Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christ and Culture and Blogging

Those who know me well know I am interested in the interaction between Christians and their culture. This interest developed from the lack of direction for Christians who operate within the "field" described by Richard Niebuhr. For those that do not know, Richard Niebuhr described interactions between "Christ" and "Culture" by forming them into five categories, including Christ above Culture, Christ and Culture in Paradox, and others. Niebuhr did such a good job of describing these interactions that most conversation dealing with Christ and Culture has been interpreted by his categories.

However, as I said earlier, I believe there is a lack of direction while reading Niebuhr. I attribute this to his verb use. I know this sounds odd at first, but let me explain. In all of his categories, Niebuhr has the implied verb meaning, "to be." We could rewrite his categories as such: "Christ is against Culture," "Christ is above Culture," and so on. Naturally, we cannot disagree with either of these, or the other, statements. Christ is against culture at times and above it at others. He is all things. As a result, Niebuhr makes no attempt to value one category over another or align them in a spectrum classified by history, theology, or any other way.

In the end, because Niebuhr only describes a relationship between Christ and Culture, his book falls short of helping Christians direct their everyday interaction between the two powerful forces known as Christ, commonly referred to the beliefs, values, and systems of Christianity, and culture. In order to help Christians in this activity, I propose that we change our system from categories to interactions. How we do this is through verbs. I won't take a the time in this post to lay out all the possibilities, but I will focus on the purpose of this blog and describe the proper interaction.

I believe there is a proper interaction between Christians and their culture. In order to understand this proper interaction, we should better understand some basics. First, a Christian's core identity is as a child of God. It is this identity that continues after all other identification markers fade away. Even after death, you remain a child of God. This is your hope and your reality. Second, outside of your core identity are a number of "cultures." These cultures can include the culture of your family, your church, your city, and your hobbies.

With these concepts better understood, we can ask the question at hand: "What should be the interaction between a Christian's core identity and their culture(s)?"

This question brings us to the vital point of this post and the blog in general. I will be using this blog to explore what I believe to be the preferred interaction: Our core identity should filter our culture(s). This interaction understands that God has created our culture as a gift to be enjoyed and used. It is not an enemy to be avoided or overcome. However, along with the rest of creation, our culture is corrupted. Think about it. Doesn't this make sense? Sinful creatures (Christians and non-Christians alike) engage in the creation of culture. Therefore, sinful, or corrupted, products will naturally flow from this engagement. As a result, Christians are not meant to enjoy and use culture uninhibited. They should keep their core identity in mind as they interact with their culture, thus filtering their culture to properly enjoy and use it. To better picture this concept, think of a coffee maker. In order to drink the ambrosia that is coffee, you must filter the coffee beans so that you avoid drinking the bitter and disgusting "meat" of the coffee bean. Your goal is to get a purified drink through the process of filtration. This is our goal when engaging culture. We need to use our God-given core identity as a filter in order to properly enjoy the purified result. This is also the goal of my blog.

Though this concept may be used to understand most, if not all, cultures, for the purposes of this blog, I will be using examples from the culture commonly referred to as "Popular Culture," or what I will refer to as the entertainment culture: specifically the television, movies, music, and print that aims to entertain people.

At this point, I must make something explicitly clear: this blog is meant as an exercise and experiment. As an exercise, I will do my best to be theologically clear, avoid heresies, maintain consistency. I will also do my best to maintain the integrity of the source. By this, I mean I will try not to misrepresent the movie, television show, etc. that I am describing. However, as an exercise, I may fail at one or all of these as I go along. If I ever do fail, I will certainly go back and try to correct the unclear, heretical, and inconsistent statements or correct my misrepresentation. As an experiment, this blog urges your participation. It's an experiment in that I am hoping to see the reaction you have to my posts. We can learn from and enjoy culture best when we're in conversation with one another about what we see and hear. I hope you will join me in this experiment.