Today I am working on a seminar that I will be giving at Pine Springs Camp this weekend, and so I thought I'd blog through some thoughts. If you have something to share, or an idea or rebuttal, (polite) comments are always welcome!
Every month I get a copy of Youth Worker Journal, and one of the first sections that the magazine has is a "culture watch." Each month they run through the stories that have come up regarding culture, specifically youth culture. I always find it interesting to see what gets included in our understanding of culture. Typically we mean things like music or TV or what's happening in the social media world on the internet. But remember that culture is much bigger and broader than that. Culture includes what we say and how we say it, what kind of clothing we wear, the rules that govern our society, and even things like how we form relationships with one another. If we as humans are fish, then culture is the water in the tank. We are consumed by it.
And that's an ok thing. Andy Crouch in his book Culture Making notes that there are basically three modes of dealing with culture. We are either Culture Consumers, Culture Critics, or Culture Makers. The truth is, Christians have tended towards the middle option, assuming that our "in the world but not of it" mandate means that we are to step back from culture and say that we know better, and judge what is good or bad about culture. I can almost promise when I open this seminar up to questions one of the kids will ask something like "Is it ok to listen to this band?" or watch this tv show or something. We want to know what's ok to consume, and a lot of that has turned us into the Critics of Culture.
I'm not convinced that's the best way for us to go. There was a time in Church history where we were not the critics of art and culture, but we were the source of it. The great art of the Renaissance was actually commissioned by the church in many cases. We were the creators of culture and art, and we were proud of what we made. Rather than sitting back and waiting for culture to do something and then reacting to it, the Church made our own culture.
I for one would like to get back to more of that.
Again though, this is bigger than producing albums and albums worth of Christian music (most of which, by the by, is terrible. If we're going to create culture, we should create good culture). What if Christians were able to create the culture of our workplace? What if redemption carried the way for our culture of relationships with each other? What if grace was all over the culture of language around us. The truth is, whether we know it or not, you and I create culture each and every day. What if we did so with intentionality, trying our best to create the culture of the kingdom?
That would be a culture worth being a part of indeed.