Culture: Critique it, Change it, or Create it?

Critique it, change it, or create it? These are the three categories that Andy Crouch names as reactions to culture Christians in the 20th century have had in his seminal work, Culture Making.

The book summary notes:

It is not enough to condemn culture. Nor is it sufficient merely to critique culture or to copy culture. Most of the time, we just consume culture. But the only way to change culture is to create culture. For too long, Christians have had an insufficient view of culture and have waged misguided “culture wars.” But we must reclaim the cultural mandate to be the creative cultivators that God designed us to be. Culture is what we make of the world, both in creating cultural artifacts as well as in making sense of the world around us. By making chairs and omelets, languages and laws, we participate in the good work of culture making.

As a Gen Xer (almost Millenial by a few years) Christian, this resonates with me. I was swept up in the critique and changing of culture in the 1980s and 1990s, my formative years. I’m tired and I think society is not only tired of Christians, but jaded and suspicious of us. Rather, how might creating culture through the arts, by bringing meaning and purpose to vocation, and living robustly in the public square create a new place for faith in America? A new public theology that presents the Gospel in ways folks can hear and recognize?

In the Gotham Fellowship this past week, we asked ourselves what the Gospel as a public truth would look like.

The failure of the late 20th century approach at critiquing or changing culture has made for a hardened culture suspicious of Christians, and likewise made for timid evangelists, timid disciples who fear upsetting others.

Openly acknowledging Jesus to be the person at the center of our worldview, rather than a philosophical system to be debated or ridiculed, we carry a confidence of conviction and an openness to love. (I actually wrote an editorial this week for the Orlando Sentinel on how the pope exemplifies this courage to love and courage to root oneself in doctrine. Read it here.)

What is a worldview? Everyone has a worldview; sort of the filter of presuppositions, truths, and more through which we see the world. Some of my filters would be: male, white, Gen Xer, Southerner, American, educated, middle class, Christian, etc. Experiences and insights tell us what is true and how the world both works and should work. The goal of a Christian is to recognize the influences upon one’s view of the world and humble those before the throne of God, and replace it with Christ alone as the filter. Hard? Yes. Gratifying and life-long journey? Absolutely.

And so with worldview confidence we move to the making of Christ-centered culture. This is not theocracy, or art with crosses all over it (and certainly not cheesy Christian film! Give me the good stuff!). It is the pursuit of beauty, God’s beauty; the practice of goodness; the declaration of what is true in thought, inquiry, debate, policy, art, and more.

For FPCO (and myself) my question is, “How do we uniquely do this together, downtown, Orlando, so that God gets the glory?”

This post is part of a series of reflections on leading the inaugural class of the Gotham Fellowship as part of First Presbyterian Church of Orlando’s Center for Faith and Work. 

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