relating to culture part IV (Josh)
One of my newer friends is Josh W, the slightly older brother-person to my good friend Matt. Since he (and Matt) both live two hours from me in Champaign, about the best we got is idea exchange, and I'm liking Josh's thoughts on some of our culture discussion. Having done some studies in theology from a Catholic perspective, it's a different voice. So Josh, I'm gonna have a go at a few of your most recent comments. :)
Here's what strikes me as odd about these characterizations - none of them talk about culture as it relates to evangelization.
You catch me off-guard on your observation here. Evangelism is not the first thing I think of in the starting conversation about Christianity and culture.
Maybe first, I'm still thinking of culture in a pretty wide sense. Driving a Japanese-made car. Blue toothbrushes. Required volleyball games during high school P.E. class. Cheerios. Walking on the right side of the sidewalk. Socks. Shaking hands. Smoking or non?
In other words, I want to think of culture first like fish to water - invisible, ubiquitous, and necessary. This lets me emphasize what I have in common with all other humans. We are all fish. And we all swim in water.
To that extent, I think TM Moore isn't that wrong when he says most Christians seems to fall into his "culturally indifferent" category. Not only have they not spent a serious amount of time pondering their culture, but they haven't even thought about the category.
Many more conservative Christians *have* spent a more time thinking about how to react to certain pop art productions of culture - music and tv. This is small compared to the wider pie. We can have lots of good discussion here, but the point is, to discuss Christianity and culture might be to discuss immoral effects of economic systems or cultural understanding of sexuality before we get to Scrubs.
I'm way off your thoughts. :) Back to them.
So few observations (not in order):
Culture can be engaged to evangelize non-believers.
One, is to notice you start with the Christian/non-Christian divide. I hardly deny its reality (I'm a missionary!), but I'd want to begin with same-ness before walking toward difference.
We celebrate liturgical seasons like Advent and Lent, Christmas and Easter... things like the rosary, litanies, etc.)
Second, you speak of Christian ritual which some Christians (particularly the liturgical and Catholic traditions) celebrate. Isn't this Christian culture? By that I mean, it isn't the natural culture of the girl working at Best Buy today - it's very foreign to her. Popular American culture and liturgical church culture seems about as far apart as Iranian culture and sushi. Two different cultures colliding or perhaps, if they attend a "inter-cultural function" - in some awkward dialogue. I guess when I'm speaking of how Christians should engage culture, I'm not thinking of how a Christian culture engages a secular culture. This is also to start with both difference and establishment.
(Unless we are making an assumption that general culture and Christian culture are actually the same or similar, but that's Christendom, and I assume we're agreed that the world of the Holy Roman Empire is not today.)
But I think what's most interesting is the idea of using culture as a tool. Culture can be used or engaged in order to accomplish a goal. Back to our fish/water analogy. How does that work?
These were random thoughts. I'm sure Josh will have more. Hopefully next I'll get to John Howard Yoder and Duane Friesen.