If you’ve heard me speak, you’ve probably heard me use phrases like “the redemption of culture” or being the “cultural salt and light”. I’m almost always talking about the role our students are called to, to be agents of change and reconciliation for their generation. I know…o.k. I can get a little long-winded on this topic, but I’m passionate about it! Almost as passionate as I am for your kids!
There was a great book written in 2001 titled “Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress”. It represents the culmination of some of the most influential thinkers pertaining to the topic of culture. It was and remains a highly controversial book. The authors define culture as “the values, attitudes, beliefs, variations, and underlying assumptions prevalent among people in society”. One of their key ideas is that cultural values powerfully shape political, economic, and social performance. The central conservative truth, one that I agree with, is that culture, not politics, determines the success of a society. This is why culture is so important and why you hear me harp on it. Since the first century, the church has been a principal cultural shaper. Allow me to share just a few examples.
- According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the church has and remains the single largest provider of healthcare in the world.
- The very first orphanages were churches in the middle ages
- The church lead society to abolish and make illegal the slave trade
- Almost all schools were established by the church, first in the catacombs of Rome to the great universities
- The church established the original Red Cross hundreds of years before the international Red Cross was formed
- Church teaching on the sacredness of marriage heavily influenced the legal concept of marriage during the Reformation
- In the 10th Century, the church established alms houses caring for the elderly and disabled
- During the Victorian Age, the church pioneered prison reform by advocating for human rights and teaching prisoners a trade
- Public libraries in Western society, which had tremendous impact on learning and culture, were developed by the church during the Reformation
- The father of the modern foster care movement was a devote Christian who started the Children’s Aid Society in the mid-1800s
- The church was the first patron of the visual and musical arts
Certainly, this list is not all-inclusive, but I’m certain you would agree that the legacy of the church is an impressive one. A recent Barna Research survey cites an increasing view among millennials and Gen Xers that the church is no longer relevant. In my opinion, we did it to ourselves, as the church has gradually withdrawn from the culture.
My passionate call to action…is to prepare and train our students to engage their culture and redeem it. To reclaim the churches’ prominent role in shaping the “values, attitudes, beliefs, orientations, and underlying assumptions” in their world.
Thank you for your belief in our mission and entrusting us with your cherished children.
Serving Him together,
Head of School
Maranatha Christian Academy (Brooklyn Park, MN)