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Building through small creative acts

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Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling
Andy Crouch

IVP Books, 2008
285 pages

Go and make something of the world! That is Andy Crouch’s new book in a nutshell.

Crouch posits that we often think of culture as a uniform singular whole, blaming “culture” for this or that. In reality, culture is made up of many small individual activities and crafting of goods.

The biblical calling, initiated in Genesis, is to literally make something of the world. We can critique, condemn, or criticize the way the world is, but nothing will change in society until we make more of it. “If we seek to change culture, we will have to create something new, something that will persuade our neighbors to set aside some existing set of cultural goods for our new proposal.”

As a producer, I value Crouch’s work in tracing the creative calling of culture making from Genesis to Revelation. Particularly helpful is his exploration of Jesus as cultivator and creator. Jesus proposes new sets of practices that “demonstrate a new set of horizons for human life.”

Crouch suggests community and grace are fundamental to our culture making. “Every cultural innovation, no matter how far-reaching its consequences, is based on personal relationships and personal commitment. Culture making is hard.” Crouch invites me to ask, who are the three people already involved in my life willing to offer the commitment and tenacity that culture making demands?

God’s grace fuels our small seeds of creativity. Some flourish beyond our imagination, some remain small, but all are God-honouring.

Affirmation of family

Scattered throughout the book is a refreshing affirmation of family. “I hope that families will read this book and discover that the family, so seemingly insignificant in an age of technology and celebrity, is still the heart of culture, the primary place where most of us are called to cultivate and create.”

I thought immediately of SASHL, my 14-year-old’s Sunday Afternoon Street Hockey League. It was birthed this winter through a flurry of Sunday lunch phone calls, an unrelenting passion for the Montreal Canadiens, and a desire to make something of the world.

There are only three rules in this league: come to play, play hard, and no talk of Youtube or videogames. On Sunday afternoons you’ll find a cluster of 10- to 14-year-olds on a nearby church parking lot (after the second broken window we relocated the league from our driveway) playing for the fun of it – and a bit of glory. Fresh baked goods on home ice coupled with persistent weekly phone calls is the only marketing strategy. Parents are willing to drive at a moment’s notice to have their son play in the league.

Seems this bit of culture making has persuaded a group of youth to set aside whatever teenage boys do on a Sunday afternoon when their parents want to be left alone to nap. The hard work has resulted in something “very good.” As I watch my son, I realize that he’s doing exactly what Crouch is talking about, changing culture by making more of it and making something better.

As teacher, producer, and parent, I recommend this book. It will clarify your thinking, inspire your production, and affirm your parenting. An excellent companion resource is www.culturemaking.com which includes links to all of the books referenced in the manuscript.

—David Balzer is instructor in communications and media at Canadian Mennonite University, Winnipeg. He spent the last 12 years as media producer with Family Life Network and is a former co-host of the GodTalk radio show on CJOB 68. He attends North Kildonan MB Church.

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