The Overlapping of Cultures
To recap: we all belong to groups of various kinds, and we all contribute to the evolving cultures of those groups. I’ve been focusing on our place of employment because that’s the main theme of this blog, but this is true of every organization or group to which we belong. The group is the way it is, in part at least, because of who we are—what we say and do within that group. On the other hand, the group takes on a life of its own because it’s the sum total of what all of its members do within it, not just what we ourselves do.
Weeks ago, I said that these groups intersect, overlap, and interact with each other in a variety of ways. But here’s where I’ve been going with all this. Every social group has its own developing culture, and our society is made up of a patchwork quilt of millions of social groups. When we speak of “society” or “the secular world,” it sounds like something huge that stands over against us, but it is actually the sum total of all the cultures of all the social groups of which it is composed.
And now I’m finally ready to tell you what I’ve been building up to for the last several months. As you know, I keep coming back to the question, What is God doing when we’re at work? And I have a number of answers.
The answer I want to give now is: God is working through us to transform the larger culture. And God does that through the roles we play in our various social groups. We help create the various sub-cultures that make up the larger (patchwork quilt) culture. God is working through us to transform the overall culture by means of its component cultures.
We Christians have always said that we are supposed to be leaven in the world, but I wonder if we have thought about how that works. I’m willing to bet, in fact, that many Christians think about the problem mostly in a political sense: that we are supposed to fight for justice and equality through protests, or in the voting booth, or prevail upon our congressional representatives to do so. But there is something much more pervasive going on all the time, and that’s what I’m focusing on.
Together, we create the larger culture. It’s morally convenient to claim that it’s “us against the world,” but we are the world—or a part of it, at least. If we think the world is going to hell, we’d better take a close look at the roles we’re playing within that world, because we’re part of the problem, whether we like it or not.
The point here is that everything we do and say in our various roles (on the job and in any of our other organizations) contributes to the formation of the culture, and one of the things God is doing all day is transforming the culture. We’re supposed to be part of that process of transformation.