Culture is generally defined as a “way of life.”
It involves language, religion, shared attitudes, values, beliefs, goals, social mores and habits, music and arts, laws, politics and institutions, education, technologies and tools, cuisine, clothing.
The word "culture” comes from the Latin "colere," meaning to tend the earth and grow, or cultivation and nurture.
The word therefore fits well with what’s called the Cultural Mandate, Gen 1:26-28, in which God gave humanity responsibility for caring for and developing the earth’s resources. Theologians understand this command to include not only agriculture but all forms of cultural expression, i.e., that human beings are charged by God to develop and build culture. We are to be stewards of all that God has given us.
Most definitions of culture include religion as simply one item in a list of ingredients, as if religion happens to be just another expression of human behavior not unlike wearing pants or kilts.
But the late theologian Henry Van Til defined culture as “religion externalized.” Religion is not just part of culture; it generates and determines culture.
“Culture is simply a worldview made evident. It is basic beliefs worked out into habits of life. It is theology translated into sociology. Culture is a very practical expression of the common faith of a community or a people or a nation. “
“What is true for one person is equally true for a whole community of persons. In 1905, Max Weber, the renowned political economist and “founding father” of modern sociology, affirmed this fundamental truth for modern social scientists in his classic work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. He argued that the remarkable prosperity of the West was directly attributable to the cultural, personal, and ethical prevalence of the Christian tradition. In contrast to so many other cultures around the globe, where freedoms and opportunities were severely limited and where poverty and suffering abounded, Weber found that faith brought men and nations both liberty and prosperity.”
So, culture is a living color picture of our values, just as Scripture said, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7 KJV).
What we’re seeing today in the fragmentation and hyper-polarization of the American culture is not simply partisan or ideological tribalism, though this exists. It’s not simply the Haves and Have Nots, a division as old as time. It’s not for sure just a matter of oppressors and victims, White supremacy and racism, or some increasingly complex intersectionality being propagated.
What we’re seeing today in the hyper-polarization and increasingly hateful, borderline violent and at times actually violent culture wars is a clash of worldviews.
One (religious) worldview acknowledges, even if sometimes vaguely and inarticulately, God, the existence of objective truth, and the reality of revealed moral absolutes that at one time formed a consensus upon which American culture was built.
The other (religious) worldview(s) rejects the idea of God and truth, even if still holding on to these words that have long since been hollowed out and lost their meaning. This other worldview(s) does not believe in any absolute other than there are no absolutes, thus everyone can do “whatever is right in his own eyes” (Deut. 12:8).
Political disagreements no longer center on differing levels or what kind of taxes should be levied or how government should encourage more job creation, etc.
Now political disagreements involve fundamentally moral considerations:
- Prolife or prochoice.
- Support, legalize, advance LGBTQ+ rights even where the convictions of some religious citizens disagree.
- Legalized not simply marijuana but other narcotics.
- Disallow capital punishment for the most heinous crimes.
- Breakdown the nuclear family in the interests of those claiming the family reinforces white supremacy.
- Embrace new “antiracism” policies that do not honor and extend the legal gains of the Civil Rights Movement but rather create new racial categories in every corner of modern life, and call anyone who disagrees, racist.
- Breakdown law and order in the name of antiracism, including not prosecuting lawbreakers.
- Refusing to reform legal immigration processes, making orderly, peaceful, and lawful immigration and naturalization possible, while opening to illegal aliens access to rights of citizens like voting, and much more.
This is an illustrative not an exhaustive list.
There is little chance of agreement or even consensus when the issues debated are looked are moral issues and those debating disagree at the level of the moral presuppositions of their worldviews.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2021
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