By Daniel Johnson
As I listened to Propaganda’s spoken word piece entitled Justice and the Gospel, he briefly addressed our issue as Christians with reconciling our views of culture. He says that we view culture as an invisible monster shaped by forces outside of our control, that we view culture as part of this imaginary us vs. them view. Is that a correct assessment?
The reality is that there is no them, there’s just us. Therefore, culture is not an invisible monster invading the safe space of the sphere we see our world through. Culture is a part of our worldview, and to see it as anything but a tool that is shaped by our human activities, thoughts and attitudes is quite frankly, a fool’s view of culture. Culture is not an outside force that imposes itself upon us, culture is malleable and we are the hammers that knock out the lumps in the mold we made. Culture is not an invisible monster. If it is a monster, we are the collective Dr. Frankenstein that crafted it from bits and pieces and sewed it together and bolted its neck.
Culture didn’t ask or demand to be produced, but we made it; and I think we fear its change because we fear that what we have created is not perfect, we fear its adaptation because we don’t understand what a changing culture says about us. A culture shift is not inherently bad, wrong, immoral, or evil; it just means that the humans who produce it have changed values. I have processed this in the way we humans always resist change, be it the freeing of slaves, the granting of those slaves rights, or gay/homosexual marriage and rights issues; one thing is very clear in our reaction to what we feel is an invasion of our cultural or traditional values: we don’t like it and we actively resist it until our views and values change.
This is a very interesting thing to take note of from a Christian standpoint as Christians often rail against culture as though culture created itself, or was created and shaped by Satan himself. Humans made, created, and shaped what culture we have present upon the Earth, in every manifestation of it, there is no cosmic involvement or investment; but only ours. If we made culture, if we have shaped culture, if we can change our culture, then how is it inherently the enemy of our worldview?
Even our worldview is a part of and to a certain extent, shaped by our culture. How then do we rightfully ascribe the problems and issues in the world to a culture that can be changed as though it cannot? We even sometimes refer to our beliefs and views as counter-cultural; in reality, at best they are but a sub-culture. Still a part of the larger culture and still shaped by us. We cannot place blame on a system we created, that we have the ability to change unless we have given up on ourselves. If we have given up on ourselves, then there is truly no hope to change anything; for our humanity is often our greatest catalyst for us effecting change in both our culture and our own lives.
Let’s not blame culture for the problems of this present world. If we are to blame, let us blame ourselves. Culture is not the problem, we are.
Daniel Johnson is a poet and short story writer from Huntsville, a town close to Houston. The views expressed in this post are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of Interfaith Houston.