Andy Crouch, editor of Christianity Today, and author of Culture Making makes the point in his book that changing culture can only happen at the community level. May I respectfully disagree? I know I don’t have the qualifications of Dr Crouch, nor the background in cultural studies, but I would like to contribute my own thoughts on this subject.
I have read through this book and I do agree with the author that Jesus was a cultural confronter and a culture changer on a national level. But what I see in the gospels is the amount of time that Christ put in to changing individual people. Every confrontation was a confrontation with an individual. It might have been a person in cultural authority, but it was a person. His disciples were people, chosen by Him, and these are the people that He changed. It was through these people that cultural change came about, first in Jerusalem, then throughout the Roman Empire.
Let me bring this down to a personal example. I watched my wife as she interacted with our young children, and again now as she interacts with our grandchildren. I think she is a culture changer. I don’t think she would come to the attention of Dr Crouch, or anyone outside her own family but she has my attention. I watched how she would take a cranky, unmanageable child, and turn him incrementally into a loving and capable little boy. There is nothing she wouldn’t do to bring this about.
It was my wife who taught our children a sense of adventure; that learning to splash in the water was fun and not something to be afraid of. And when they cried when they got wet, she would cheer and encourage them so that they learned to deal with the small bit of adversity they faced until the next challenge. Then she would scold and nudge and cheer and encourage them through that as well. She was patient and comforting when they were upset, but she would never smother them, teaching them that they could face a bit of distress and learn how to manage it. When they were injured she would tend to them competently, but she would never make big deal of it and taught them to face pain with humour and courage, as she herself did.
She taught them how to read and how to take enjoyment in learning. It was never a chore, but always a joyous adventure that she enabled, cuddling them in her lap and delighting in their discovery. She always let them take the lead in learning, suggesting and directing their attention, never forcing anything upon them that wasn’t their natural inclination. She empowered and supported them as they grew, giving them safe boundaries. She taught them how to deal with being unhappy, and refused to allow them to develop sour or demanding dispositions, keeping them thinking and acting in positive directions.
In my humble opinion we do not give women enough credit for the cultural change agents that they are. In some countries women are denied education and work opportunities and saddled with large families which they must raise almost single-handed. The result is a culture of ignorance and repression; male-dominated cultures marked by oppression and violence. In cultures where women are free to obtain an education and are themselves empowered, they empower children that bring about educated and empowered societies.
Perhaps I misunderstand the point that Dr Crouch is making about cultural change, and he is certainly well qualified to write on the subject. But then again, perhaps he is missing what is so obvious in front of him as well. Through whom did God announce the birth of His Son? And to whom did Christ reveal Himself after His resurrection? In both cases was it not women? In a male dominated culture, was not God saying something fundamentally important about the role of women in changing culture? Are we missing the obvious?