When I was growing up our world was a very different place and the influence of evangelicalism was very different as well. I remember the primary posture of the church toward culture was condemning culture. I remember well the frequent calls for boycotts. For some reason, a late 80’s call to boycott Procter and Gamble due to a symbol on its packaging has never left me. The next change in culture was the copying of culture in the mid 90’s (anyone remember “if you like Slayer then listen to “One Bad Pig”). The posture the church seems to be in presently is one of consuming culture. We seem to believe that the other two postures have failed so this is the must be the best way forward to consume culture in an ever elusive quest for relevance. The posture that seems most lacking in the evangelical world today is the ability to critique culture.
Andy Crouch in his bestselling book Culture Making goes into depth on how we are called to be cultivators of culture and how we interact with culture should not be one dimensional but multifaceted in addressing how we react towards culture he says the following:
The problem is not with any of these gestures— condemning, critiquing, consuming, copying. 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.Andy Crouch
Here is the challenge for us as individuals in general and parents in particular. We have to be sure that we respond appropriately to culture, maintaining a dynamic response to our culture based on the situation and the circumstance without letting our responses become fixed postures. We will never be cultivators of culture or teach our kids to survive and thrive in the complexity of being exiles in a culture that will destroy them if they only learn how to respond with a singular fixed posture.
This has come to light with the recent debate over Disney’s inclusion of LGBTQ characters into their cartoons and live actions films for families and kids. The debate online has ranged from boycott (condemning culture) to calls to make more movies with Christian values (copying culture) to Christians blasting fellow Christians for being concerned at all with Disney (Consuming culture). While each of those responses may be appropriate in other situations the correct approach our kids need us to make in this particular instance is to be cultural critics.
Culturally Critical Question We Should Ask Our Kids Regularly
- Why did they do this?
- What should we do in response?
- What does God’s word say about this situation and what does it say about our response
- What do people I trust think about this issue?
The goal of every Christian parent should not be to create culturally pure kids shut off from the world. How can you change what you don’t engage? The goal of every Christian parent should not be to have kids so immersed in culture that they can not see what is wrong and are unable to clearly critique culture. The goal of Christian parents is to teach kids to engage culture with the correct gesture so that we can change culture and create culture. When we demonstrate only a fixed posture perspective toward culture we are dooming them to either adopt our fixed view or to overcompensate and adopt the opposite posture that they grew up seeing because they saw all the dysfunction of a posture with none of the loving tension of gestures.
To be in the world and not of the world is not a call to fundamentalism or syncretism. It is a call to imitate the culture of heaven to create new things and cultivate existing things. To see a particular cultural good and not take a fixed posture towards it but to gesture appropriately in such a way that our kids see the grace of God and justice of God in a way that makes Jesus beautiful. Parents, Pastor leader we have to get this right our kids are watching the world is watching. We can not be swallowed up by the world because of our obsession with relevance. The culture of heaven is counter-cultural and distinctly otherworldly. We also can not be so fundamentally resistant that what we say doesn’t even make sense to a world that desperately needs to hear the good news. We must not become locked into a posture towards culture that leaves us unable to fulfill the mandate given to us in the garden to cultivate to have dominion and ultimate point people through culture beyond culture to heaven.
Should you go see Disney’s latest movie? I don’t know. What I do know is you should ask some questions.
- Why should I see this?
- Why should I not see this?
- How can I use this cultural moment to teach my kids about the culture of heaven?
- Why do I instinctively react the way I do?
- What harm will come if we go see the movie or if we stay home?
- What good will come from attending or skipping this film?