Culture Care is the vision of culture as an ecosystem and the call to consider our stewardship of this ecosystem. Recently, as I have developed Culture Care as a thesis, I have come to a deeper understanding of the relationships between nature and art, culture and the church, and ultimately their interconnectedness to the Gospel of Jesus.
By church I mean the Trinitarian faith community connected by the baptism covenant linking Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches. I believe there is only one church, visible and invisible.
What I mean by “invisible” church echoes the Augustinian and Calvinist tenets, but it is ultimately rooted in my meditation that God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). This passage is often used in creating a theological framework for Common Grace. Rarely, however, are the verses previous to Matthew 5:45 discussed within the exploration of Common Grace.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.
I believe the practice of Common Grace requires one’s effort to “love our enemies.” By that logic, as this effort toward reconciliation is done with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, I assume that these “enemies” are to have the possibility of being within the “invisible church.” Thus, not only do I assume the past Saints to be part of the invisible church, I also assume that the future Saints (even ones that are now the “enemy of the church”) are as well.
If that is indeed the direction these passages suggest then the Holy Spirit is likely to operate via common grace toward the margins of culture and certainly way beyond the borders of what we consider to be our “church culture.” Thus we now speak of a “cultural engagement strategy.” But is not culture within us already, in the very air we breath? Perhaps instead of speaking of “engagement” (which can be assimilated within a “Culture Wars” mindset) we should speak of a “cultural nourishment” needed for the church.
When I read John 10 and see that the Good Shepherd is the “gate” of the sheepfold it strikes me that this “gate” opens to lead the sheep outside of the safe environment of the sheep pen. But why would such a Shepherd allow his flock to roam outside the safe confines of the fold?
Because without going outside the sheepfold to graze the sheep will starve to death! The Good Shepherd allows his sheep to be exposed to the dangers of getting lost (also promising to bring back the lost as well), and to face the risk of being attacked by wolves (risking not only the sheep, but his own life as Shepherd), for the sake of nourishment.
Now apply this to our own cultural field. The visible church often is the sheepfold, gated and closed to the world. It has been my experience that the church, in general, due to fear, keeps the gate closed. The members, especially children, are starving culturally because we lack a proper theology to explore and graze the cultural fields. Culture Care seeks to provide direction in how we are to graze the culture field all the way to the extreme margins of our cultures.
Culture Care, as a term, grows out of Creation Care and Soul Care. Yet my audience seems to exist largely outside the visible church. I suppose I am trying to speak to this invisible church and therefore to our “enemies” as well, ones that may or may not recognize the need for Christ in their lives. But just as an ecosystem thrives upon a rich complexity and dependency of interaction, both visible and invisible, I assume the same for Culture at large.
Culture Care is thus an effort to repair the damage caused by the Culture Wars mindset and so move beyond the sustainable into the generative. But what exactly does a generative approach to culture look like? I will explore my theological premise of the word “generative” more fully in my next post.
Makoto Fujimura is an artist, writer, and speaker whose work may be viewed here.
Cover image credit: Cover of Makoto Fujimura’s e-book On Becoming Generative: An Introduction to Culture Care (2013) on Amazon.com