Sub-Culture Vs. Real Culture

Saturday, October 15/28, 2017
Mother of God Who Ripens the Grain

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

The English word culture is rooted in the Latin word cultura meaning agriculture, tillage, or husbandry. But the modern English word has drifted far from this association with the earth into realms of plastic fabrication and surrogate substitution. Many contemporary Christians, for instance, without an authentic culture to under-gird their worthy spiritual aspirations, have created a whole sub-culture which seeks simply to borrow popular forms it finds in the world and substitute Christian lyrics/content into them. Such a recycling of pop culture often results in entertainment that is cheap and inauthentic.

Rather than trying to keep up with the popular culture, perhaps the Church needs to return to older, more authentic culture, the kind that is closer to the earth. In this Halloween season with its plastic representations of pop culture idols and its articifically sweetened candy, an older cultural form begs to find new life in the modern world. The old American tradition of the county fair in which the best of the year’s harvest is gathered together and celebrated provides a nobler cultural form worth imitating and replicating. At our new parish in Syracuse, NY we celebrated a version based on one we did annually in Boston. It included presentations of crafts, community games, country dancing, and a hearty harvest soup followed by a baked goods contest. A good time was had by all, and most importantly, the Lord of the Harvest was given praise for his abundant provision in the past year.

In this season of coming Thanksgiving, we should not deal with the popularity of something in the general culture by creating an inauthentic, artificial subculture. Rather, we should substitute its cheapness with a culture deeper, more real, and more abiding.

One thought on “Sub-Culture Vs. Real Culture

  1. We certainly are alienated from the rhythms of the earth. Our 2,000 mile salads and year-round avocados might be a sign of our mastery of nature, and the collapse of space (and who wants to “go back to nature” when that means tooth decay and premodern medicine?), and the making of all things to serve our needs, but it might ignore that we still have some need to be tied-in to the seasons. The punch clocks of our workplaces and the interest-calculating algorithms of the banks might proceed with indifference to the cycles of nature, and our technology thankfully frees us from a servile observance of these cycles (no one reads Spanish equivalents to, or translations of, Wendell Berry in agrarian Latin-American areas, or sings laments about the loss of “honest manual labor” or “intimacy with the earth” to the churning of efficient means of agricultural work — they are glad to be freed of the back-breaking work), but that doesn’t mean we should live in the space colony of our manumission, or that we know what to do with our freedom when we are not shackled to the orbit of nature’s ebbs and flows.

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