We are vexed by problems of culture.
Think of the things that cause you the greatest frustration and anxiety throughout your day. Perhaps what comes to mind are differences views on abortion or gender. Perhaps its uncertainty about your future and your financial security, or relationships.
Perhaps you are concerned about your kids, or grandkids, and what values they are learning, and the world they will inherit. Perhaps its all those things combined.
Whatever they are, these problems can leave you feeling overwhelming fear that can stop you in your tracks. Or they can set you running in all directions at once.
None of these issues threaten us with any physical harm, and we probably have rational explanations for what will fix them. But certain things seem to get under our skin, and we feel powerless to stop them.
If we were to work through why those things affect us, at some point, culture would enter the conversation.
The logic seems to be: If we could get others to see things our way, we could change the big problems. But they won’t or can’t. And a big part of the reason they won’t or can’t is because of culture.
Culture seems to be the trump card in any conversation about our differences.
Regardless of what you think, someone will disagree with you. But the disagreements we can identify come to represent much more than that.
The reason our disagreements become about so much more is because of culture. Culture is how we connect to the larger world around us. Culture is also how our ideas connect to each other.
That’s why culture quickly becomes a stand-in for things we disagree with or don’t understand, and that we feel powerless to change. But that’s not all culture is. It can and should be a force for good (Read more about this on my blog FaithCulture.org).
But what turns culture from negative to positive? Community.
Community can resist negative culture by creating its own positive culture. But that’s not what always happens. And even positive cultures can become negative over time.
Everything we identify with problems in the culture began in a community. The problems begin if the community breaks down, or the culture becomes detached from it.
The answer is to build, or rebuild communities. Communities can resist the destructive effects of culture with constructive cultures of their own.
But what is culture, and what is a community?