Last Friday, Tyler gave a great grid for Christians to use when evaluating culture. The Three R’s: What can be received? What can be redeemed? What must be rejected? These questions are important for us to ask if are willing to step out of our Christian bubble and spread the gospel.
Tyler also pointed out a crucial point from Acts 17. Paul didn’t come to Athens to offer an imitation of athenian worship. Nor did he come to nit-pic every little thing that was wrong with their culture. He came with the fresh and freeing gospel message. As cultural guru Andy Crouch would put it, Paul created culture.
If we are honest with ourselves, we rarely respond to our world the way Paul responded in Athens. In his book Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling, Crouch points out 4 negative ways Christians tend to respond to culture.
Condemn: This response hits close to home here in southern suburbia. We look around and see evil and sin in schools, media, the work place, etc. Instead of seeking change, we hide out in our Christian sub-culture and talk about how bad things keep getting.
Crouch says, ‘If all we do is condemn culture- especially if we mostly just talk among ourselves, mutually agreeing on how bad things are becoming- we are very unlikely indeed to have any cultural effect, because human nature abhors a cultural vacuum.’
Do we need to be outspoken against evil and sin? Absolutely. But to condemn culture without offering the remedy is like being a doctor who diagnoses a broken arm but refuses to set it.
Critique: This is a more subtle response. Cultural critics may not be blatantly condemning, but they stand on the outside looking in. They pick apart negatives, acknowledge positives, but there is still no interaction.
Crouch uses movies as an example: ‘For several decades Hollywood’s profits have been driven by blockbusters and sequels that are frequently panned by the best respected critics… the analysis of critics has only the tiniest effect on what succeeds and fails, swamped by the simple word-of-mouth endorsements of ordinary folks looking for some entertainment on Friday night.’
Copy: The Christian sub-culture has turned this into an art form. I would explain copying culture as offering a cheap imitation of the world’s goods by adding ‘Christian’ in front of it: Christian music, Christian movies, Christian T-shirts, Christian Restaurants… the list goes on.
‘Any cultural good, after all, only moves the horizons for the particular public who experience it.’ All we do when we copy culture and make it ‘christian’ is please Christian people. And to only please Christian people is to reject God’s mission to reach the lost.
Consume: This takes place when Christians intentionally consume one part of cultural in order to appose another.
Crouch uses the example of Barbara Nicolosi, a popular Christian screenwriter. When Dan Brown’s novel turned movie Da Vinci Code was set to hit theaters Nicolosi formulated a plan. Instead of boycotting the movie she wrote an article encouraging Christians to see other more family-friendly movies (like Over the Hedge by Dreamworks).
The article was a hit. It was republished by Christianity Today Movies and read by thousands. But when opening weekend came, the effects weren’t even noticeable (.09 percent affect). Why? Crouch makes the observation. ‘Creativity is the only viable source of change.‘
What we don’t see in each of these common responses to cultural is a genuine love for people. As Christians we are called to love our broken world with the gospel. Therefore, we must engage the people around us in real ways.
NOTE: Next week Joe will show us what it mean to create culture as Christians in this world.