Last week the students in my Writing Close to the Earth online class read George Orwell's classic essay, "Politics and the English Language." In it ... Read More
Welcome to Week 2 of The Rabbit Reads Book Group – Culture Making. This week, we’re looking at Chapters 3-5.
A couple weeks ago while preparing for this read-through of Culture Making, I posed two questions on the RR Forum: “What do you think of when you hear the word ‘culture’? And what was your relationship to culture when you were growing up?” The answers weren’t surprising…
“Growing up, I think I associated ‘culture’ with the idea of culture wars. The ‘culture’ was a worldly, ungodly place that I needed to stay away from. Then I think I moved to a different kind of aggressive stance, where I thought Christian culture needed to overcome secular culture…” – Chris (@chrisyokel)
“In a church context – it’s almost always put forward as an ‘us vs. them’ scenario, such as ‘….our culture is telling us [option A], but God/the Bible [option B].’ I think it’s often used as a stand-in word for behaviors that are socially accepted in the US but miiight not be biblically orthodox.” – @Laura
“Growing up in the church and heavy into the early phases of ‘Christian rock,’ I saw culture as something to be imitated but with a Christian twist, not unlike what we are now seeing in the film industry… ‘culture’ has what people want, so let’s make it wholesome or biblical or Gospel oriented. The idea that believers are to be culture makers was completely foreign.” – Beth (@bethelrising)
If you’re a regular at the Rabbit Room and willing to pick up a Christian book on Culture Making, I’d guess a few things are true about you. For one thing, you are probably a Christian with some solid ideas about theology and culture. However you got here—growing up in church, becoming a Christian later in life, or in the middle of a faith shift, questioning and finding your way—here you are. I suppose it’s even safe to guess the majority of us are smack in the middle of white American evangelicalism. (And if you aren’t part of that tradition, please comment away… we need your perspective!)
For better or worse, my guess is at least one part of those stories above rings true for you. I know it did for me.
What Chris, Laura, and Beth describe in their comments are certainly definitions of culture, but they also suggest something about the postures we take in how we respond to culture.
In Chapter 5, Crouch gives us a history of Christians and culture, characterizing different times and groups with different postures:
- Condemning: Fundamentalism (withdrawing and ignoring, all fear and no delight)
- Critiquing: The Neo-Evanglicals (think Francis Schaeffer and L’Abri… asking question about worldview, “somewhere between beating the world and joining it”)
- Copying: The CCM / Jesus Movement (welcoming and appropriating cultural forms, but becoming puritanical about content and splitting sacred and secular)
- Consuming: Just taking it all in
Like the way our bodies’ postures communicate confidence or shame, energy or withdrawal, our posture toward culture says something about what we believe is possible. And, as Crouch points out, good posture gives you freedom to move.
Our posture makes some movements more possible than others. If our attitude toward movies is “that’s all a bunch of immoral liberal trash,” then it’s impossible to experience the redemptive power of great films. But if we read books with a critiquing posture, it’s possible to find God between the lines of both great classics and a contemporary sci-fi paperback.
If our posture is copying, then it becomes possible to enjoy music that sounds reasonably close to whatever is popular without feeling gross about it (this was me in high school with my WOW CDs). And if our posture is consuming, then well… it’s possible to binge-watch anything on Netflix that strikes our fancy because who cares? It’s just entertainment, right?
This week, let’s talk about the postures we’ve been taught to hold and the ones we carry today. Maybe over the years, you’ve built up a posture that’s constantly squinting at the world, looking for the glow of the holy, or maybe your arms are open wide, free from fear but not really questioning what you take in.
Take some time to honestly consider how you approach the world, and ask yourself what you might learn if you saw through a different lens.
A final word on these four postures: all of them have their place. Some cultural artifacts are worth condemning because they are damaging, dehumanizing—pornography for sure comes to mind. Many deserve our critique, because there’s more to them than just the surface. Sometimes it’s good to copy, as a way of learning from and paying respect to those who have gone before. And you know what? Sometimes a sandwich is a sandwich and we should just consume it.
These postures, rightly ordered, can give us the freedom of movement to take on a new, more generative posture toward the culture we find ourselves in:
“If there is a constructive way forward for Christians in the midst of our broken but also beautiful cultures, it will require us to recover these two biblical postures of cultivation and creation. And that recovery will involve revisiting the biblical story itself, where we discover that God is more intimately and eternally concerned with culture than we have yet come to believe.” (pg. 98)
Did something stand out to you in this weeks’ reading? Feel free to share your favorite quotes, insights, and questions in the comments!
Jen was born and raised in central Florida, but now lives in the strange land of southern New England. Her words have appeared in TS Poetry’s Every Day Poems, CCM Magazine, and other publications, and she recently released her first poetry collection Ruins & Kingdoms. Some of her favorite things include used bookstores, good coffee, messing about in the kitchen, and local adventures with her husband Chris.