I’ve been reading Andy Crouch’s excellent book Culture Making, and was blown away by chapter five, “Gestures and Postures.” As I read it, something clicked into place in my brain. It made so much sense, but I had never thought of it in the way he presented it before.
Think about a physical gesture you might make, such as reaching up for something on a high shelf, or bending low to tie your shoe. Compare that to your posture, which is how you consistently stand, sit, walk. There is good posture and bad posture. Good posture both anchors and frees you so that you can respond in various ways to various circumstances. However, if you take a gesture, such as bending over to tie your shoe, and try to make it your regular posture, you’ll soon have a bad back and sore muscles. You’ll be limited in your movement.
What does this have to do with how we interact with culture? This was the “aha” moment for me.
Andy starts by looking at four different ways American Christians, in particular, interact with culture: condemning, critiquing, copying and consuming. The issue is that, while these are all appropriate “gestures” to make at various times when interacting with culture, we are creatures of habit, and over time these “gestures” often become our regular “postures.”
An example … it is perfectly appropriate to condemn the culture of international violence and lawlessness that sustains the global sex trade. The only Christian thing to do is reject it and work toward eradicating it as quickly and effectively as possible. This is a gesture of condemnation. But if we start looking at all types of culture with a suspicious and condemning eye, we have moved into a posture of condemnation. We’re like the person who decides they want to make bending over to tie their shoe their permanent posture. We soon lose our freedom of movement.
If then, neither condemning, critiquing, copying or consuming is meant to be our regular posture, what should be? Andy goes back to the very beginning of the human story in the book of Genesis to give us the answer.
… like our first parents, we are to be creators and cultivators. Or to put it more poetically, we are artists and gardeners.
The postures of the artist and the gardener have a lot in common. Both begin with contemplation, paying close attention to what is already there …
And then, after contemplation, the artist and gardener both adopt a posture of purposeful work. They bring their creativity and effort to their calling. The gardener tends what has gone before, making the most of what is beautiful and weeding out what is distracting or useless. The artist can be more daring: she starts with a blank canvas or a solid piece of stone and gradually brings something out of it that was never there before … They are creaturely creators, tending and shaping the world that original Creator made.
This post is just a brief summary of this excellent chapter, but I hope it will whet your appetite to dig into the book yourself for more.