All of us have at one time seen a movie, watched a rap video, read or viewed the news and thought, “Garbage! – How can they get away with such garbage?” In response, we either left the theater, turned off the television, closed the laptop, or put down the paper and did – nothing.
Nothing that is, except complain to whomever would listen, inadvertantly providing free publicity to the very object d’art (and I use the term loosely) which disgusted us so. Unfortunately for us Christians, our default position for most of what offends us is to complain loudly, but to continue to consume. The following are 5 Things that you can do to positively impact the culture at large.
1. Live your out your faith authentically.
We’ve heard Ghandi’s famous quote so much, that it is now platitudinal: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” The principles of the Bible are amazing keys to a fulfilling life that sadly, most Christians will never know because we are not fully committed to living by them. So many of us talk a good game, but live shattered, defeated lives. My suggestion – BE HONEST. Come clean with God, with yourself, with those who love you, before you are exposed as a hypocrite and the damage is done. If you have doubts and fears, find a grace-filled community where you can express them without fear of condemnation. If you are struggling in any area of your life, financially, emotionally, behaviorally, find someone stronger in whom you can confide and seek help – together. Lastly, but most importantly – TELL GOD. Do you think you have a problem that he doesn’t already know about? Do you doubt his love? Have you been so wounded by religious folk that you have turned away from him? I urge you, tell him. He wants to bear your burdens. He cares for you deeply. Whatever you do, just refuse to be one more fake Christian, pretending that all is well, when it is most certainly not.
2. Raise morally upright, joyful children.
If you have a family that includes children, or are in a position to influence children, your ability to impact culture is more powerful than you realize. Naturally you must lead by example, but where you fail, apologize. Ironically – this is leading by example. I am embarrassed to confess that on occasion, if angry enough I am subject to use scatological language. Frankly, I cuss – not curse, mind you…cuss.
And on more than one occasion, I have done so in front of my children. Each time, the Holy Spirit has convicted me of the contamination I spread by doing so. What do I do then? The words are already out. Their little ears have already been assaulted. I apologize to them and ask for their forgiveness. I explain that what Mommy did was wrong – and is not to be repeated even by her, and certainly not by them. I make sure they understand that my words were wrong because they make the Holy Spirit sad. Then right in front of them I ask God to forgive me . You might be surprised at how humbling it is to have to apologize to your children for moral failure. The result? I have now used my failure to teach my children about integrity, humility, forgiveness, accountability, and grace. But I tell you what, I think twice before saying “bad words” – period. And consequently, I “cuss” less. Now I am helped, too. And I send four little people with a moral lesson tucked into their hearts out into four different classrooms in two different schools to touch their closest circles of friends. Talk about viral marketing.
3. Walk in and work out your calling.
The most amazing works are accomplished by those who are passionate about their medium of expression. Are you an artist, working in a bank? Please paint – after hours if you have to, but do it. Are you a writer working as a bus driver? Great! Write on the weekends. Are you an everyday person, who has experienced something profound? Write it down, chronicle it. Cultivate and grow in your craft. Invest in classes where you can. It would be nice if every filmmaker were able to attend NYU, AFI, USC, or UT to hone his/her craft. But in truth, many greats must seek training in smaller venues. But they do train. What was your dream before you became bogged down with the concerns of this world? Ask God to reignite your passion again – then pursue it on some level, even if you just fill notebooks that sit on your beside table – for now. Get it out of you. If you are like most creators, your gift/calling is a burden that must be expressed, “like fire shut up in [your] bones.” Our God specializes in the impossible. Just obey, get it out of your head and into a tangible form, and leave the rest to him.
4. Refrain from simply condemning, critiquing, consuming, and copying culture.
In his book ‘Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling,’ Andy Crouch does a masterful job of explaining why condeming, critiquing, consuming, and copying culture contribute no lasting, meaningful change to any given medium. I do not have the space to do his explanation justice here. I highly recommend that you purchase – not borrow – a copy of the book itself to learn more about why the 4 “C”‘s aren’t nearly as effective as we may believe them to be.
5. Create and ship!
Again, Mr. Crouch explains this command much more eloquently than I can, but here’s the jist of it. We are made in the image of our Creator. It is an expecation of God that we re-create, repeatedly. Make something new and get it out there! A created thing that never makes it to market is merely an artifact. Just as the ‘Velveteen Rabbit’ informs us that a toy isn’t real until it is loved, Culture Making informs us that an artifact does not qualify as culture, until it makes contact with people. To borrow a quote from the book, which is itself a quote from Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, who uttered it in response to his engineers’ attempt to postpone the debut of the first MacIntosh Computer, “Real artists ship.” Don’t forget that one purpose in creating, is to impact others. People can’t be impacted by what they never experience. So develop your creation as best as you can and get it to market, because “Real artists ship.”
This list is by no means an exhaustive one, but it is a start. It goes without saying that from beginning to end, each step should be bathed in prayer. To begin positively impacting black culture, begin right where you are, within your circle of influence. Remember, the Christian faith began with one man, who then taught twelve, who then impacted their corner of the world first. I encourage you to create an exceptional alternative to whatever bugs you and get it out to your church, your neighborhood, your school, your webpage, your facebook page, your blog – twitter about it! Black culture is a huge influence on American culture, which in turn influences the world. Let’s give people more and better choices. May the God of all Creation richly bless your best efforts.