Friday, October 12, 2007

Culture and Us..

Joyce @ Mom's musings linked an article on Christians and culture @ Reformation 21. Christians and culture is a topic that interests me very much.

In the book Plowing in Hope David Bruce Hegeman defines culture as such: "the beliefs, behavior, language, and entire way of life of a particular time or group of people." So this is the way I am using the word.

We are all cultural people. People need culture to give them a sense of themselves, where they belong, and who they connect with. When I was running with the hippie crowd, we had a certain shared culture with the others who shared our lifestyle. There were hand signals that were universally understood. There was an understanding of preferences for certain types of food. (Tempeh burger anyone?) there was shared music, types of clothes, places you 'would work or wouldn't work.' Basically, when you take on the lifestyle of a hippie, if you want to continue to be accepted in the group you voluntarily make adjustments to your life to keep your spot. And if you are unaware of these cultural dictates and slip up too much-like say wearing polyester too much and eating at McDonalds regularly, you will be rejected from the group eventually. You will be "excommunicated".

I really think that my desire for culture was what brought me to that group. Culture and a sense of belonging to a certain group of people. In this way, I do believe that these subgroups masquerade as a sort of false church. There are sins and 'works of righteousness'. There is communion, there is worship music, there are religious heroes, there are certain ethical standards, there are myths and tales of heroes. And if you leave one own and go to another you recognize each other by the dress code. It is all there. Now, this is the group I'm most familiar with, so I know the particulars on these. But I bet it is the same for punkers, yuppies, etc. Henry Van Til says that "Culture is religion externalized." That is true for everyone, whether a Catholic, hippie or the communism of the Soviet Union. Our external culture will be determined by what we worship.

So I do not think mankind can avoid creating culture, or even emulating the church. The church is eternal and we all need the church. It is an inner hunger that even when we are playing it out we are not always aware of it. That a person can live without the church and be a healthy Christian is a lie.

So when we are together as a church we will continue to do what man is created to do, glorify God within the context of culture. We will have music, talk together, our sanctuary will have some type of adornment, there are shared jokes, relationships etc. Culture is inescapable. There is discussion of whether or not the job of the church is to create culture. How can the church avoid creating culture? If you use cartoon characters or Betty Lukin felts to explain a concept to your children you are communicating an aspect of culture to your children.

So the question really should be "What is the church's culture?" and how is that culture established?

Shared culture in a church gives the members a sense of belonging. This is particularly noticeable to me in coming from a mega-mainline evangelical church where there was no discipline or real firm theology expressed from the pulpit, to a smaller Reformed church with a set liturgy, clearer focus on theology, membership expectation and an emphasis on church unity and relationship.

Well, from the noise I hear downstairs my home culture is deteriorating so I'd better go take command. I hope I can keep this thought going. It's so hard to get deep on stuff in 20 minute increments... I still haven't finished the book list. I get my mind on something and I obsess over it and then when it's gone.. well..Call this pt1..hopefully. :)


Joyce said...

Hi, Kerri,

I know a blog you would absolutely love to read: Wine Cheese and Theology at He talks about cultural issues, both in and out of the church. My favorite posts thus far have to do with courtship/dating issues. Look in his archives. :)

Marbel said...

Well, I hope you are able to get back into it. I'm interested in where you are going here. I am reading a book you might like; maybe you are familiar with it: Chameleon Christianity by Dick Keyes. C read it for class - I think PT, in fact. All about 2 types of Christians - chameleons, who "change" Christianity to better fit into the prevailing culture (saltless salt), and musk ox, who tribalize to keep out the prevailing culture (hidden light).
Ouch, I see myself in the chameleon sometimes. I am not very eloquent in describing it; it's better than I'm making it sound. I may blog about it someday but I think my blogging is fading away...

Mrs. Darling said...

Thats one thing I love; culture! In the Mennonite church we had lots of culture in a good way. In the church I am in now there is culture. I think that's in part what drew me to this church; a replacement for the culture and feeling of family I had in the Mennonite church.

Culture is a good thing when you're in a good culture!

Hows that for profound philiosophy on a Monday morning? Dont ever say I didnt contribute to this conversation. I said, Culture is a good thing when you're in the right culture. Remember that!

Joyce said...

I just read a review over at Tim Challies' blog of a book that might address the "culture" thing. Here's the link:

Joyce said...

Hi, Kerri,
I don't know why part of the URL was left off the last message. Here's the last part of the URL for that book review:

Joyce said...

Hi, Kerri,
Here's a link to a series I'm going to read on the church and culture. :)

kerri @ gladoil said...

Mrs. Darling, the Mennonites are definately a group that has successfully made their own culture and pass it on very well to their future generations. Of course I would have to differ with them on some of the aspects of their culture, but there are lessons to learn from them.

I'll remember that mantra though! :) No, wait. Wrong culture..

Joyce, I liked the look of that blog you posted about. It looks like an interesting read-I wanted to read the post on _3:10 to Yuma_ but couldn't at the moment-but I bookmarked it so I could get back to it..