Pursue Excellence, Not Being Elite

A good interview with Andy Crouch, author of Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling.

Crouch argues that “everyone should strive to make culture by humbly mastering a field that intersects with the world’s brokenness.” And he believes just that: everyone can make culture, not just the elite.

That seems to be a major difference between his book and James Davidson Hunter’s To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World.

Wasn’t Mark using street language so as to communicate with common folks, not elites? Does the difference between street and elite play into the difference between your book, Culture Making, and James Davidson Hunter’s book To Change the World? He seems to argue that elites make culture, and you write more about everyone making culture. Is that a valid distinction? Yes, that’s so true. Dr. Hunter and I have different instincts. When you ask when I first made culture, I don’t think of my first publication in a national magazine. I think of the “ABC Song,” because that’s culture. Where does cultural influence come from? It’s very mysterious—the Holy Spirit can work through a lot of different vessels.

I think that’s a key difference.

I respect James Davidson Hunter’s book very much, and learned a lot from it. But I also think he makes some critical mistakes, chief among them being that he fails to take into sufficient account the changes brought about by the rise of the Internet. In many respects I think a helpful companion book would be Jeff Jarvis’s What Would Google Do?.

  • http://www.ophastings.com Pat Hastings

    That was a great interview! While Andy Crouch uses “culture” to mean whatever we make of the world, I think Hunter uses a narrower (and perhaps more common) meaning of “cultural influence” as having wide-spread impact on others. Almost by definition, those who are able to influence lots of other people are the “elite” (depending, of course, on your definition). Arguably, when we say someone is trying to be elite, what we mean is that they are trying to achieve a lot of power and influence.

    When you say that Hunter fails to account for the rise of Internet, I take it to mean you think he misses the ways in which the internet is enabling a new and different group of people to influence our lives. This is a very interesting proposition, that I hope you elaborate on in writing sometime soon! Of course, Hunter is a sociologist, and the nature of the field is to analyze events and societal changes with at least a few years of lag time. In contrast, the ways in which the internet will change our lives is still very much to be determined!