while i was in school, it became increasingly en vogue for christians to “engage the culture.” this was novel at the time, since christians would more commonly withdraw from culture into a safe enclave of fellow believers. leaving the enclave to engage with the larger culture was refreshing.
but this had some problems (not the least of which is the fact that there’s no such thing as THE larger culture). according to andy crouch, engaging the culture today is almost synonymous with merely thinking about the culture, with the frequently false assumption being that action would come soon after reflection. the belief was that cultural artifacts like film, art, music, etc. emerge from deeply-rooted philosophical beliefs/world-view, and we must study these because they should be engaged rather than ignored. but when trying to engage the culture by watching movies and viewing contemporary art, the viewer gets better at thinking deep thoughts (thank you CHID!), but gains no such wisdom in how to participate in the hustle and bustle of creating culture, which is where i think the task of cultural engagement actually lies.
so, when talking about addressing america’s social ills like racism, sexism, etc., you may have heard people say, “we just gotta change people’s world-views” via dialogue, criticism, or some events that promote awareness. the hope is that an increase in awareness (or change of world-view, thought) will lead to new cultural artifacts (like laws) that address said social ills. it isn’t enough to critique & expose racist representations in the media. it’s not enough to think good thoughts — the impact of the best social criticism will never rival the cultural impact of the ipod. so i’m starting to wonder if we’ve got it backwards — the task of changing an internal world-view actually begins with the external development of new cultural artifacts, and not the other way around.