Is evangelical culture weak? It certainly doesn't seem so. The volume of books, music albums, and lively blogs indicates a thriving industry of decidedly Christian products. But should strong sub-cultural production and consumption be equated with a vibrant impact on the broader culture?
James Davison Hunter doesn't think so. He raised these and other questions in his latest book, To Change the World, and spoke about them in a panel at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. last month. I was a respondent on the panel, alongside Mere Orthodoxy blogger Matthew Lee Anderson, and we discussed how young evangelicals are looking for a script or a framework for engaging the broader culture.
In his book and recent interview with Christianity Today, Hunter paints a disparaging picture of evangelical efforts to transform American culture. The University of Virginia sociologist challenges the notion that transforming millions of "hearts and minds" actually effects cultural change. He critiques the politicized efforts of the Christian Right, the Christian Left, and the neo-Anabaptists, and concludes that Christians need to engage culture through "faithful presence" in their different spheres and communities.
To Change the World has prompted some lively discussions—including responses from Chuck Colson and Andy Crouch on CT's website—about what "faithful presence" actually looks like. How should Christians live in the world?
To answer this question, one thing we should consider is how consuming cultural artifacts establishes personal identity. This is especially true for young adults, including young evangelicals, and those who mother, mentor, and manage this generation should understand how they interact with ...