two classes, those very clearly evil and those who break the law but were forced on the run by circumstance. It’s not uncommon for those in the cowboy culture to “sow their wild oats” when younger and settle back into a more restrained lifestyle as they get a little older. The younger phase of life may encompass overindulgence in alcohol, sexual promiscuity and the like, but crossing the line to the point of being “on the dodge” is not tolerated. Such an individual finds themselves outside the community and regarded as no more than a common criminal. While alcohol abuse and the like are tolerated by the community to no small extent, there is still an awareness that such things are wrong.
Like any community, it is sometimes difficult to convince this group that anything which doesn’t please God is sin, but there is sufficient awareness of their “big sins” to convict them. From there study of God’s Word and biblical teaching can bring them to more of an awareness of their “smaller sins”
An awareness of these things gives me an advantage perhaps over a more post modern audience in that I seldom have to convince my audience of the existence of God or their sin. The challenge remains in teaching them the true nature of justification sola fide.
Where difficulties can occur is in the stubborn self-reliance of the cowboy. There can be a reluctance to turn “outside” for assistance and deal with the problem under one’s own strength. This often means that a cowhand often must be “down on his luck” to accept a helping hand and make it hard to accept the gift of salvation from Christ (although such an attitude is common in many areas of Canadian culture today). Conversely though, this makes for emotional testimonies as people in this group often hit bottom before reaching out to the Lord. In addition, this group tends to be suspicious of an easy believism and more willing to embrace a full commitment Christianity when they do make the “leap of faith”. There is an understanding that while salvation comes freely, there is a cost associated with following Christ.
Within the mythology of the west, there still exists to some extent a cowboy code. There is an awareness of right and wrong. This morality, this idea of a “right living code” demonstrates an ideal that we fail to live up to. While it doesn’t correspond directly to the Decalogue and can easily be applied in a secular context, it does show an awareness of right and wrong and implies there is a penalty of some sort for wrong living.
Embedded in the mythology of the west (and the way that mythology is lived out today) is the concept of loyalty. “Riding for the brand”, is deep seated within the culture. In short it means to be loyal and to look out for the “brand” even over your own interests. This concept of doing what it takes to hold fast to a promise, or to an ideal, transfers across to the idea of God doing what is required for the sake of His name. God is ramrod of his own outfit and ultimately responsible for keeping His promises.
It is not a quantum leap to take my audience from their own sort of “folksy wisdom” to Scriptural truth. Given the proclivity of the “cowboy” to seek “justice done” (however flawed it might be in practice) it is an easy step to discussing the concept of a wholly, righteous and fair judge. The old style of “cowboy justice” done at the end of a noose or from the barrel of a gun hasn’t been open to this group since the early twentieth century. The community self polices to some degree but has increasingly resigned itself to using the Canadian legal system. They do see the system as flawed and unfair and long for someone who would apply the law justly.
Knowing these things, I can follow similar steps to Paul’s letter to the Romans and quite readily establish God as that wholly and righteous judge and our lack of ability to stand before Him on our own merit uncondemned. It becomes easy at that point to show the mercy of God and offer them the hope of sola fide.
With that placed before them, Holy Spirit can convict as He sees fit. My responsibility is to be obedient to the best of my own ability, while striving to be obedient to Holy Spirit’s call. He provides the fruit (if any)
 While perhaps stereotyped to a small degree, the typical western gospel is a redemptive morality play. A man or woman – usually bound by some event in their past (either a poor choice or circumstances outside their control), overcomes incredible odds at a high level of person risk, to reap the reward of a cleared name, getting the girl/man and/or serving the cause of justice. While this might be seen by some literary critics as dated, naïve and simplistic, it does to a large degree hold to the mythology of the North American West and view the world to some degree as to how the reader would at least like to see life in general and/or their life in particular work out.
 “What Hollywood Believes” http://www.whathollywoodbelieves.com/press_5authorinterview.shtml Accessed October 5, 2010
“owl hoot trail”, “on the dodge”, “riding for the border” and many similar terms refer to those who are on the run from the law. While such terms are seldom heard in daily conversation toady, they appear often in “western” novels and movies and are clearly understood by the audience
A visit to any “western” bar or nightclub will show this philosophy in action. Both cowboys and cowgirls alike are riding the wide trail with abandon. The crowds tend to be younger, although there will be a smaller core of older hard core drinkers. This phenomenon is not unique to the cowboy community by any means.
 The separation of “big” and “small” sins exists strictly in the mind of the sinner. God views all sin as rebellion and even small sin is sufficient to separate us from God. My point here is that like many other cultures there is a tendency to create an artificial and arbitrary hierarchy of sin in this community.
 Examples and variations of this code abound. One code made popular by motivational speaker/author Jim Owen (author of titles such as “Cowboy Ethics – What Wall Street can learn from the code of the West” and “ Cowboy Values – Reclaiming What America Stood For”
1 Live each day with courage
2 Take pride in your work
3 Always finish what you start
4 Do what has to be done
5 Be tough, but fair
6 When you make a promise, keep it
7 Ride for the brand
8 Talk less and say more
9 Remember that some things aren’t for sale
10 Know where to draw the line
Taken from Ten Principles to Live By – Center For Cowboy Ethics and Leadership – http://www.cowboyethics.org/TenPrinciples.php
 Speaking of the rancher, Adams says: “..the owner himself had divers (sic) titles such as “presidente”, “ramrod”…” Adams, Ramon F, Cowboy Lingo (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1936 – Reprint 2000), 21.
 The community does not consider the courts to be a justice system. They are suspicious of outside authority and skeptical of the results. They would recognize it as being more of a “legal system” where lawyers and judges play by their own rules and justice is seldom served. Having said that there is still a strong respect for the police, just not much faith in what happens after the police finishes doing their job.