Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What is Culture?

Leon G. Wencelius remarked, “Culture is the fulfillment of purposive molding of nature in execution of the creative will of God.”

T. S. Eliot observed, “the manifestations that we have in society, the way we relate to each other, the way we do business, the way we transact our regular rituals in community, are necessarily drawn from cult or from faith.”

G. K. Chesterton said, “A culture is the accumulation of ritual, traditions, symbols, and habits. Those things which grow out of a people’s perception of what matters most. In other words, a culture is a legacy of faith."

And then there is Ken Meyer’s all-inclusive answer in which culture sounds like everything. "Culture is a dynamic pattern and ever-changing matrix of objects, artifacts, sounds, institutions, philosophies, fashions, enthusiasms, myths, prejudices, relationships, attitudes, tastes, rituals, habits, colors, and loves, all embodied in individual people, in groups and collectives and associations of people (many of whom do not know they are associated), in books, in buildings, in the use of time and space, in wars, in jokes, and in food."

How do I define culture? I am reminded that the Church is married to Christ (Matthew 9:15, 25:1, Revelation 21:9). There are many prescriptive indicators that help define the health of a marriage. A man or a woman may say, “I love you.” But if what they have said is not followed by works, their words are meaningless. Let me apply this reasoning to the marriage of Christ and the Church and argue that if the Church is called to love Christ with her whole heart, mind, soul, and strength, then culture is the condition of our marriage. There is indeed much work to do.

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