Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.
ReVision

Culture-making

The citizens of the Kingdom of God will make and use culture.

A primer on culture (5)

Culture is an inescapable part of human experience. Every time we get dressed, engage in conversation, go to work, prepare or consume a meal, watch a film, or explain something to a child, we are making and using culture. 

For those who are citizens of the Kingdom of God, this raises the significance of certain Biblical texts, such as “make the most of every opportunity” (Eph. 5.15-17) and “do all things for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10.31). Every activity of culture-making or culture-using is an opportunity for expressing and extending the Kingdom of God.

Or not.

Unless we understand the nature of the Kingdom of God, and are seeking it with the kind of focus and vigor Jesus commands, it’s not likely that our culture-making will do much more than reflect the status quo of our particular social and cultural circle.

The Kingdom of God, Paul explained, is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Such a definition suggests a culture far different from that in which we tend to travel each day. Our secular and materialistic age values cultural forms that entertain, satisfy individual whims and fancies, give us some advantage over our neighbor, or simply allow us to “express ourselves.” In this society of infinite choices – in everything from make-up to dress to music to cuisine to leisure activities – culture fulfills a merely self-serving role.

But in the Kingdom of God, where the glory of God and love for our neighbors are the commanding priorities, our approach to culture-making must surely take a different tack. What does righteousness require of us in matters of dress, work ethic, and relationships? How can we use our speech for peace and mutual edification? Can we expect to find joy in material things, when we know that real joy is only to be found in the presence of the Lord?

Until Christians begin to ask such questions about their involvement in culture, not much is going to change. Not much, that is, except the way we live our Christian lives. In his landmark seven-volume series on the history of the Christian movement, Yale historian Kenneth Scott Latourette reserved the last chapters of each volume for a consideration of the impact of Christianity on culture, and of culture on Christianity. Latourette’s series ended in mid-20th century, but it’s not difficult to imagine what his conclusions might be concerning Christianity and culture in our day.

Today Christians are re-making secular and materialistic culture in a kind of Christian garb. Everything from contemporary Christian music, to church architecture, the management of church ministries, and “Christian” jewelry and garb reflect our infatuation with the ephemeral, trivial, and commercial idioms of popular culture. It seems never to have occurred to us that attaching the eternal beauty and glory of the Triune God to the flimsy and fleeting forms of pop culture may not be a great idea.

It occurred to the late Malcolm Muggeridge, however. Posing the question whether Jesus, given a slot on “prime time TV” in the Roman Empire, would have taken it, Muggeridge emphatically declared He would not. Jesus brought a true message of eternal value and consequence; pop culture – and especially television – brings only make-believe, frivolity, and entertainment. Just as Paul refused to allow the Gospel to be associated with the demonic rantings of a slave-child (Acts 16), Jesus would have kept His unique message clean of everything that could have trivialized or obscured it.

The citizens of the Kingdom of God will make and use culture. There’s no escaping this fact. The question before us each day, as we head out into the world of culture, seeking and extending the Kingdom of God, is not whether we will make culture, but what kind of culture will we make.

If even our eating and drinking are to be done with the kind of weight, majesty, humility, gravity, and beauty that signify our loyalty to the living God, what does this suggest for all the rest of our culture-making?

Related texts: Matthew 6.33; Romans 14.17-19; 1 Corinthians 10.31

A conversation starter: "Do you think there might be better ways of expressing our commitment to the glory of God than the various forms of pop culture?"

T. M. Moore, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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 Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore

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