Andy Crouch on Creating and Cultivating Culture

Andy Crouch on Creating and Cultivating Culture July 30, 2010

I recently interviewed Andy Crouch for our upcoming series on “The Future of Evangelicalism,” and the interview was too long and too rich to include the whole thing (darn him!).  So I want to post the first half of the interview (on his past work) here, and the second half (on his present work) will be posted in the article.  Here it is:

First some background. Your book, Culture-Making, created quite a splash. It’s a favorite amongst intellectuals, artists and culture influencers. What did you set out to accomplish, and do you think you hit your mark?

What I set out to accomplish was to change the dominant evangelical posture toward culture, from, on the one hand, criticizing culture, and on the other hand consuming culture. I wanted to move us away from both of those postures, which are the two dominant postures now to a new pair of postures: cultivating and creating.

Creating is the easier one to explain: it’s actually seeing ourselves as responsible to bring into being new cultural goods. Not just to complain about or to consume the ones that exist, but to be agents of creativity in our culture.

Cultivating is a word that’s less obvious. People talk about it less when they talk about my book, but it’s very important to me. I think of cultivating as keeping what is already good in culture good. It requires care and discernment, weeding out. Ultimately the goal is not just to innovate, but also to preserve what is healthy and flourishing in any given culture, and to pass it on to the next generation at least as good as when we arrived.

Unfortunately, for a whole host of reasons, evangelicalism has not been known either for cultivating or creating. We’re certainly known as critics, and the reality is that we are often merely consumers just like our neighbors. Sometimes we’re known for copying culture and creating Christian versions. So we have “Stuff White People Like,” and along comes “Stuff Christians Like.” The examples of cultural imitation can be multiplied endlessly. But what about culture innovation and cultivating? That’s what I hope we can pass on to the next generation.

It’s very hard to say whether I hit the mark. What we’re talking about here is a shift in posture for a very complex nationwide movement. I would say that it will be ten years before we will know if anything of any value came from my book. Any serious cultural innovation has to be judged in at least ten year increments. But I could not be more encouraged about its reception, the enthusiasm that has greeted it, and the range of people that are reading it. I certainly expected that artists would read it and like it, but I’m thrilled that senior executives at Apple Computer, and dentists, contractors, and architects are reading it. That is very encouraging to me. Whether that leads in fact to a dramatic change in the way we position ourselves in culture is yet to be seen.

You speak of cultivating as, at least in part, preserving the goods already in culture. Can you give some examples of goods we should preserve?

There are many answers to that. The first that comes to mind, actually, for me, is reading. Evangelicalism, and Christianity as a whole, is a religion of books. The more conventional thing is to say “a book.” But the Bible is really a library, not a book. It’s a library of books that requires and rewards sustained study, engagement and attention.

We are living in a culture that is forgetting how to read. That’s bad for our culture, but it’s really bad for our Christian faith. I suppose that post-modern, post-industrial western civilization will stumble along somehow without a group of people who know how to seriously read and engage with texts—or with a small, elite educated class that knows how to do that. But I sure don’t know how a serious Christian movement can be sustained, even in a stumbling fashion, without reading.

So it seems to me that Christians definitely need to commit themselves to preserving in culture not necessarily books as physical objects, but the practice of serious reading and attention. If we don’t do it, I don’t know who will.

Another thing that we have, at times, been good at, although we’ve sometimes been quite legalistic about this, is preserving rest and Sabbath. It is not that long ago, in my adopted home state of Massachusetts, that most stores were closed on Sundays, because of the so-called Blue Laws. There was a rhythm of work and rest built into society. We now live in a world that sees no need for those sorts of Puritan restrictions on time—and consequently has no idea how to stop. This is something our parents knew how to do. Whether they were personally religious or not, they were influenced by Jewish and Christian traditions of Sabbath. The culture around us is trying to grope its way back towards Sabbath. There’s a very interesting book out right now, called Hamlet’s Blackberry that tries to grapple with what technology is doing to us and proposes a kind of Sabbath from technology on a regular basis.

This is something Christians can be in the vanguard of preserving and cultivating that is not new, cultural innovation, but something that has sustained Western culture for millennia.

There are many other things we can talk about. To point to something very different and prosaic and seemingly uninteresting: the rule of law. My involvement with the International Justice Mission has awakened me to how significant this cultural inheritance is, that laws are stronger than men and even powerful men should be held accountable to laws. This is something that many people around the world cannot take for granted. Certainly, the rule of law does not function perfectly in the United States, but it functions a heck of a lot better than in other places around the world. Now they question is whether we can preserve it, and will Christians be known as those who are serious about the rule of law rather than pursuers of their own special interests?

What products of cultural creation should we expect to see over the next 10 years, specifically coming out of the Christian setting, that will contribute toward the kingdom of God?

Clearly, one of the things that is very cutting-edge, and has tremendous potential for good and tremendous potential for harm, is the biotechnology. My layperson’s sense is that the most important problem our society needs to solve is energy. Where will we get sustainable sources of energy that make true human flourishing possible? A lot of the flourishing of human culture in industrial societies is absolutely predicated on the availability of energy. But our sources of energy are obviously compromised and compromising of the planet. And again, this is just my layperson’s sense, but it seems that biological pathways toward the creation of sustainable fuels are among the most promising.

Nuclear energy delivers a lot of power but at a very steep environmental cost. I happen to think we should pursue that as well. But what we really should pursue are the biological pathways to sustainable fuel.

This is why you need to think in 10, even 30 or 50 year increments. We need a generation of Christians and others who are serious enough about the possibilities here that they get the in-depth expertise and training to contribute to these kinds of fields. At the very same time, these same fields, which are tinkering with the tools of life at a more granular level than we’ve ever been able to do before, have a tremendous potential for misuse, unethical use, and if we as Christians do not have expertise in these areas, our ethical concerns will be brushed aside by the experts.

Even if we gain expertise, we will have an uphill fight to convince scientists that there are some things that we can do but should not do. Just as this was the case in the twentieth century with the harnessing of nuclear power and the corresponding threat of nuclear war, we are going to have the same challenge with biological technology in the twenty-first century. And if we do not have people with a commitment to an ethic greater than just doing whatever is possible, who are experts in these fields, we are going to have very little ability to make a case that there are some things that should not be done with the technologies of life.

There’s also a very interesting thing happening in the arts world right now. The art world is exhausted by modernism. Modernism rejected beauty as a criterion for the practice of art. In this reaction to beauty, serious art must be difficult; it must not be pleasing; above all it must not be anything that any ordinary person would not want to hang on the wall in their home. It must not be “decorative”—there is no greater swear word in the art world today than “decorative.” Yet the art world is now reconsidering what it might mean to pursue beauty. What is clear is that beauty that will be convincing to postmodern artists and postmodern cultural elites is not going to look the way that it looked 200 years ago.

There’s a tremendous opportunity for a new generation of Christian artists to propose to their fellow artists a way of looking at the world that is beautiful without being sentimental. Artists are beginning to do this. I’ll give you an example from the literary world. I just read a beautiful book—I think that’s the right word for it—by Carey Wallace, called The Blind Contessa’s New Machine. Carey is a young novelist; this is her first novel, published by Viking/Penguin publishing house. Carey is a deeply committed Christian who has written a strikingly beautiful, and also by the way in certain respects difficult, not to say tragic, novel, and it’s just a gem of a book. It has a sensibility about it that I think, in the period of high modernism, would not have worked, because it’s language is crafted with a kind of respect for words that I think was not fashionable in the middle of the twentieth century. But this kind of serious, engaging, beautiful writing is back. And here is a young writer who is a person of faith who is doing that kind of writing. So there’s an opportunity to create beauty again, but it cannot be sentimental. And if you read Kerry’s book, you will see its beauty entirely without sentimentality. It’s about a young Italian Contessa who goes blind. It’s the story of her descent into blindness, and the failure of her world – but also the creation, by the way, of beauty and technology in that failing world, because the new machine, the Contessa’s new machine, is the typewriter. It’s based on a true story, that the first typewriter was invented for a blind Italian countess. Kerry takes that premise and works with it.

It’s a work of beauty, of great seriousness, of great hope and tragedy at the same time. That’s the kind of art we have an opportunity to create today.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • RT @patheos: Andy Crouch on Creating and Cultivating Culture #patheos

  • Timothy Dalrymple

    RT @patheos: Andy Crouch on Creating and Cultivating Culture #patheos

  • It proved to be very useful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here!

  • i love here very much, good article.

  • YES!and I very agree!

  • i like different cultures.

  • Cultivating Culture #patheos

  • Navie
  • The blog article very surprised to me! Your writing is good.

  • Wow! Some amazing effects. Definitely some great ideas here. Thanks for sharing!

  • Comfortably, the article is really the sweetest on this precious topic.

  • This is a wonderful blog, I discovered your web site researching google for a similar theme and came to this.

  • Do you have a vid or can you explain what’s the best movement I can use for thes kicks

  • I appriciate it very much.

  • In my view ,Christian Louboutin will attract most chic ladies by the amazing design which looks sexy,gorgeous and noble.Wearing it, you will be more beautiful and to be the focus among the crowd.Just try,you will surprise.

  • oncler Men Jackets Troverai le indicazioni per lo spaccio o negozio Moncler p

  • Moncler Men Jackets Troverai le indicazioni per lo spaccio o negozio Moncler più vicino a casa tua e tutte le offerte più vantaggiose di questo prestigioso marchio.

  • by thinking that their current existence is pales in comparison to the glories of being in an intimate relationship, which only makes things worse.

  • Good article makes constant progress, thank you share, the accumulation of knowledge is to keep learning, attention is the beginning of wealth.

  • I am sure to all the commenters here!

  • Thank you for sharing with us. The content is very good and helpful for me, I learn and know more about it.

  • christian louboutin wholesale

  • I really increased my knowledge after read your post which will be beneficial for me.

  • you have hit the nail on the head.Your idea is outstanding; the problem is something that not sufficient men and women are speaking intelligently about.I’m very pleased that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this.

  • This is a wonderful blog, I discovered your web site researching google for a similar theme and came to this.

  • Life stories of some men make one ugg boots cheap succumb to their ingenuity.

  • thank you for your sharp .like it


  • YES. I really like this website , and hope you will write more.

  • ES. I really like this website , and hope you will writES. I really like this website , and hope you will writ

  • Yes,I am happy to have found this blog, and more happy to have long tail explained so well.

  • I am pretty much pleased with your good work.You put really very helpful information. Keep it up. Keep blogging. Looking to reading your next post.

  • one is high-end professional-grade headphones, which are mostly used by people make a career in music; the other type is best quality high-end headphones, what fanciers pursue

  • He uses both the elements of femininity and strength, tradition and

  • cutting edge. His designs both flow and are severe, and denote a passion for his art.

  • cutting edgeuggs australia . His designs both flow and are severe, and denote a passion for his art.

  • This really answered my problem, thank you!

  • Great post and very useful code! The info is very open and very clear explanation of issues. Nice! If there is an interest I have too much information that I can share with you.

  • At this time, bring to mind these runners character types on flicks that everybody seems a whole lot? The quantity you am able to see plenty of time if you learn links birmingham love several exhibits to ascertain any temperament of many others posesses a terrible mindset is probably to be put on expensive jewelry combined with diamond earrings as well as necklaces so because of this must not appear aid in automatically?

  • What a wonderful blog you have created.

  • I have enjoyed reading.Nice blog,

  • I usually don’t post in Blogs authentic UGG Boots but your blog forced me to, amazing work.. beautiful

  • I read with great interest.Thanks for you sharing.

  • It’s good to see this information in your post, i was looking the same but there was not any proper resource, thanx now i have the link which i was looking for my research.

  • It is also because the beginning of life Guccio Gucci Gucci brand makes the

  • I’m still waiting for some interesting thoughts from your side in your next post thanks.

  • 875644 beers on the wall. sck was here

  • Thanks for your infor

  • Thank you for the tutorial! Those are extremely cute!

  • Cheers very much, I’ve found this article very nice!I found your internet web page good for my needs. I wish you have a wonderful day!

  • I performed searches on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog. Thanks for sharing this information.

  • I would like to thank you for the effort you have put into publishing this post. In fact your writing has me wanting to begin my own blog now. Thanks again for taking the time to put this online.

  • This looks absolutely perfect. How much elegance and the sense of art at one place! All these tinny details are made with lot of and knowledge. Looks like people who lived in 18th had much more taste for nice and much more time to enjoy their lives.

  • It’s good to see this information in your article, I am looking the cheap ray ban sunglasses but there was not any in your proper resource, which focus on ray ban aviators here. ray ban sale, maybe it is intesting for you.

  • Excellent Blog! I really admire your thinking and the way you have put these information in this post. Thanks for authentic discounted gucci bags
    authentic gucci bags

  • You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog

  • I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog

  • Nice post.Thank you for taking the time to publish this information very useful!I’m still waiting for some interesting thoughts from your side in your next post thanks!
    UGG Fox Fur Sale UGG Fox Fur On Sale UGG Fox Fur Discount

  • I very much to like and agree with your point of view.

  • Thank you for taking the time to publish this information very useful!I’m still waiting for some interesting thoughts from your side in your next post thanks!

  • All these tinny details are made with lot of and knowledge.

  • To write a good article, it takes some time, this is a very good thing.

  • I can set up my new idea from this post. It gives in depth information. Thanks for this valuable information for all. And of course nice review about the application.

  • I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well.

  • your artical give me much more useful information. thanks for your help. i’ll suggest my friends to read your artical.Nice one, there is actually some good points ony readers may find this useful, I must send a link, many thanks.Took me awhile to read all the comments, but I really love the article. It proved to be very useful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here!

  • thomas sabo bracelets was essentially stated in Germany coupled with thomas sabo watch playing golf club Assortment is presently renowned all near to the world. This diamond diamond jewelry distribute through The european union element along using the united states within earliest a lengthy period. craze important beneficial metals silver diamond diamond jewelry producer is found by do it your do it yourself set up thomas sabo charms uk present box.

  • Keeping a wholesale snapbacks clean and fresh is important, but wear and tear does occur and it is important that you know how to maintain your hat. You need to be sure that you clean and store you hat appropriately. Some snapback hats wholesale may be made of materials that will require a different approach than others. Coalition While some hats may be washable, there are others that are dry clean only. hats come in various shapes. Some of these shapes include oval, egg shaped, and round. The right size of hat can be completely wrong for you if the hat is in the wrong shape for your head.

  • It’s really a nice and helpful piece of information. I’m glad that you shareith us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

  • Hey,girl!Please do not miss Marc Jacobs and Marc by Marc Jacobs brand.Because only you can not think,can not do without it.It’s done very well each bag perfect,delicate,elegant,beautiful,vibrant back it gives you.Like Marc by Marc Jacobs Handbag,Marc by Marc Jacobs Bags,Marc Jacobs Handbag and that several, will let you highlight their distinct character.The pursuit of individuality and style,choose it!

  • Buying NFL jerseys Authentic means that you are selling the real deal and your asking price is directly affected while your buying price may not be so much. Getting the NFL jerseys Cheap product in bulk may be a question of availability.

  • 3190463 beers on the wall. sck was here

  • Thank you for sharing your experience and the time it took to post!! Two Thumbs up. such a good post.

  • Thanks for sharing the such information with us.Thank you !

  • 244302 beers on the wall. sck was here

  • Buying NFL jerseys Authentic means that you are selling the real deal and your asking price is directly affected while your buying price may not be so much. Getting the NFL jerseys Cheap product in bulk may be a question of availability.

  • We’ll be spending next winter (our winter, their summer) in/around Valparaiso and Buenos Aires, and just talked yesterday about trying to couple that with an Antarctic trip.

  • I have learned a lot from your site. Thanks!! I think you have done an excellent job with your site. I will return in the near future.

  • I wonder how you got so good. This is really a fascinating blog, lots of stuff that I can get into. One thing I just want to say is that your Blog is so perfect! cheap Louis Vuitton Handbag

  • Thanks for a nice post you have given to us with such an large collection of information. we like to honor many other internet sites on the web, even if they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them.

  • The article very surprised to me! Your writing is good. In this I learned a lot! Thank you! Share with us the good times.

  • Even if you shop for your special occasion at the last moment, you are sure to find something nice at ugg boots sale.

  • I really loved reading your blog. It was very well authored and easy to understand. Unlike additional blogs I have read which are really not good. I also found your posts very interesting. In fact after reading, I had to go show it to my friend and he enjoyed it as well!

  • Puma Ferrari Shoes Air Jordan Retro Air Max 2011 Air Max 90 Nike Shox Torch air max 2011 nike air max 2011 womens air max 2011 nike tn 2011 Abercrombie Fitch moncler jackets on sale cheap moncler jackets moncler men jackets moncler women jackets moncler outlet nike shox Cheap Shox Shoes nike shox shoes shox nz Shox Shoes For Men Shox Shoes For Women TN Requin tn nike air max tn Aire Max TN air max tn france/strong> air max shoes air max 2009 air max 2010 air max 90 nike air max

  • It is just what I’ve looking for and excited to read all the posts. I am looking forward to another great article from you.

  • I am so glad this internet thing works and your article really helped me. Might take you up on that home advice you.

  • nice post , i like it , thanks for sharing it . have a nice day.
    BAILEY uggs
    cardy ugg
    cardy uggs

  • I think if we walk to other blog we most comment to give appreciate for owner.

  • I really liked your article and I shared with my friends in my facebook account.
    This is my first time i visit here. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles I guess I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here! keep up the good work

  • But what we really should pursue are the biological pathways to sustainable fuel.

  • I’ve said that least 2080008 times. The problem this like that is they are just too compilcated for the average bird, if you know what I mean