Sunday, October 17, 2010

andy crouch on culture making

Andy Crouch gave a presentation (which included lecture, music and visual art) at the Convocation and Pastors' School at Duke last week. His time on the schedule was between N.T. Wright and Rob Bell; if Crouch was not as known to many as Wright or Bell, he quickly connected with the full house gathered in Page Auditorium with an opening rendition of "Over My Head (I Hear Music In The Air)". Crouch is the author of Culture Making, a superb analysis of how Christians live in relation to culture, but I had not known that he is a superb musician. He defined culture as "everything human beings have made of the world".

Crouch presented five big ideas:

1. Culture makers bear God's image in a good world. We have, to our detriment, omitted the first two and the last two chapters of the Bible, beginning with the fall (Genesis 3) and ending with Revelation 20 (the lake of fire). Our default response to culture, therefore, is to condemn it. We relate to culture by chasing it, trying to be relevant. We compartmentalize culture, primarily by the consumption of it.

2. Form matters. Form tells us things about the world, and the patterns shape us more than we realize. Crouch noted as prime examples interstate highways and fractured political districts.

3. We live in a world of broken images, which Crouch named as idolatry and injustice. His deeper conviction, in fact, is that injustice=idolatry. Crouch was especially compelling here in reflecting on the harm that slave owners do to the dispossessed of the world, and then moving to a corresponding conviction that those who want to do good can also play God in dehumanizing ways.

4. Culture makers are called to restore the broken images of the world. Crouch interpreted the painting "The Banjo Lesson" by Henry Tanner, and asked those present to reflect on it. Tanner takes a broken cultural form (the black minstrel) and infuses it with dignity (a grandfather passing on an practice to the next generation).

5. The last big idea was the image at the cross. Suffering and failure, Crouch insisted, are a part of culture making, and much of what we create will be rejected. "Failure", he noted, "is normative". He then led the gathering in a moving chorus of "To Mock Your Reign" (one of my favorite passion hymns), and we closed with "This is My Father's World".

There were many connections between Crouch's content and the lectures of Rob Bell and N.T. Wright. Yet Crouch communicated with a depth that was at times missing in the other sessions, and I am convinced this was due to the mix of media (music, visual art) that he employed; we not only grasped the meaning in a cerebral way (which is Wright's forte), we experienced it. To sing "To Mock Your Reign" is to know deep within that suffering is normative, indeed, that it is at the heart of the gospel; and to enter into the words of "This is My Father's World" is to engage in the essential work of culture making, and, in the process, to recover the image of God within each person.

Next: Rob Bell on Eucharistic Paradox.


Blogger lehall said...

His talk was fantastic. Moreso because I didn't know what to expect going in to it. I want singing to be like that at my church.

7:49 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

I too did not know what to expect and almost decided to hang out in Raleigh a little longer and after I couldn't imagine missing it. Similar to lehall, I did not know what to expect and Crouch blew me away.

I think you are exactly right that he bridged the gap between Wright and Bell, and I would wager at some points surpassed them with the 'experience' of it all. As I left page it I was excited, not because of a genius lecture, but because I realized I was in worship.

Thanks for your post and I'm excited to learn what you thought about Rob Bell's Eucharistic Paradox.

8:14 AM  

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