Over the last few months since work (and baby!) deadlines led me to drop Andy Crouch’s Culture Making, waiting to pick it up again some day soon, I’ve thought many times about his model for describing typical Christian cultural engagement. He sees four typical “postures” toward culture among Christians:
- Fundamentalist Condemnation: this group just dismisses popular or secular culture as sinful, he says.
- Evangelical Critique: this group, a la Francis Schaeffer, evaluates culture, probing its worldview.
- Evangelical Copying: after Schaeffer, evangelicals began simply copying pop culture. CCM was one prominent result.
- Evangelical Consumption: today, however, most evangelicals are avid consumers of secular and pop culture.
Under that last point, he has some very sad things to say, especially coming from his position at the center of the evangelical world:
The dominant posture among self-described evangelicals today toward culture is neither condemnation nor critique, nor even CCM’s imitation, but simply consumption. . . . If anything, when I am among evangelical Christians I find that they seem to be more avidly consuming the latest offerings of commercial culture. . . than many of my non-Christian neighbors. They are content to be just like their fellow Americans, or perhaps, driven by a lingering sense of shame at their uncool forebears, just slightly more like their fellow Americans than anyone else. (p. 89)
Crouch makes the helpful point that condemnation, critique, copying, and consumption are all appropriate gestures toward culture, but none is appropriate as a default, ongoing posture. Some cultural products can only be condemned: sex-trafficking, pornography. Others are appropriately critiqued: a popular novel or piece of art or music. Some should be copied: we can’t start from scratch when we design church buildings; we’ve got to use some existing forms. Other cultural products should be consumed: hamburgers, for example. Especially if they have bacon. But when you start to make one gesture your default posture—as evangelicalism has typically done—you start justifying sin.
Crouch offers an alternative posture, creating/cultivating, but you’ll have to read the book to see what he means. And so will I!