“Our anti-philosophers are especially vulnerable in this age, because the media fill our environment with popularized philosophies. Marshall McLuhan was right in saying that environments tend not to be noticed….We see many of their explicit contents, but the environments themselves are imperceptible. We do not see the environment, as Os Guinness says, because we see with it. That means we are influenced by ideas we do not notice and therefore are not aware of their effect on us. Or, if we see the effect, we find it difficult to discover the cause.”
Idols For Destruction – pg. 7
The Chinese have a proverb that says, “If you want to know what the water is like, don’t ask a fish.” The thrust of the proverb is the same as the thrust of what Schlossberg is getting at above. Like a fish swimming in water people swim in their culture and like that fish in water, a person in their given cultural environment, doesn’t tend to notice the ecosystem of which they are a part. For a fish not noticing that ecosystem is no problem but for people not noticing their cultural ecosystem can lead to grave problems when that ecosystem and the assumptions upon which it is premised is in revolt against King Christ.
It takes a great deal of work to begin to see the cultural ecosystem in which we live, and where the work is successful the result can be a sense of alienation if one concludes, as a result of the work, that there is something profoundly wrong with the cultural ecosystem in which one is living. People who are self conscious regarding the cultural ecosystem in which they are swimming and who take great pains to point out the deficiencies of the premises upon which the cultural ecosystem is built are sometimes called prophets. People who like their cultural ecosystem don’t typically like prophets — hence the alienation.
Most people spend their whole lives not questioning their cultural ecosystem. They absorb their convictions by way of the osmosis that comes in the course of being saturated in the culture. I believe when the Apostle told the Romans that they were not ‘to be conformed to the world’ his warning was tantamount to saying don’t absorb the premises of non Christ honoring cultural ecosystems. I believe Christians, by definition, are supposed to be a people who do the work of seeing the cultural ecosystem in which they live for what it is.
The reason that this work is so difficult is that it often amounts to taking out your eyes in order to look at them. That is how close the cultural ecosystem is to people who live in and with their system. As the quote says above we see with our cultural ecosystem and so in order to see it we have to either get out of it or we have to get it out of us in order to examine its premises and how it is shaping us in troublesome directions.
Lord Christ, grant your people grace to see with and not through their eyes.
9 thoughts on “Cultural Ecosystems”
Part of the passage I’m covering tomorrow for the folks in my office is Jesus’ comments about the eye being the light of the body, and that if the eye (light) is dark, how dark is the rest of the body? His comments fit perfectly with your observation that we can’t understand our “ecosystem” without plucking out our eyes and actually examining them along with that which influences the way they see(the premises and presuppositions of the ecosystem itself).
Until the church inteprets Jesus’ words with Psalm 19:8, our darkness will remain very dark.
I have come to the conclusion that majorities in cultures (regardless whether or not they are Christian or non-Christians) will always remain people who are not epistemologically self conscious. I believe that is why well disciplined minorities change the world because once the well disciplined minorities become the gate-keepers every one else follows along. This is where the idea of ‘tipping point’ comes in.
Does anyone really believe that a majority of Russians were self consciously Communist? The majority of Germans self conscious Nazis? The majority of American self conscious secular humanists? Nah…. they are just following where the cultural stream is flowing.
Good point…a practical reason to keep pushing.
Right… one might say that television is the means by which we medicate ourselves into being a part of this cultural ecosystem. It is to us what peyote is to Indian religions.
And what is really important to note is that this hasn’t been accidental and didn’t ‘just happen.’ This has methodically planned and arduously pursued by American elitist.
And the fact that they are putting televisions in vehicles now is amazing. You just can’t get away from them. Here is an interesting experiment. Next time you go to a hospital waiting room, walk in and turn the TV off and see what kind of reaction you get. (I’ve done it… I know.)
The television is everywhere… it is in Airports, Bars, Vans, Waiting Rooms, Offices… it is mind boggling to pause to think how ubiquitous it has become. As a minister I am often at the bedside of the dying, and I have to tell you that often (not always) at this point my main competition is still the … television. I can’t tell you how often I’ve come up and just wept because dying people who are on their way to eternity are infatuated with the television.
If the prospect of dying can not pull us away from the television how could the prospect of a righteous revolt?
Participating in the comment debates on the local newspaper’s website has been an eye-opener for me. Others have begun assertions with “Science tells us…” This is done with the same air of authority as the Prophet saying “Thus saith the LORD”
I must confess that before I cancelled my satellite service…well…I watched an episode of “South Park” Yet providentially this particular episode poked fun at atheists. Cartman goes to the future where Richard Dawkins is the great prophet of Science. People say things like “Science be praised!” And it turns out there are several warring sects of Science worshippers. And yes…, there was much “course jesting” And yes, I snickered… a bit. So- Father Bret, how many “hail Marys” do I get?
No Hail Mary’s but
25 billion ‘Our Father Dawkins”
One for every billion of years the earth is old.
But only if you snickered at coarse jesting that wasn’t funny.
Robert, that is a great observation about ‘Science tells us….’
As if Science can tell us anything.
Gordon Clark once wrote Science is always false but often useful
The majority of American self conscious secular humanists?
Why do you even presuppose that the majority of American are conscious?
Well, I guess I reckon that having a pulse counts a little bit towards being conscious.
But maybe not