Andy Crouch is editorial director for The Christian Vision Project at Christianity Today international, executive producer of the documentary films Where Faith and Culture Meet and Round Trip, on the board of Books & Culture, a senior fellow of the International Justice Mission’s IJM Institute and, of course, author of Comment‘s favourite book of 2008, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling (IVP Books, 2008).
Comment: What does Culture Making assume about the world?
Andy Crouch: It assumes the world is good—that we were never designed or destined to escape the world, but to dwell in it as cultivators and creators in God’s own image. It assumes the world is broken—human rebellion against God has distorted both nature and culture, so that the whole creation is groaning for God’s image-bearers to be restored and return to their proper role in ensuring the world’s flourishing. It assumes that Christians are longing for this kind of calling and are dissatisfied with the ways we have often framed the issue of Christianity and culture—that we’re ready for something beyond critical analysis or passive consumption.
Of course it also assumes the existence of books, publishers, readers, the English language and a host of prior writing and thinking on culture and faith—and that the existence of all those things is, in spite of their limitations, still very good!
Comment: What does Culture Making assume about the way the world should be?
AC: It assumes that culture should no longer be divided into “secular” and “sacred” realms, that in fact all culture should be cultivated and created in relationship with God, who had the idea for culture in the first place. It assumes that we as Christians should stop complaining, withdrawing or assimilating, and become much more intentional about our choices at every scale of culture, from the food we make to the laws we help write to the businesses we start. It assumes that our reflection on culture, and the actual culture we commit ourselves to, should be able to encompass both omelets and chili, and also art and philosophy. It assumes that Christians should be, as paradoxical and complex as this is, both more engaged with their families and neighborhoods—culture at its most basic and local—and more present in the elite centers of cultural production.
And it assumes that the world should contain (Lord have mercy) at least one more book, and that there should be some middle ground between books with titles like Prolegomena to Any Future Theologico-Cultural Reflexivity and others with titles like Nineteen Easy Ways to Impact the Culture and Change Your World!
Comment: What does Culture Making make possible?
AC: Well, I hope it makes it possible for many more people to see themselves as “culture makers”—to recognize that they have a cultural calling even if they are not in the arts or live far from what we perceive as the centers of power. I hope it also contributes to the revival of Christian commitment to the arts and to being part of centers of cultural influence rather than standing apart from them. I hope it makes a lot of failures possible! Because in the realm of cultural creativity, if you are not regularly failing, you are probably not really trying.
Comment: What does Culture Making make impossible (or at least a lot more difficult)?
AC: I hope it makes it more difficult to think that once we’ve analyzed and critiqued the world, our job is done. I hope it makes it more difficult to be satisfied with a lifestyle of consumption, defining ourselves by what we consume rather than what we cultivate and create. I hope it makes it impossible to imagine that you can be of lasting value to God’s culture-transforming project without humility, grace in the midst of success and failure, and true and lasting friendships.
Comment: What new culture will be created in response to Culture Making?
AC: Well, the one thing that is true about every cultural good is that you can never really know what others will create in response to it. So the answer to that question is completely out of my hands . . . but I hope people will create new organizations, new books, new works of art, and most of all, new friendships and families that are agents of cultivation and creativity in the name of Jesus.