What we forget when we focus on culture

In our hopes to transform culture we often forget about society.

And too often we split apart culture and society. This is bad for culture, society, and the church.

Culture is usually viewed with suspicion leading to separation or withdrawal.  We have “culture wars” after all. 

But society is usually viewed neutrally (if thought about at all). Christians just blend in with society, leading to capitulation.  

Culture

Many view culture as the field of values and worldview, of messages and meaning.

Culture is where one must battle over a Christian worldview and Christian values.  Culture is where the battle for hearts and minds is won or lost.  This understanding leads to a “culture war” mentality based around key issues public prayer, whether to says “Merry Christmas” or not, or what it means to say “God bless America.”

This view of culture often leads feeling like we need to stand against and stand for certain things.


Society

We often view society in a neutral light (if wethink about at all).

Society includes the structures and institutions through which culture expresses its values (education, economy, government, etc).  But we often have a neutral view about these vehicles.  The structures of society (politic systems, economic policy/practice, healthcare, military, police forces, prison systems) are neither good or bad.

This view of neutrality often leads to accommodation and capitulation to the structure of society.

Culture & Society Need God

Two things happen when we separate culture from society (focusing on one and forgetting the other).

  • First, we assume that sin is at work only in culture.

Too often we view sin as lodged with in the values and mindsets of people, and we see culture as the primary place to battle these influences.  What this practically is that we don’t think sin has influenced our social institutions as a whole.  But the Bible clearly teaches

When we focus on culture and forget about society we Christians blind ourselves to the effects of sin around us.  We become blind to how the structures and systems of society are themselves possibility at odds with the kingdom of God.

  • Second, we then forget that the church is God’s alternative society.

When we focus on culture and forget about society we forget that God has created a new kind of society in the church. The church has a different kind of economics, a different kind of governments, and a different kind of education.

This doesn’t mean we can’t participate in the structures and systems of society. We can and we should.

But we must always remember and witness to an alternative way of living our lives. And this goes way beyond our “cultural” values.


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