"They fixed your when you were young... before you knew the difference."
--As Cities Burn
Culture Making and Humanity
It is human of us to create culture. The ability to express ourselves flows from the creativity of a God who engineered culture-making into us. We might even suggest that culture is itself a manifested result of the image of God with which we are uniquely endowed. If you stock a pond with new fish, they create schools. If you put ants into an ant farm, they build their burrows. If you put humans together in a community, we build culture.
Our constructions of local, regional, and even global cultures are a product of the fact that we were given creative souls and we can revel in our expressions of art, food, music, language, anthropological ideals, traditions, and personality. So, from the spice of Thai food to the writings of John Locke to the two-dimensional artwork seen on the walls of the Egyptian pyramids, the creation of culture is an altogether wonderful characteristic of humanity.
Culture and the Fall
Even so, this collective expression is not unaffected by our fallen state. If we take the doctrine of depravity seriously and also recognize that the enemy has a level of control over this current world (Ephesians 2:2), then it seems to follow that culture has been tainted, to some degree, by the effects of sin. Images like those seen in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 reveal a demonic influence over some of those with power in society. If Satan has been strategic in helping to influence and shape culture, in conjunction with our own sinful inclination toward rebellion against God, then it would make sense that the culture-making in us has been purposefully steered away from the godliness it was created to reflect.
We can say, then, that man is a slave to sin because he finds it not only in his own heart, but also he is invited to participate in a cultural rebellion against his Creator. This is an immense force, spear-headed by the devil, and made up of individuals who have together decided to flip God the bird as they use the culture-making they were engineered with to create expressions of perversion.
man is a slave to sin because... he is invited to participate in a cultural rebellion against (his) Creator.
I'm saying that individual men that live as slaves to sin and who find themselves influenced by a world permeated by the enemy's lies have the tendency to themselves perpetuate cultures that produce like-minded men. This cycle is a description of world history. The rise and fall of civilizations, of rulers, of ideologies, and the like testify to the ebb and flow of this great force at work. It is only because of the mighty hand of God that the floodgates of wickedness that would otherwise overtake us all are withheld to the extent that they are.
The imagery of Babel cannot help but be brought to the forefront of our minds as we talk about this. Men banded together in united unbelief and built that great tower, and we'll do it again too. This probably doesn't look the same in every locale or time period. In fact, I think the specifics of this rebellion differ for a number of reasons, including Satan's strategy in particular areas and the specific cultural sins that have taken root there. Consider the moral relativism in America, the remnants of racism in the rural South, the strongholds of paganism in India, and the materialism evidenced in every mall in America. Make no mistake about though, we've all had our own towers of rebellion.
Culture and the Christian
I wonder if we often neglect this all too relevant fact. I wonder how often we underestimate the reach of sin's effect on culture or how often we are unwilling to admit how much we, as Christians, are affected by it. In many ways, I dare say we are brainwashed in the way we think about money, the way we think about love, the way we think about ourselves, and the way we think about God.
The imagery of Babel cannot help but be brought to the forefront in our minds...
We must remember that we should not aspire to necessarily live as our parents did, as our neighbors do, or as prescribed by cultural mores. Thus, I would submit that at least part of the light of the Gospel as it does its work in our souls involves our relinquishing the control of some of our learned behaviors and thought patterns, and then acclimating ourselves to the new world order-- an order of the Kingdom of God.