We’ve all heard that culture beats strategy, but what redeems culture?
For decades now, culture has been the thing everyone sought to control. We worked for it in our companies and fought for it in our politics.
But despite these efforts, we now face problems we’ve never seen before. These problems stem from conflicting views of the world, and a willingness to act on those views at any cost.
What have we unleashed? Are not these problems caused by culture? Are we not seeing the thing we have prized used against us, and taken to an extreme we could not imagine?
It seems undeniable that culture has a role in our problems. But that has not brought us any closer to a solution. Rather, we stand dismayed as the unthinkable plays out before us, and our beliefs and values are swept aside.
We wonder openly if we have reached a point of no return. Has culture become a force beyond our control? Does it now control us? To ask that another way, is culture redeemable? And if so, what redeems it?
There is something that redeems culture: Community.
Defining culture and community are complicated tasks. That’s because they are closely related, and often overlap.
But perhaps two diagnostic questions will help. Where would you be missed? That is your community. What do you worry about missing? That is your culture.
These questions are overly simplistic but can begin to create a bit of separation between community and culture. That separation helps us see the relationship between community and culture.
Community is more enduring than culture because community creates culture. It makes sense that the only thing that can redeem culture is the thing that made it in the first place.
But our perception of community seems weak in the face of what we are experiencing from culture now. How can something so intangible and undefined redeem something so powerful and out of control?
Culture is powerful because community is weak. Think about it. Where culture is its most destructive, community has already failed.
Culture rules in the ruins of community.
The more superficial the community, the more destructive the culture it creates. That’s why movements can form around hashtags and catchphrases but inevitably burn themselves out.
But the opposite is also true. The more substantive the community, the more constructive the culture. That’s why some communities survive, regardless of what forces of culture align against them (Read more at FaithCulture.org).
How did it come to this? We took community for granted and pursued culture instead. Now we’re seeing culture for what it is, and are wondering where to turn next.
Like warriors of old, we left our homes to pursue the prize. But we are returning bruised and empty-handed only to find our communities in ruins.
But there is hope. Community can be rebuilt.
We can build community. Even while we are in shock or grieving, our most basic instinct is to reach out to another human being. We look to join hands and begin to build again.
We’ve been here before, countless times. But we’ve also made the same mistake over and over again. Even as community is being rebuilt, we are drawn away by culture.
We forsake our communities again to pursue the prize. So now we must ask, what redeems culture?
Maybe this time will be different. Maybe we’ve seen enough of the destruction and chaos that culture can create.
Maybe this time the cost of rebuilding will be enough that we’ll choose to protect what we have, rather than chasing what we can’t possess.
Community is powerful because it creates culture. But it requires discipline and understanding to be content with culture in here, and resist the allure of culture out there.
We must choose the good of those who are with us over shaming those who are against us. That builds substantive communities which in turn build constructive cultures.
It’s as simple as choosing who over what.
Then culture can be redeemed.