Can you put this any more perfectly?

Owen Strachan on the concept of engaging the culture:

Readers of this blog will know that I want to “engage culture” even as I want to be what is often called “incarnational.” But as some are increasingly pointing out (see pastor Kevin DeYoung’s hilarious and correct post on this topic), engaging culture does not mean that one must own a Mac, listen to Sufjan Stevens, Bob Dylan, and Bon Iver, watch CNN, listen contemplatively to NPR, drink local-brand coffee only, and cultivate stylish facial hair.

One may be engaging culture with these sorts of life choices. If so, terrific! But isn’t one also engaging culture, so to speak, by listening to Hank Williams, eating at Wendy’s (note: I do not encourage this), and seeking to witness at the local truck stop? Are these things not “culture” that we should engage? Or is “culture” only what is branded cool by the upwardly mobile? Though I like a lot of the stuff that this group likes, I confess that it drives me nuts to see otherwise thoughtful Christians think that they alone are “engaging culture” because their brand of “culture” happens to line up with the societal zeitgeist. That is just plain dumb.

via Shooting Sacred Evangelical Cows: First Up, Incarnational Ministry and Engaging Culture « owen strachan.

About Richard Clark

Richard H. Clark is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Christ and Pop Culture. He has a Master of Arts in Theology and the Arts from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He lives in Louisville, Ky. He is also the managing editor of Gamechurch and a freelance writer for Unwinnable, Paste, and other outlets.
E-mail: clarkrichardh [at] gmail [dot] com.
Twitter: @deadyetliving

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    The great thing about the phrase “engaging culture” is how perfectly meaningless it is. Every person is engaging culture all the time, no matter what they’re doing. Not only are they engaging it, but they’re creating it and working toward its directional momentum. Even the Amish are engaging culture. We actually have another word for this that hails from a simpler era, a time when the cultural buzzwords were concerned with deifying other mundane activities. That word, which we’ve since replaced with engaging culture, is this: living.

    That’s all that engaging culture is. When one lives, he is automatically engaging culture. He need not go to any special lengths or even try to think about things in especially contemplative ways. Nope, just by being, just by going about your day, the culture? She is engaged.

    So not only does Owen get to stop worry which aspects of the culture need to be engaged, he can also stop worrying about engaging them at all. As they say, after all: Mission Accomplished!

    The Danes last blog post..20081119.ChurchLies

  • http://c-orthodoxy.blogspot.com Ken Brown

    I think the whole point of “engaging culture” (however easily abused that term is) is to be intentional about how one “lives.” To mindlessly absorb and perpetuate culture is to fail to engage with it. To examine it, evaluate it, critique it where necessary, and seek to redeem it–i.e., the very things CAPC attempts to do–that is what it means to “engage culture.”

    Thus the point of the present post, as I understand it, is that our understanding of which culture needs engaging is too often limited to what the elites identify as cool or trendy. We tell ourselves we are “engaging culture” when in fact, we are only uncritically “living” in the culture that happens to be popular….

    Ken Browns last blog post..Enganging Culture Means All Culture–Not Just What’s Hip

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    @Ken -

    The point of the post is that our understanding of which culture needs engaging is too often limited to what the elites identify as cool or trendy.

    You’re right of course Ken (by the way, I loved your jazz documentaries). The artifacts of culture that the hip Christianity seeks to quote-unquote engage most often reveals a faulty preconception on their side of things—and it’s good the author chose to point that out.

    I on the other hand was pointing out another faulty preconception of hi Christianity. Namely, the reliance upon silly buzzwords like “engage” and “intentionality.” These things reek of faux-hip silliness. Every person engages culture (in that they necessarily take part in it) and every person is intentional about it (in that people intend to do the things they do and engage the things they engage—save perhaps for when they’re drunk or somnamblulent). We had these perfectly usable terms that meant what we mean and we had to go and replace them with things that mean something wholly other.

    We meant to say that Christians should live both critical and self-critical lives, but we replaced that with sweet nothings like engaged and intentional. And these aren’t just semantics. When we attach Christ’s name to these endeavors, we are implicating him in our folly—if indeed we are involved in folly. In essence, if we aren’t justified in the terminology, we’re treading on Third Commandment territory by our carelessness. And we’re doing so intentionally.

    Annnnnnnd: I will continue to resist the idea that culture is to be redeemed. Number One, I don’t see anything that would lead us to imagine this should be the case, and Number Two, what does that even mean anyway (for the culture to be redeemed and for the one who is tasked with culture’s redemption).

    @Rich – You should really do an article (or commission one) that treats this subject and definitely explains the whys and howfores to this Redemption of Culture theory. That sounds like just the sort of foundational work that CAPC is built for.

    The Danes last blog post..20081119.ChurchLies

  • http://c-orthodoxy.blogspot.com/ Ken Brown

    Dane,
    I agree with all your comments up until:

    I will continue to resist the idea that culture is to be redeemed. Number One, I don’t see anything that would lead us to imagine this should be the case, and Number Two, what does that even mean anyway (for the culture to be redeemed and for the one who is tasked with culture’s redemption).

    As I understanding it, “redeeming” the wider culture means seeking to make it as Christ honoring and humane as possible. Terminology aside, it seems to me an absolutely necessary goal (though certainly one that we can only ever imperfectly fulfill), as the alternatives are incipient gnosticism or the Christian ghetto.

    If Christ truly is the Lord of all, that includes culture, and we cannot really think we will save souls if we ignore the cultural context in which they are embedded.

    P.S. I think you have me confused with one of the ten million other Ken Browns!

    Ken Browns last blog post..Enganging Culture Means All Culture–Not Just What’s Hip


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X