Making It New
Andy Crouch's very fine Culture Making will be joining the short list of books that I read again and again, and fervently recommend to others, for insights into how we are to live as Christians. On behalf of one of my employers I have placed an advance order at my favorite bookstore, Byron Borger's Hearts & Minds, for ninety copies to share with my colleagues, and students in one of the undergraduate courses I teach will be reading Culture Making early in 2009.
Culture Making is rich in provocations—for example, in its re-telling over several chapters of the overarching story found in the Christian Bible and the implications drawn from this re-telling, or in its critique of H. Richard Niebuhr's Christ and Culture, or in its definition of cultural power as "the ability to successfully propose a new cultural good." I was particularly struck by the distinction that Crouch draws between cultural gestures and postures.
"Our posture," Crouch writes, "is our learned by unconscious default position, our natural stance. It is the position our body assumes when we aren't paying attention, the basic attitude we carry through life." In response to the various circumstances we encounter, we make a variety of gestures through the course of a day—Crouch lists as examples stopping to pick up mail, curling up in a chair to read to a child, reaching for something high on a shelf, embracing a spouse, or warding off the attacks of an assailant. "Over time," he suggests, "certain gestures may become habit—that is, become part of our posture":
I've met former Navy SEALS who walk through life in a half-articulated crouch, ready to pounce or defend. I've met models and actors who carry themselves, even in their own home, as if they are on stage. I've met soccer players who bounce on the balls of their feet wherever they go, agile and swift. And I've met teenage video-game addicts whose thumbs are always restless and whose shoulders betray a perpetual hunch toward an invisible ...