Andy CrouchAn Interview with Andy Crouch
By Timothy Dalrymple

Andy Crouch is Senior Editor at Christianity Today International, and author of Culture-Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, which was named a best book of 2008 by Publisher's Weekly, Relevant, Outreach, and Leadership magazines, and won Christianity Today's 2009 Book Award for Christianity and Culture. Crouch sits on the editorial board for Books and Culture, and is a senior fellow at the International Justice Mission's IJM Institute.

He spoke by phone with Timothy Dalrymple.

We have spoken about your past work, in your seminal book, Culture Making. Your present research and speaking and writing focus on the nature and the uses of power. The transition from culture to power may not be intuitive for many. How do you bridge the two?

When we say power, we often think first of dominance or violence or force. That is a real form of power in the world, but it's not the kind of power I'm writing about. I'm actually interested in the conditions that are necessary to create culture, which is also a form of power. The ability to make something in the world, to bring into being a new cultural artifact, or even just to keep alive in the world a form of culture (whether it's a form of art or technology or cultural practice) -- these also require power in the broader sense of "the capacity to bring change and sustain life in the face of resistance and entropy."

So I am writing about cultural or creative power, and the working title of the book is Creating Power. So I'm writing about the power that makes it possible for us to create, and the power that creates more power, more cultural capacity. There are some kinds of power that shut down creativity and end culture. If you want a particularly powerful example, think of the Taliban using dynamite to destroy those incredible Buddha statues out in the desert of Afghanistan.

That is an exercise of power that is merely destructive; it leaves less creativity, less culture, less flourishing. But there is another kind of power that, when exercised well, leads to a multiplication of power. That's the kind of power that I experience every week when I go to my cello lesson.

I began taking cello lessons last fall, and when I began I had no power to play the cello, none at all. I'd never touched the strings. I asked the cellist down the street if he would teach me. So every week I go, and my teacher Dane has the power to play the cello and he also has the power to teach. Week after week, lesson after lesson, as he invests his power to play and teach, I gain power. I am now able to play a scale that I was not able to play before. Dane has not lost any power. He can probably even play and teach a tiny bit better, all while my own power to create beauty in the world has increased. So there is a kind of power that, when we use it well, multiplies the human capacity to flourish in the world.