The Week in Books 2009, No. 50

In case you only have time to read one sentence about Andy Crouch’s excellent book Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, I’ll say it up front: YOU REALLY NEED TO READ THIS BOOK.

Crouch begins by defining culture as that which shapes the horizons of the possible (not merely ideas, but primarily tangible goods). By this definition we are all engaged in creating, cultivating, critiquing and consuming culture. Your greatest cultural influence is probably your family, and from there your workplace, place of worship, neighborhood, city, and so forth in ever widening circles. Crouch does an exceptional job discussing a very broad topic in an accessible fashion that is nonetheless thoughtful and challenging.

The book also offers and in depth and unique study of God’s role in building or creating culture – from Creation to Revelation. If you’ve never considered God in light of cultural goods this will be illuminating for you.

Crouch calls Christians out for having assumed a posture of critique and/or copying culture. He points out that sometimes it’s right and proper to critique or copy cultural artifacts, but that when you find yourself always in that posture, you have a problem. The problem with copying culture, Crouch notes, is that “we breed a generation that prefers facsimile to reality, simplicity to complexity…and familiarity to novelty. Not only is this a generation incapable of genuine creative participation in the ongoing drama of human culture making, it is dangerously detached from a God who is anything but predictable and safe.” That said, Crouch also confronts Christians who are too cool or too intellectual for CCM and other cultural copying (my dad used to call it “Junk For Jesus”) but who fall into the traps of either being better critics than creators or of blindly consuming mainstream culture rather than taking risks to create within it. Crouch stops short of suggesting that the Christian subculture is not part of God’s creative mandate, but does challenge Christians to consider the cultural contexts where their creativity will bear the most fruit.

Other topics in the book include pitfalls people fall into when they set out to change the culture, how to identify where your cultural calling lies, and inspiration for keeping a proper perspective in your cultural endeavors, whether in the smallest circle of your family or the world at large.

I fear that my review scarcely does this book justice. It is certainly going to be one of my top picks for the year and I highly recommend it to you, whether you are in a profession commonly associated with culture (art, music, etc) or whether your focus right now is creating the culture of your immediate family. Read this book, and then be sure to let me know what you think!

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