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Cultivating Where We're Planted

Andy Crouch says there's no reason to get paralyzed by our 'culture making' mandate.

If cultivating and creating are so central to our biblical vocation, why have they been put aside?

The disenfranchisement of conservative Christians from cultural power at the dawn of the 20th century elicited strong reaction. Just two generations after evangelical Protestants had been intimately involved in building almost every major post-Civil War cultural institution, they either were kicked out or left voluntarily. People who wanted to hold on to theologically conservative beliefs thought you couldn't do that and participate fully in mainstream culture. We've spent a century working our way back from the fallout of that.

Last century we also saw the rise of mass consumption as a way of life in America. When you look at newspapers from 100 years ago the principle word used to refer to Americans in general was citizen. Now the word USA Today uses most often to refer to all of us is consumers. And if we want to talk about people in their civic role we don't usually call them citizens but voters. Think about how different those words are, how much thinner a word voter is than citizen. It's not just Christians but Americans in general who have adopted a posture of waiting passively for cultural offerings. We think it's our job simply to figure out what we like and buy it.

Finally, being an effective cultivator and creator requires certain disciplines—cultivating a certain awareness and willingness to work at things in the world. Consumer culture has made it easy to get along in many spheres without learning basic skills, whether it's how to keep the garden growing or how to cook. Although technology gives us an amazing sense of power and infinite capacity, it does so by taking over all these things that our parents and ...

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