Critical Cultural Consumption

One of the things I struggle with is Critical Cultural Consumption: how to “consume” things that the culture offers me (movies, music, tv, books, etc.) but in a thoughtful, intentional way (i.e. critical in the best sense) in which I take the good, true & beautiful while leaving the bad, false & ugly.

I alluded to this struggle in my last post when I referred to two of the ways that we as Christians can engage the culture: by evaluating existing culture and by creating new culture, or, to use the image I proposed at the end of the post, by being a “movie critic” or a “movie maker”. As I mentioned there, being a “movie critic” entails that “sifting” process of separating the wheat from the chaff, the good from the bad, the beautiful from the ugly, the true from the false when we engage or even simply “consume” things in our culture.

I know that leaving the bad, false & ugly is necessary… consuming everything the culture offers me without any thought or discernment is like eating without paying any attention to the nutritional value of the food.

Theatrical Poster

 

And while the monastic or Amish approach — leaving the world behind almost completely and consuming almost nothing from the wider culture whatsoever — might work for some, I think most of us are called to be what’s in the title of the previous post: in the world, but not of the world. That’s where the level — or better, manner — of engagement becomes a bit trickier to get right.

As I said, this is a balance I can struggle to get right… this will be one of the recurring Culture topics here at Cruciform. But in the meantime, I’d love to hear any thoughts that any of you might have: how do you maintain that balance in your own life?

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In the World But Not of the World

in-the-world-but-not-of-the-world

 

The mission which Jesus has given to all members of the Church — and to the lay faithful in a particular way — entails being in the world but not of the world (cf. John 17:15-16). As lay Christians, we are called to engage the culture in which we live — or more accurately, the variety of cultures in which we live — in order to transform them.

This means that we, as Christians, must determine how to best and most effectively engage the culture in which we live, how to make a difference in the lives of those around us, in the places not only where we live but where we work, shop and recreate. We are called, in other words, to be engaged with the world without being worldly, in order to make our culture(s) more Christ-like.

This topic is a central theme of Cruciform, as the subtitle of the site indicates: exploring the intersection of Christianity and culture. In this post I’d like to introduce this topic and note some of its key points.

Bringing transformation to our culture can often be a challenge, for the reason found in the title of this post: “in the world but not of the world”. As Christians — and in a particular way as lay Christians — we are called to live in, to act in, to be in the world, but not to be of the world, and getting that distinction right is crucial if we are to most effectively engage the culture in which we live, if we are to make a difference, if we are to make an impact rather than just be impacted on.

There are really two different issues at play here: the first is the task of engaging the culture in which we find ourselves by evaluating it: analyzing it, sifting it, determining its principles and presuppositions, embracing its truth, goodness and beauty while discarding its error, evil and ugliness, etc.; the second is the task of engaging that culture by creating new culture, culture which more deeply reflects reality, culture which more fully embodies truth, goodness and beauty, culture which makes us look both out and within in new ways.

Think of the first task as the movie critic and the second as the movie maker: they are obviously different roles, but they are both important and essential. And in some way, we are all called to do both. How? That’s the question that we’re going to examine and answer in future posts.

What has been your experience of being a “movie critic” or “movie maker”?

Honey vs. Vinegar

One of my occasional hobbyhorses is the tone of civil discourse in general and online discourse in particular; at least when it comes to persuasion, I’m a firm believer in honey over vinegar: the first attracts more flies than the second.

 

But I’m also a convert to this approach, and a work-in-progress at that… after over 20 years of internet arguing, I’ve simply been more successful when I’ve bitten my tongue and at least tried to rein in my desire to unload on the abortion-rights advocate/atheist/fundamentalist Baptist/liberal Catholic with whom I’m talking.

The problem for me is simply that I love to argue, as family and high school classmates can tell you. But the point in evangelization isn’t to win arguments but to win souls, and in my experience, the latter is no guarantee of the former.

Let me give an example.

Continue reading “Honey vs. Vinegar”