Sunday, 24 June 2012

The possibility of a Christian culture?

Somewhat related to my thoughts on Christian philosophy is the idea of a Christian culture.

I was wathcing The Last Samurai a few weeks ago and (during a scene when spoiler the protagonist, while beginning to come to terms with his captors, notes how everything the samurai do [work, play, study, prayer, etc.] is deeply imbedded in the surrounding culture of their community /spoiler) I realised that I wanted that to be true of me also! (Those not looking at the spoiler just keep reading and it should make sense. Hopefully. Also go watch the damn movie already!)

Just think: to have no dichotomy between what the individual practices and what the wider group expects; and not because of coercion, but simly because societal mores and the philo/ideo/theological leanings of individuals are in balance, each forming and informing other. That would be wonderful!

In the West we live in a Post-Christian, Humanist society with Individualism and Subjectivism as its dominant cultural flavours--as long as you affirm the worth of humanity; don't question anyone's "beliefs" or suggest they could be wrong; and are happy to double-think your way through life you're all set. Understandably this poses a problem for someone who knows that humanity is tragically fallen; holds that the only salvation worth having comes from one (and only one) source (Jesus); and is called to conform their every thought, word and deed to the singular reality of Christ. How can a Christian reconcile the two; external culture and internal conviction?

In todays culture, in probably most cultures through out history, I don't think they can. They can try to come close by employing a certain level of  duality: living along with the casual mores of society while professing to follow 'another way'; but, honestly, the best they'll ever get is close. Why? Because mixing non-Christian culture and Christian convictions is like trying to mix oil and water: you can stir as long and hard as you like but, soon as you stop mixing, the two start to separate again.

Clearly my first 'short' post isn't all that short, so I'll cap it here. Next time I address this topic I'll be comparing the 'mix' of Shinto/Buddhist culture & practice vs. the 'mix' of non-Christian culture and Christian conviction--and why one 'works' and the other doesn't. After that, I'll begin to explore the role of community in mixing culture and practice.

[this is a boomerang --> i.e. I'll get to it when I'm good and ready and haven't forgotten]



  1. Looking forward to this series.

    The bottom line is that Christianity *is* supposed to be a culture. It *is* supposed to be a community of fellow believed who interact with each others in mutually reinforcing ways on a continuous basis. That's what it means to be a Body, a Building, a Bride. The conflict comes about because for too many Christianity has involved into something else - something that can be compartmentalized into a small portion of our Sundays leaving us struggling to reconcile it with the rest of our week.

    1. Me too, Steve! I haven't finished chasing down this train of thought, so I'm not entirely sure where it will go. :D

      That said, I think you've nailed the crux of the issue: people want to be "all for God" while somehow accomodating a lifestyle similar to their friends & workmates (okay, maybe a 'sanitised' version of their friends' lifestles, depending on the friends in question, but it amounts to the same thing--people worshiping God with their mouths but leaving their hearts far from Him).

      I think what I'd like to explore (here and in greater depth elsewhere) is the fundimental make up of a 'culture' and where/how people's social habits can be reasonably allowed to inform their faith just as their faith should inform their socal habits.


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