Understanding Culture

Understanding Culture

How do we understand culture? What is culture? How do we help our kids understand and engage culture? These are questions that need to be answered and we need to get our minds around. If we can then we have a chance to be invited in to their realm. Culture is defined by Bill Romanowski as, “the way that we define and live in God’s world” (Mueller, 112). Mueller describes this defining of our world the way that people choose their soup at Big Boy’s salad bar. You grab a bowl, stir the soups, lift the ladles, and choose what looks good. Our kids are constantly engaging in this process. Mueller points out that there are six characteristics to culture:

  1. God created it. We are to use it and enjoy it. See Genesis 1:26-27
  2. Culture is universal.  It’s everywhere and everyone has some piece of it that they embrace.
  3. Culture is shared. We don’t do culture alone but it draws us into community with those who share our culture.
  4. Culture is learned.  We don’t just create culture from nothing.  We learn it from those around us and embrace the culture that is most winsome to us.
  5. Culture is an integrated whole.  It covers all of life.  There is no aspect of one’s life that is free from the influence of culture.
  6. Culture is not static.  Culture is constantly changing, developing, transitioning.  Therefore we have to constantly learn.

In culture there are two parts: the objective and the subjective.  The objective is what we see and observe.  The subjective is the deeper meaning that provides the framework.  Similar to the image of an iceberg. The part out of the water is the objective and that which is underwater is the subjective. How does culture function?

  1. Culture is a map. Culture guides us in how we ought to live.  That begs the question, which map?
  2. Culture is a mirror.  It reflects the deep longings and desires of the world around us.
  3. Culture is always moving and never neutral. Culture is either good or bad and is always moving and heading somewhere.

So what can we know about the culture we live in? Mueller makes some great remarks that I think in many ways are still true right now. His observations came from watching MTV’s Video Music Awards (the first five minutes!):

  • Homosexuality and lesbianism are no longer stigmatized or seen as sinful. In fact they are celebrated in the mainstream.
  • The urban hip-hop style and ethos rule.
  • “Freak dancing” is not freaky anymore (having sex vertically with your clothes on!).
  • When it comes to sex, there are no rules.
  • Normal looking girls don’t have a chance.
  • Postmodern self-rule, rules.
  • Women are ornaments for men.
  • Pain is mainstream.

What do you think? How will you respond?


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