The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Friday, September 09, 2005
Blinded by Sociology?
I have to admire Andrew Sandlin, even if I don't always agree with him. His latest post at Christianculture.com reports on James Davidson Hunter's lecture in Calgary, Alberta sponsored by the Work Research Foundation.

Hunter's lecture centered on the "Center" of culture and the vital importance (for him) of taking the center in order for Christian's to successfully change culture. Here is some of the summary excerpts cited by Sandlin:

- Culture has a rigid structure of centre and periphery, the centre with the highest prestige. In economics, quantity counts, but in culture, only quality or status. USA Today sells 10 times the copies, but the New York Times has 10 times the prestige.

- Cultures change from top down, not from bottom up — “the hardest thing for Christians to accept,” Hunter says. The root of every culture is a tiny network of intellectuals. In his Sociology of Philosophies, Randall Collins estimates that just 500 thinkers have been at the centre of 3,000 years of world civilization; and their total network comprised just 2,700 people, shaping the public vocabulary. Grass roots movements bring only temporary change, because they don’t build lasting networks, then institutions, to embody and preserve the culture.

What Hunter argues is largely true, but is not entirely true. Culture is changed from grass roots efforts as well as from the "center". If this weren't the case, how would Marxism (to pick one example) ever have succeeded? How would a tiny group of monestaries turned nothern Europe upside down for Christ?

Hunter is a brilliant sociologist and it shows. But his institional focus blinds him to the power of small communities.

If we are lucky, the anti-Chrisian establishment will be blind to it as well. As we quietly educate and equip our children, and patiently make faithful culture in and for local Chrisian communities, we will build a distinct, biblical culture which will overtake the behemoth and leave it smoldering in our wake...