Friday, March 06, 2009

Andy Crouch: The Sage of Culture-Making

Andy Crouch's book 'Culture-Making' won Christianity Today's book of 2009 for Christianity and Culture. And truly the book deserves it.

This book does not teach us to interpret culture and then leave us to live Puritanical lives or retreat to our religious ghetto (which is the usual implication). It helps us to really engage cultures.

I know this is not something new because there are many other books on worldview already suggesting that. But it is not a book that tackles the worldview questions (Who are we? Where are we? What's the problem? What's the solution?). At best, those books on worldviews help us to read culture but doesn't leave us clues how to cultivate and create cultures.

Besides commenting on the blindspot of worldview books like those of Nancey Pearcey and Middleton & Walsh (p.60-63), Crouch gives a more substantial analysis and proposal on how can Christians engage culture. Here are some of his wisdom:

The danger of reducing culture to worldview is that we may miss the most distinctive thing about culture, which is that cultural goods have a life of their own. They reshape the world in unpredictable ways. (Bold added, p.63-64)

The only way to change culture is to create more of it…culture is the accumulation of very tangible things…culture itself is anything but invisible… cultural change only happen when something new displaces, or to some extent, existing culture in a very tangible way. (Bold added, p.67)

When it comes to cultural creativity, innocence is not a virtue. The more each of us knows about our cultural domain, the more likely we are to create something new and worthwhile. (Bold added, p.73)

We cannot make culture without culture… The first responsibility of culture makers is not to make something new but to become fluent in the cultural tradition to which we are responsible. (Bold added, p.75)

Andy also helpfully drafted out 5 questions that we can use as guidelines to interpret and create culture. And on Culture-Making website, there is a column where the webmasters apply these 5 questions on various 'cultural artifacts' (latest one is on Lent).

The 5 questions (p.29-30):
1) What does this cultural artifact assume about the way the world is?
2) What does this cultural artifact assume about the way the world should be?

3) What does this cultural artifact make possible?

4) What does this cultural artifact make impossible (or at least very difficult)?
5) What new forms of cultures are created in response to this artifact?

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