Reflections on Culture and Culture Change

Understanding culture and it's influence is very important in our times, especially as we encounter diverse people and people groups.  While this is especially valuable in our interactions with people from other nations / ethnic groups, it can be equally valuable much closer to home.  Everyone has had a unique group of experiences and inputs that have helped shape who they are.  This is true on the individual level, as well as the group level, regardless of size, regardless of location.

To do a quick deep dive on culture, with a little framing for perspective, click here to have a glance at wikipedia.  To summarize, here is a quote from the article.  “In the 20th century, “culture” emerged as a central concept in anthropology, encompassing the range of human phenomena that cannot be attributed to genetic inheritance.”  This touches our creativity and the symbols / art we create to express ourselves and share our collective identity.

As the quote notes, culture is not passed to us genetically.  It is an inheritance nonetheless, except that it is one that is passed on to us thru teaching, observation and pattern of life that is all around us.  I believe we can understand this when we remember the scripture says in 1 Peter 1:

And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as “foreigners in the land.” For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.

There are a couple of things here to notice.  One, in our fear of the Lord, we are to walk as foreigners in the land, or citizens of a different country / culture.  Two, God ransomed us from the empty life – this is the way of life or manner of life, not genetics – that we inherited from our ancestors.  We do inherit culture, but this inheritance is not passed to us genetically.

A lot of the way we perceive ourselves is based on cultural reinforcement, and it can and does run very deep.  Being raised in Texas, this is very visible to me.  Perhaps you can see how the family you were raised in and the area you were raised in influenced you?  Because so much of the body of cultural influence is passed to us thru role modeling and interpretation of the world, culture is something people defend.  This is because the sense of self is often contained inside of their commitment to / identification with their culture.  Cultural influence has much to do with worldview and our interpretive capacities to understand the world we live in.

Culture deals with art, symbols and artifacts created by the people group.  How will civilizations down the road understand this time when they look back from generations down the road?  What will the “cave drawings” from 2013 say about the people who were living then?  These questions are a curious way to reflect on this.  Because culture and art are so intertwined, I think we have to give this special attention.  In our time, which for so many is dominated by media, we need to realize and recognize the affect that this introduces.  One noticeable feature of media and entertainment (news media, movies, music, music videos, etc..) in our day is that it reflects culture back upon itself, like a mirror.  The impact of this fact is often to reinforce, intensify, and  burrow more deeply the image that is reflected back in the observing host.  This is like a distilling process.  The output gets more pure and potent.  You can see this all around you.

These realities are important for us to understand, especially as we Christians realize that we are called to impact culture with the influence of the living God.  We are not citizens of this world, but of a higher one.  We cannot disregard this, except to our own ruin.  We are “not of this world,” but are born from above with a capacity to influence this realm with the culture of heaven.

Have a look at this video.  It has some clarity of understanding about these things, and can help us realize the way this works, and also some of the reasons why culture change is resisted.  It is only 2 minutes and 20 seconds long, but is a strong highlight of something we need to realize.  It is a snippet from a broader talk on leadership, which can be viewed here.  Regardless of how you feel about military things, I believe you can benefit from these observations.

I think we need to understand these things better, more fully.  I ask the Lord to give us clarity of insight on them, and with His heart.

Much can be said about these things, but we hope to stay focused on our mission.  How will we bring about the change that is needed?  How will we be the influence that the Lord desires for us to be?  As people of God, we need to operate with the wisdom of a serpent (knowing how / why things work) and harmlessness of a dove (only to bless, only in love).  We are being invited by God to co-labor at this level.

So you want to bring about change?  Keep this in mind.  The established generation has a vested interest in the present, and many times in keeping things the way they are!  Since the emerging generation is less often vested in the present, because they are not stakeholders in / beneficiaries of “things as they are,” they tend to be more vested in a desirable (though, often imagined) reality that is yet to emerge (and that they hope will materialize).  Many of them will spend their time, money, and even their own lives to bring about the vision of the future that most appeals to them.  I think we can see this clearly in the recent transformations in the political scene in the USA, don't you?

If you want to bring about change, you should not try to change the ones who are devoted to keeping things the way they are.  You should introduce new ideas – vision from heaven – to those who are not vested in things staying the way they are.  This can be seen in how things came together for David – the king to come – in the cave of Adullam (context here).  Those who came to him brought liability instead of credibility.  This is often the way it works.  Don't misinterpret it.

There has been, if not wisdom, craftiness, in using the understanding of these things.  We should prepare ourselves to use them, with wisdom, for redemption and blessing, and not for selfish gain.  But we should learn the lesson well.

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