Therefore, culture enables the existence of relationship, but mustn't this be more than human relationship? Hasn't culture enabled us to relate to God across the ages? Doesn't it provide the tools for understanding and using our world, enabling us to respond to what we see?
If this is true, then imagine life without culture. In such a reality, human beings become relational invalids, unable to distinguish, define, and discern. Unable to react and respond, all of which is crucial to relational living. So furthermore, culture enables not relationship alone, but humanity itself.
The implications of such mustn't remain here, but rather how does this shed light to who we are in relation to God? Humanity is in the image of God, but what makes this so?
My own questions
I have always thought it crude to reason that the answer lies in the existence of an immortal soul. Since we all enjoyed a beginning, we are unable to possess eternity. Doesn't this leave an even simpler mortality in the grander picture? Even so, if this could even remotely be considered grounds, how does it feel that a mere existential reality makes one the image of God? A meager existence of immortal souls.
Something could not be so crude. Others say the ability to love answers the question. Well, love demands relationship, and relationship demands culture. Quite simply, how could love be known without tools of interpretation?
Furthermore, the former implication leads on to satisfy such discontentment. A key to the image of God must therefore abide at the core of what establishes humanity. The obvious trait that connects us to the Almighty: creation. Yes, creation. Not something from nothing creation, yet creation nonetheless. God has revealed himself as a masterful creator.
Such an attribute has driven YHWH (Yahweh the Hebrew word for God that must be spelt out, but never spoken) from eternity past. Humans hold the image of God and are all the more bound to the image of God. Humanity seems bound to creating. More specifically, humanity is bound to creating culture, the first masterpiece flowing from the hands of humanity.
Experience as humans
Envision Adam in the garden, culture was core to his existence - needed for, talking to God, identifying animals, tending the garden, establishing relationship etiquette with his wife, his sons and essentially any other interaction he had with his environment. This binds humans: humanity could have no existence without it, and would be unable to survive if such cultural creation ceased or never was. In the garden and into eternity, shalom hinges on such creative beings existing and flourishing.
We are intrinsically bound to this element of deity. The world is. Shalom is. There can be no escape even if one was desired. And such a reality is beautiful.
This very link to the Almighty is foundational to our experience as humans and calls not only for an appreciation of all cultures, but also active participation of the kingdom of God, in the process of cultural output. For this cultural output is what fosters the growth of human relationship; connecting people at an intrinsic level of existence and bringing them in proximity to the Divine origin of culture.
Considering culture's placement in the human psyche, cultural output and communication becomes an incredibly important and powerful tool in our job as a kingdom of priests: communication of the Divine plan of grace.
Church incredibly exclusive
The church's approach to a society's cultural output has been varied over the ages, from rejection, to complete acceptance, to establishing our own Christian-subculture, which, by its own doing, is incredibly exclusive. This is for a variety of factors.
Quality is often sacrificed on the altar of content, which is never understood by those outside of the kingdom, no matter how much we promote it, and through the marketing of the gospel (Christian T-shirt's, Christian knick-knacks, Christian bumper stickers, Christian books modelling the self-help model, Christian music, Christian conferences- the list goes on and on) an environment has been created that can only be understood by those 'of the faith', and in my experience; draws very little on the surrounding population because of the exclusivity and obvious replicated focus on a consumerism based model.
Now, this is not to say we should not have things focused on edifying those who are of the faith already, but rather, shouldn't considerable amount energy be put into creating cultural output that entices people into the kingdom?
This begins on a small scale, forsaking the old model that does not adequately grasp and express the beautiful and terrifying, grandiose and simple, intense and halcyon aspects of the kingdom of God. Writers need to write, artists create, storytellers expound, and musicians entice others into this mystery revealed to us through Christ.
Forsaking painfully explicit Christian themes, but rather as Christ did in parables; implore others to embark on the journey to the almighty- an encounter with Grace himself.
Dan Peterson (21) is from Chicago, Illinois USA, currently living in St. Leonards, Tasmania, studying cross-cultural ministry (his second of three years). Dan is a musician, a personal fitness trainer, and a keen athlete.
Dan Peterson previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/dan-peterson.html