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Sunday, June 03, 2012

Culture

Anyone who knows me likely knows I like words. I like to use them, to play with them, to examine them, to find their origins. It's just interesting stuff to me. So the other day I looked up "culture". Here is what I found. The word, of course, has a few meanings, but the primary definition is "the total of the inherited ideas, beliefs, values, and knowledge, which constitute the shared bases of social action". That is what defines our culture here or anywhere else. It's the beliefs, values, inherited ideas, and knowledge that informs what we do as a society.

Fine. We get that. But I wanted to know more. Where does the word come from? Well, as it turns out, the word is rooted (wait for it ... that's a joke yet to happen) in the concept of "to cultivate" (I told you there was a joke there). You see that now, right? "Culture" ... "cultivate"? See it? Oh, wait, that connection, "cult", is a word in itself. Is that connected, too? As it turns out, there is a connection. The root is the Latin word, cultus, which means "to till", which includes "to cultivate". But, wait ... what is the connection to "cult"? Well, in its original usage, it meant the primitive rituals used connected to tilling the ground. Most literally, then, cultus meant "worship".

Bring that all back around, then. In every "culture" is the word "cult" meaning "worship". Having spun out the origins, I think you can trace it back to the concept as well. Our culture is defined by our shared "inherited ideas, beliefs, values, and knowledge" -- the things we worship. And that makes sense. We are what we worship. If we worship God, we reflect Him. If we worship anything else, we reflect that. If we claim to worship God and actually worship something else, our lives -- our "culture" -- will show it. And, indeed, although something like 95% of Americans claim to be "spiritual" and some 70% claim to even be "Christian", our culture reflects what we actually worship as a society ... and it's not God. It includes possessions, sex, money, power, the current standard of "beauty", and more than anything, self, but it is not God.

A few things to consider, then, on this Lord's Day. First, all culture is based on worship. No matter what anyone says, it cannot be avoided. Don't let them tell you otherwise. In the words of Bob Dylan, "You've got to serve somebody."

Next, if our lives reflect what we worship and our society is a reflection of what it worships, why would you expect our society to be better than what it is? It seems to me that it's just setting you up for disappointment to expect our society to be better than it is when it is not marked by a people that worship God.

Third, you need not be a part of your culture. You can create your own culture. You can make a family culture or a group culture or even a culture of one. (The second most common definition of "culture" is "the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent.) So, if you actually intend to worship God, you can make a localized culture that reflects the character of God.

And that leads to the final item of consideration. Now you need to ask yourself, does your life reflect Him? If not, what are you worshiping? What does your life say about your worship? Is your life the reflection you intend or hope for, or is there the need for a shift in your worship? Something to consider.

1 comment:

Marshall Art said...

This supports my response to Dan Trabue when he accuses me (or us) of having beliefs based on cultural biases. I've not disputed this, but clarified that our culture, of course not to the fullest extent, always reflected our worship of God, that our biases were a result of His teachings as clearly revealed in Scripture. Insofar as my (or our) position on SSM is culturally biased, it is still a reflection of our worship of God, Who has called homosexuality an abomination to Him.