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Monday, February 04, 2008
Somebody Who Gets It
A friend in the CCH (Christian Community of Hollywood) forwarded me a link to an article that recently appeared in
Provocations, the Journal from something called the Trinity Forum.

I've heard of the writer, John Seel, before, although I can't recall if we have ever met. Apparently he has done consulting for Walden Media, so we very well may have met. I'm wondering, because his peice sounds like he has been taking notes in the back of about twenty rooms I have been in in the last year. In this article, John is trying to provide a Christian sociology (it's not really theology) that would help Christians with money see their way through to investment in culture. This topic of how Christians should try and secure meaningful cultural influence through investment is a hot one, with lots of folks preening and posturing, but with very little strategic action actually developing. John's piece is very thoughtful and potentially helpful, and hopefully will get a wide exposure.

Here's a snip.
Abandoning the wrong approach

Our past efforts at cultural renewal have not been effective in part because the faith perspective is underrepresented in many of the institutions of cultural leadership. Consider geography. There are four main centers of national cultural influence: Boston, New York, San Jose—representing the Silicon Valley—and Los Angeles. Evangelicals are concentrated instead in places like Wheaton, Colorado Springs, and Orlando. Institutional evangelicalism serves institutional evangelicalism, but rarely the wider culture.

Politics reflects culture; it doesn’t direct it.

Culture is shaped by a small number of gatekeepers. Majority perspectives have little bearing on culture formation. Instead, elites dominate. Neuhaus notes: “Even though [these elites] may be a minority of the population, they succeed in presenting themselves as ‘mainstream’ through their control of powerful institutions in the media, in entertainment, in the arbitrations of literary taste, in the great research universities and professional associations, and in the worlds of business and advertisement that seek the approval of those who control the commanding heights of culture.” Increasingly, grassroots political efforts to reverse the current cultural direction are proving futile. Politics reflects culture; it doesn’t direct it.

Moreover, by focusing on mobilizing majorities and legislative coercion, these faith communities have alienated their opponents while squandering their cultural and biblical capital. They have failed because the convictions that underlie culture cannot be coerced. They can be proposed, never imposed. Culture changes when a society’s assumptions and aspirations are captured by new ideas and images that are developed by thinkers and artists, expounded in both scholarly and popular forms, depicted in innumerable works of art, literature and entertainment, and then lived out attractively by communities of people who are committed to them. By narrowly focusing on Washington and state legislatures, faith communities have forgotten how to assert cultural influence. Today, most Christians in America are known for self-serving power politics rather than humble service for the good of others.

That many faith leaders are now viewing “the culture” as a new strategic goal is laudable, but such recognition also needs a deep theological perspective and appropriate cultural discernment to have any renewing effect.