Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Culture Making

I am reading a book entitled Culture Making, by Andy Crouch. My brother gave me this book as a gift last Christmas. I have tried on multiple occasions to read it and could never seem to get past the first chapter (kind of like when I try to read through the Bible. Ha!) Let's just say that I lose patience when I have to re-read every. single. sentence. at least 2 times to even grasp a tiny bit of it's meaning. This book is over my head, there is no doubt about it. But I have a couple of other books that I would like to give a go and I have resolved to finish Culture Making first.

Last weekend I sucked it up and read through Chapter 1. And yes, I did re-read every sentence and it took me about 2 days to do it. But I actually began to understand what the guy is talking about, sort of (I think) and now it is really turning out to be a very interesting read. I told my brother last night that I am having to fight against my pride when I actually understand a sentence on the first read-through, which is happening more and more often as I get further into the book.

In a nutshell, this is the premise of the book: It is not merely enough to condemn culture. Nor is it sufficient merely to critique culture, copy culture or consume culture. The only way to change culture is to create culture, hence the title. Crouch spends a lot of time in the beginning of the book expanding the reader's idea of culture. It is much more than the opera or the type of clothing worn by a certain people group. It includes everything from what what Adam and Eve did with the garden, to what our government did with the interstate highway system. Crouch defines culture as "what we make of the world." This book is calling Christians to not only be culturally aware, but culturally responsible.

So far, the concept that has been most intriguing to me is how Christians like to "copy culture." The authors explains it in this way:

"Another, rather different approach to unsatisfactory culture is to imitate it,
replacing the offensive bits with more palatable ones. A subculture within
American society might decide that the best solution to the desultory state of
the film industry is to start their own movie industry, complete with producers,
directors, writers, actors and even theaters, and create a kind of parallel film
industry that will fix the apparent problems in mainstream cinema. The new
movies created and distributed never shown in mainstream movie theaters--if,
indeed, they were created and consumed entirely by members of a particular
subculture--they would have no influence on the culture of mainstream movies at

Sound familiar? This happens in everything from Christian music to Christian apparel. I don't think there is anything wrong with this, heck I am listening to Christian radio right now. It's fine for our enjoyment and fellowship as Christians. That's fine. I just hope we aren't fooling ourselves into thinking that these types of "culture-copying" are doing something to change the culture around us. As in, I shouldn't think that I am "doing my part" as a Christian simply by having my radio tuned to the Christian station or by only watching movies that are made by a "Christian movie studio." That would be culturally irresponsible:

"Our copy-culture by definition will never be seen by the vast majority of
the mainstream culture. And in this way, when all we do is copy culture
for our own Christian ends, cultural copying fails to love or serve our

One of my favorite examples of culture making in the book so far is this: When The Da Vinci Code came out several years ago, Christians became outraged. Plans to boycott and protest the movie sprouted all over the country. This is what Barbara Nicolosi, a screenwriter and Christian leader in Hollywood had to say about it:

"Any publicity is good publicity. Protests not only fuel the box office, they
make all Christians look like idiots. And boycotts and protests do nothing to
help shape the decisions being made right now about what movies Hollywood will
make in the next few years. (Or they convince Hollywood to make more movies that
will provoke Christians to protest, which will drive the box office up)."

Nicolosi went on to offer an alternative for the would-be protesters and boy cotters. (And this is where the culture making comes in to play!) She suggested that Christian movie-goers pay cold hard cash, the only thing that really speaks in Hollywood, and cast their vote by choosing another movie that weekend. Without boycotts, without arguments. Although this approach would do nothing to truly change the way that Hollywood makes movies, as was proven that week when The Da Vinci Code opened and blew every other movie out of the water, Nicolosi had offered up a new cultural good: an othercott. An idea that required her creativity... an open and active mind. And it was a term that was picked up by Christian and mainstream media alike.

We are made in the image of our Creator, and so it should come as no shock to us that one of the most basic things were were created to do was--to create--and to create for His glory. It should come as no shock, but it did shock me to realize this. The thought is as exhilarating as it is shocking to me, however. I love to create. I have just never thought of creating in these terms.

We can't change the culture by condemning, complaining, copying or even engaging in it. I don't think Crouch is trying to say that we can't or shouldn't do any of those things--just that we shouldn't expect any of those things to change the world. The only way we can change culture is to create more of it!

More on Culture Making to come...

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know you had this blog...how did I miss this!? Ha!

    I've been meaning to read this book! A friend told me about it some time ago. I love what the book says about "creating." Without reading the book I kind of came to this realization last summer....and it was amazing to me! I mean, I seriously find SO MUCH pleasure in creating something...NO WONDER! HA! It honestly made me feel closer to God...if that makes sense? :)

    Sorry, that's a big ramble, but I'm just excited to have found your other blog, and the first post I read is about this book! Fun! I look forward to reading more!

    Psst..thanks for your comment on my blog! ;)