BreakPoint: Fujimura’s “Culture Care”

A Better Model for Engagement

When it comes to culture, do you consider yourself a foot soldier or a gardener? Okay, that’s a bit cryptic. But let me explain.

When was the last time you participated in a boycott? Or shared a Facebook post alerting your friends to a dangerous cultural trend?

Good stuff. Now, let me ask you this: When was the last time you went to an art museum? Or bought tickets to the theater? Or listened to a great piece of music? Or wrote a poem and shared it with friends?

I ask, because, I believe even more important for Christians than being on the front lines of the culture war is participating in the culture—and better yet, helping to create and nurture it. If the main contribution that Christians make to culture is complaining about it, we’re doing something wrong.

That’s what my friend Makoto Fujimura says in his new book, “Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for Our Common Life.” You may have heard me interview Fujimura before. He’s a brilliant artist and writer who has thought long and hard about the relationship between faith and the arts. “Culture,” he argues, “is not a territory to be won or lost but a resource we are called to steward with care. Culture is a garden to be cultivated.

In other words, Fujimura wants us to shift our thinking away from the “culture wars” model, in which we think of culture as a battleground. Of course we need to have convictions about culture, and to stand by them. But Fujimura wants to offer a better way for us to influence culture for good. His image of a garden is just one of many he draws from nature, to show how we can carefully and patiently help to cultivate that cultural environment and make good things grow in it.

So, how do we do this? Fujimura suggests that both Christians and the arts community start by learning to look at each other as potential allies, even friends, instead of as sworn enemies. He asks us to consider investing in cultural works, as we’re able to afford it. (As an example, he mentions customers who have purchased his own paintings by giving him a little money every month until they were fully paid for.) He suggests that leaders in the church, the arts community, and the business community form partnerships to help support each other and nurture the culture around them. He cites the example of singer Mahalia Jackson, who encouraged Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to “tell ’em about the dream,” spurring him to make his most famous speech. Such encouragement can flow in both directions.

This isn’t always easy work, but it’s extremely valuable and worthwhile. It requires thoughtful engagement instead of blanket condemnation, and it may call for us to broaden our understanding and deal with ideas that seem unfamiliar and uncomfortable. But from such efforts come moments that he calls “generative,” or “life-giving.” Christians who enjoy and support art and culture, who make it a priority in their lives, and who reach out to those in the arts instead of reflexively pushing them away, can help bring the culture toward a renewed appreciation of goodness, truth, and beauty. And that is good for everyone.

Fujimura acknowledges that Christians in the arts, or even just Christians who love the arts, can feel caught between two worlds. But he argues that this is not a bad thing. The person in this position may in fact be playing “a role of cultural leadership in a new mode, serving functions including empathy, memory, warning, guidance, mediation, and reconciliation.”

One of the best things about “Culture Care” is Fujimura’s optimism about our future—especially if you’re feeling a bit weary and battle-scarred from the culture wars. He firmly believes that, as tough as this cultural moment is, we can turn it into a “genesis moment” by learning to nurture and care for our culture and those who create it. If you want to be part of that effort, I can’t think of a better way to start than by picking up this excellent book.

 

Further Reading and Information

Fujimura’s “Culture Care”: A Better Model for Engagement

Be a participant in the revitalization of the culture, as Eric suggests. For a great perspective on how to do this, get a copy of Makoto Fujimura’s book “Culture Care,” available at the online bookstore. And click on the link to the Eric Metaxas Show to listen to Eric’s interview with Fujimura.

 

Find a BreakPoint radio station in your area–Click here.

Resources

Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for Our Common Life
  • Makoto Fujimura, Mark Labberton | IVP Books | March 2017

Available at the online bookstore

Interview with Makoto Fujimura
  • Eric Metaxas Show | May 6, 2016

Comment Policy: Commenters are welcome to argue all points of view, but they are asked to do it civilly and respectfully. Comments that call names, insult other people or groups, use profanity or obscenity, repeat the same points over and over, or make personal remarks about other commenters will be deleted. After multiple infractions, commenters may be banned.

  • Linda Swanekamp

    Please consider the work and writing of Sara Joseph. Her book, “Gently Awakened’ illustrates her life as an artist and Christian and the struggles. Her website, http://www.christian-artist-resource.com/, is a great help for the individual artist. Her writings in the Christian Palette are honest dialogues in the everyday difficulties and motivations of the artist. She has immensely helped me and prayed for me. I am not an eloquent with words. I am a garden variety, ordinary painter and quilter and daily struggle with filling that calling of being even a little trickle of showing God’s glory and creation.

  • desertdaniel

    I am a published poet, and my wife is an artist. We are members of a poetry group in a nearby city. One other woman in the group is an evangelical Christian; the others are liberal or “progressive”. We do our best every week to be witnesses to our faith. My wife sells and sometimes teaches in a gallery run by lesbians and liberals. We find friendship to be a more powerful tool with these artists than evangelism.

  • Peter Mead

    The basic logic of this commentary is sound — but do you realize you have opened a HUGE can of worms for a lot of people? This is not a one-shot topic. You will need to approach this from MANY angles so you can (1) make it possible for people to accept your premise (2) show them how they can practice this without feeling like they just exposed their jugular vein to the enemy.

  • frednova

    I try to help at least one person every day. And…I also try to share the Urantia Book every day. I think Fujimura is saying that we must have a new reformation of what Christianity is…and I agree.

  • Vincent Salonia

    I applaud this perspective. I was first introduced to Fujimura in Del Tackett’s the Truth Project. What is critical to this discussion is the fact that the Cultural Mandate of Gen.1:28 requires that we be engaged in the shaping and formation of culture, not simply its critique – which of course requires that we “Be in it”.

  • Mo86

    “When was the last time you participated in a boycott? Or shared a Facebook post alerting your friends to a dangerous cultural trend?”

    Currently boycotting a few places. And I post on issues all the time on my blog.

    “Good stuff. Now, let me ask you this: When was the last time you went to an art museum? Or bought tickets to the theater? Or listened to a great piece of music? Or wrote a poem and shared it with friends?”

    I do artsy stuff as often as I can afford it! If I could go to see a live theater show every week, I would do it. I have the classical station on all the time, even though I am woefully ignorant of the music and composers. Alas, I have not a clue how to write poetry. You got me on that one.

    I fully agree that Christians need to be involved in the culture in this way. But I don’t know that it needs to be one or the other. The artsy side of culture and the issues side of culture are just two sides of the same coin. We need to be addressing doing both!

    The problem seems to be that many Christians are involved in one and dismissive of the other. They either are involved in issues/politics and dismiss “artsy” things as irrelevant, or they are deeply involved in the arts but no one knows where they stand on anything because they won’t speak out.

    We need to address both sides of the coin!

  • mj67

    Simply more “feel good theology”. The Apostle Paul says many times that we are to be set apart from the world. We are DIFFERENT! We are to occupy our time here informing the masses Why we are different and invite them to join us by the saving Grace through our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus.