A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World, written by John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle, was published in 2017 by David C Cook. I was given a PDF of this book by the author in return for writing this post and providing my honest review.
I am not a parent, but if I had children, I might have a hard time teaching them how to navigate difficult cultural waters. Let’s face it, there are plenty of things in the world today that are at odds with our Christian worldview, and working through those issues with young people is a challenge to say the least. This is the niche that Stonestreet and Kunkle are attempting to fill. They argue that, “People make culture and are, in turn, shaped by culture, but equating them with culture is wrong and can even be dangerous” (34-35). Because of this dynamic, it is important for Christians to first and foremost recognize what underlies culture. Because culture is something that we create, and ought to create consistent with the mandate God gave to Adam and Eve, we need to be very intentional about what we produce and consume.
For example, they speak to the creation of a culture of life in the Roman Empire that developed because of Christians taking action to prevent evil (46-47). In Rome, it was culturally acceptable to put unwanted children out in the elements to die. Christians could not accept this however, so they began rescuing these children and adopting them into their own families in a true demonstration of charity and love.
However, they go on to tell an even more remarkable part of this story. Because female children were less desirable, most of these children that were left to die were female. They were raised by Christian families, but the Romans who did not want these girls eventually wanted wives for their sons. They had to come to the Christian families, so many Roman boys converted to Christianity as they were pursuing these young women.
I chose to highlight this one story out of many I could have chosen because this seems to be the approach that Stonestreet and Kunkle want to apply to a wide variety of issues including pornography, the hookup culture, racial tension and many more. It is not just enough for them to say that certain things are bad. Obviously, the Roman cultural practice of exposing these infants to the elements was evil. However, Christians did not just call out that evil; they did something about it. They took positive steps to redeem culture and demonstrate their Christian love in an environment where Christians were not the most favorably viewed people. Because of those actions, there were consequences that they probably never dreamed of at the beginning, but the culture was transformed because they reached out in love. God knew what was going on even if the individuals did not.
Passivity is something that Stonestreet and Kunkle cannot accept.
We are not escapists; Christians ought to be actively involved in redeeming this world. Again, to go back to Roman example, Christians could have simply been outraged by the Roman practice of exposure, but they went a step further to try and redeem the situation. They didn’t let a bad situation remain bad, but they found a way to improve the world around them.
Yes, there is competition in the world today that tries to lessen our effectiveness. Stonestreet and Kunkle outline the inherent dangers of the information age and the influence that sometimes bad information found online can have on developing minds. They recognize that there are places that answers can be found relatively easily, but not every answer is the right answer, so they encourage Christians to very intentionally help young people develop Christian worldviews. It is important for young people to be able to know not only what Christianity is but also why it matters.
That is probably the most important take away you will get from this book. Stonestreet and Kunkle go to great lengths to explain that Christians view the world in a different way than people of other faith commitments. A distinctly Christian worldview is going to cause people to act in certain ways. When they act in these ways they are going to create culture as outlined above. The type of culture that develops is almost always going to be consistent with the worldview that it comes out of. Therefore, it is vitally important as adults to make sure that future generations understand the information in this book. They need to know how to present a Christian perspective on important issues or else they are going to be swept away with popular culture that is developed by alternative worldviews. That would indeed be tragic for the future of Christianity, so books like this provide a rallying cry to remind each one of us of the importance of the culture that we are instilling in our children or young people in our lives.