trusted online casino malaysia
Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Culture Defines Us

How does your culture define you?

What Is Culture? (2)

“But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’”
Matthew 23.5-7

You are what your culture says you are
In the Prologue to “Canterbury Tales”, Geoffrey Chaucer (1342-1400) described the people whose pilgrimage he joined one spring as they made their way to the sacred See. The first and most striking of the pilgrims was a knight:

A Knight ther was, and that a worthy man,
That fro the time that he first bigan
To riden out, he loved chavalrye,
Trouthe, and honour, freedom and curteisye…
And though that he were worthy he was wis,
And of his port as meke as is a maide…
He was a verray parfit gentil knight.

Chaucer described the knight’s skill in warfare, particularly in fighting for the cause of Christ in the crusades. He mentioned his “array”, that is, his dress and accoutrements, including his horse and his companion. He was, as Chaucer put it, a “worthy man” and a very perfect knight, the epitome of Christian manhood, wisdom, and gracious demeanor.

How did Chaucer know he was a knight? And how did he reach this admirable conclusion about his fellow pilgrim?

By considering the various aspects of his culture. Chaucer and the other pilgrims knew the knight to be such a man because of his culture. His culture defined him.

Let’s look more closely.

The knight’s culture
Chaucer observed the knight as he interacted with the other pilgrims. He noted his chivalrous demeanor. Medieval chivalry was an institution to which many aspired but only a few managed to achieve. It required the adoption of a certain religious, moral, and social code, including courtesy (“curteisye”), especially toward women, and a readiness to help the weak.

The knight was also devoted to “Trouthe and honour”, which Chaucer might have picked up by listening in on his conversations with others. Truth and honor were conventions of chivalry and served to make a knight “wis” (wise) and “meke” (meek) in his overall deportment (“port”).

Chaucer also observed of the knight that “evermore he hadde a sovereign pris”, that is, a good reputation. The other pilgrims, who had already spent time with him, spoke highly of him. Chaucer remarked his couture: He wore a padded tunic under a coat of chain mail (“Of fustian he wered a gipoun”)—dead giveaway for a man of war—and he was accompanied by a squire to attend to certain of his needs. These artifacts and conventions would have said much about who this man was and the institution that defined his life.

An old Smothers Brothers song tells about their father:

My old man’s a sailor
What do you think about that?
He wears a sailor’s collar
He wears a sailor’s hat
He wears a sailor’s raincoat
He wears a sailor’s shoes
And every Saturday evening
He reads the Sunday News…

Like Chaucer’s knight, Dick and Tommy’s dad could be known by his culture. The artifacts that surrounded him (collar, hat, raincoat, shoes) and the conventions he observed (reading the Sunday News, perhaps certain aspects of it), combined to declare the institution with which he was associated (the Navy). His culture gave him away. At least, for this stanza of the song.

Jesus pointed to the culture of the religious leaders of his day to warn people against following them. He mocked their vanity, hubris, and self-interest by remarking their culture—their garb, religious artifacts, social conventions, and participation in the institutions of their day.

Your culture defines you
Artifacts, conventions, institutions. These are the elements of culture, and every one of us is involved in them in a unique mixture and combination that defines who we are. How we dress, where we work, what we read (or don’t read), our conversational skills and topics, favorite foods and pastimes, things we talk about, places we hang out, ways we relate to others, and more. Culture works in broad but consistent patterns to declare to the world our values, priorities, and convictions, and to reveal who we are.

Which suggests we should pay more attention to the culture in our lives, to choose and engage it in such a way as to point beyond ourselves to the Giver of every good and perfect gift and to declare something about Him in all our use of culture. This is an important part of our witness to the Lord.

Jesus denounced all hubris, display, superficiality, and self-vaunting in the culture we choose. We who know Him are called to glorify God in everything we do, down to the smallest, most seemingly insignificant components of our cultural lives.

Your culture defines you. Make sure it says what you want it to say.

For reflection
1. What would someone conclude about you by observing you for an hour or so in a social situation?

2. What things about someone’s cultural life might be attractive to you? Why?

3. What things about someone’s cultural life might be repulsive to you? Why?

Next Steps—Transformation: Is there anything in the culture of your life that suggests you are not serious about following Jesus?

Following Jesus
What does it mean to follow Jesus? How does following Him affect our lives? Our course, “Disciples Making Disciples”, can help you bring your life and culture more into line with the Kingdom and glory of God. Click here to learn more and to register for this free self-study course.

Two books on culture are available to accompany this series on “A Christian Approach to Culture.” Christians on the Front Lines of the Culture Wars shows how important it is that we consider culture as a way of bringing glory to God. Order your copy by clicking here. Redeeming Pop Culture examines the nature of pop culture and some ways we can make good use of it for God’s glory. Order your copy by clicking here.

Support for ReVision comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.

And please prayerfully consider supporting The Fellowship of Ailbe with your prayers and gifts. You can contribute online, via PayPal or Anedot, or by sending a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 103 Reynolds Lane, West Grove, PA 19390.

Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

Subscribe to Ailbe Newsletters

Sign up to receive our email newsletters and read columns about revival, renewal, and awakening built upon prayer, sharing, and mutual edification.