Andy Crouch – Culture Making

Christianity Today has an excerpt from Andy Crouch’s book Culture Making.

Gestures Toward Culture

Condemning culture. Some cultural artifacts can only be condemned.

Critiquing culture. Some cultural artifacts deserve to be critiqued.

Consuming culture. There are many cultural goods for which by far the most appropriate response is to consume.

Copying culture. Even the practice of copying cultural goods, borrowing their form from the mainstream culture and infusing them with Christian content, has its place.

When Gestures Become Postures

The problem is not with any of these gestures. All of them can be appropriate responses to particular cultural goods. Indeed, each of them may be the only appropriate response to a particular cultural good.

But the problem comes when these gestures become too familiar, become the only way we know how to respond to culture, become etched into our unconscious stance toward the world, and become postures.

Artists and Gardeners

What is missing from our repertoire, I’ve come to believe, are the two postures that are most characteristically biblical but have been least explored by Christians in the last century.

They are found at the very beginning of the human story, according to Genesis: like our first parents, we are to be creators and cultivators. Or to put it more poetically, we are artists and gardeners.

The postures of the artist and the gardener have a lot in common. Both begin with contemplation, paying close attention to what is already there. The gardener looks carefully at the landscape; the existing plants, both flowers and weeds; the way the sun falls on the land. The artist regards her subject, her canvas, her paints with care to discern what she can make with them.

And then, after contemplation, the artist and the gardener both adopt a posture of purposeful work. They bring their creativity and effort to their calling. The gardener tends what has gone before, making the most of what is beautiful and weeding out what is distracting or useless.

The artist can be more daring: she starts with a blank canvas or a solid piece of stone and gradually brings something out of it that was never there before. They are acting in the image of One who spoke a world into being and stooped down to form creatures from the dust.

They are creaturely creators, tending and shaping the world that original Creator made.

I wonder what we Christians are known for in the world outside our churches. Are we known as critics, consumers, copiers, condemners of culture? I’m afraid so.

Why aren’t we known as cultivators—people who tend and nourish what is best in human culture, who do the hard and painstaking work to preserve the best of what people before us have done?

Why aren’t we known as creators—people who dare to think and do something that has never been thought or done before, something that makes the world more welcoming and thrilling and beautiful?

The simple truth is that in the mainstream of culture, cultivation and creativity are the postures that confer legitimacy for the other gestures. People who consider themselves stewards of culture, guardians of what is best in a neighborhood, an institution, or a field of cultural practice gain the respect of their peers.

Even more so, those who go beyond being mere custodians to creating new cultural goods are the ones who have the world’s attention. Indeed, those who have cultivated and created are precisely the ones who have the legitimacy to condemn—whose denunciations, rare and carefully chosen, carry outsize weight.

Cultivators and creators are the ones who are invited to critique and whose critiques are often the most telling and fruitful.

Cultivators and creators can even copy without becoming mere imitators, drawing on the work of others yet extending it in new and exciting ways—think of the best of hip-hop’s culture of sampling, which does not settle for merely reproducing the legends of jazz and R & B but places their work in new sonic contexts.

And when they consume, cultivators and creators do so without becoming mere consumers. They do not derive their identity from what they consume but from what they create.

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.”

Read the whole thing here –  it is excellent:

Trevin Wax has a series of interviews with Andy Crouch:

Part 1: What is “The Culture”?

Part 2: Evangelical Successes in Culture-Making

Part 3: Critiquing Culture

Part 4: Conserving Culture

Part 5: Beware of “World-Changers” / The Resurrection as Culture-Making

Part 6: Response to John Seel

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~ by John on January 10, 2009.

One Response to “Andy Crouch – Culture Making”

  1. […] Some thoughts on Culture-Making by Andy Crouch […]

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