LeAnne Martin
Christians in the Arts

Monday, August 20, 2007

Dick Staub: The Culturally Savvy Christian

Dick Staub is an award-winning broadcaster, author, and speaker, whose work focuses on understanding faith and culture and interpreting each to the other. He is the radio personality behind The Dick Staub Show, a nationally syndicated daily broadcast he hosted for fifteen years, and The Kindlings Muse podcast at www.thekindlings.com. He is author of Too Christian, Too Pagan and Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters. His commentaries can be read regularly at www.dickstaub.com.

He’s also a friend. I’m pleased to have him on the blog discussing his new book, The Culturally Savvy Christian.

LeAnne: Describe today's culture as well as what you call Christianity-Lite.

My interest in popular culture began in the 60s when we all had high hopes of ushering in a spiritual, intellectual and artistic renaissance. Instead we’ve created an unbearably light popular culture that is diversionary (entertainment), often mindless (amusement) featuring celebrities known for being known. Profit motives, targeted marketing and new technologies drive this enterprise instead of good art and ideas.

American Christianity, particularly evangelicalism, in its quest to be ‘relevant’ has become like the culture instead of transforming it. The result is a diversionary, mindless celebrity religious culture that is good at marketing for numeric growth. Evangelicals are known as a voting block, a purchasing niche but not as an intellectual or aesthetically enriching force.

Alexandr Solzhenitsyn said at Harvard University in 1978, “After the suffering of decades of violence and oppression, the human soul longs for things higher, warmer and purer than those offered by today’s mass living habits, introduced by the revolting invasion of publicity, by TV stupor and by intolerable music… If the world has not approached its end, it has reached a major watershed in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will demand from us a spiritual blaze; we shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life.”

I think Christians are supposed to be that spiritual blaze in culture and to do so requires that we be culturally savvy Christians of deep faith.

LM: What are some characteristics of a culturally savvy Christian?

Christians have fallen into three unproductive relationships with culture. We cocoon ourselves (circle the wagons keep the ‘good guys in’ and the ‘bad guys out’), or do combat with culture, or we conform to culture, becoming like it.

Jesus was a loving, transforming presence in culture. He was in the world (he could not be cocooned), he loved people (so he did not just want to combat culture), but he also wanted to transform culture (so could not be conformed to it).

In that sense Jesus was the prototype for the first culturally savvy Christian!

I define the culturally savvy Christian as someone who is serous about faith, savvy about faith and culture and skilled at relating each to the other. To be savvy means "to get it", and we need to be savvy about both the culture and faith we are in.

We have forgotten that for centuries Christians were known for their intellectual, artistic and spiritual contributions to society. Bach, Mendelssohn, Dante, Dostoevsky, Newton, Pascal and Rembrandt are but a few who personified the rich tradition of faith, producing the highest and best work, motivated by a desire to glorify God and offered in service of others for the enrichment of our common environment: culture.

It is time for Christians to discover and rekindle our spiritual, intellectual and creative legacy.

More from Dick Staub on Thursday.

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