I grew up with a Christianity that was inherited from my parents. Sunday school, Tuesday evening bible studies, and youth group hangouts did nothing to fix that. The problem for me was not that I hadn’t heard the Gospel properly taught or that I hadn’t seen good Christian modeling from the church pastors or the congregation. The problem wasn’t an ignorance of Scripture because I knew all the biblical heroes and could regurgitate all of their stories. The problem was that I had no good reason to believe any of it. No one had bothered to explain to me why these biblical “stories” were true. So I left the church looking for truth elsewhere.
That was my experience twenty years ago. Sadly, this is the experience of so many adolescents today. As a high school teacher there are a couple things that I’m constantly reminded of in the classroom: Teenagers question the world around them all the time but the answers they get are not evaluated; instead, they are often caught like the common cold from the surrounding culture. Why is this? One of the reasons is because we are so immersed in culture such that we end up taking for granted its ubiquitous and persuasive nature. Another reason is a lot of teenagers have no skills to determine whether what they hear (or read) is true.
So how can we reach young folks in a way that gives them proper skills to evaluate the worldviews around them while also showing them that Christianity best explains reality?
Authors John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle focus like a laser beam on this issue with their book A Practical Guide to Culture. In this book Stonestreet and Kunkle not only identify the oft-elusive cultural influences of the day but think them through with the reader to lay bare their flaws and inconsistencies. They begin by revealing what is behind the contemporary culture’s curtain, so to speak. Culture, they argue, can be viewed as waves and undercurrents. The waves are “the obvious issues, debates, and controversies” that are explicitly discussed in person, media, and on social sites. But these waves are guided by undercurrents, “the subtle, often-unseen, yet important norms of culture…” that are largely left outside critical reflection.
This deconstruction of culture and its underlying worldview influences is what sets A Practical Guide to Culture apart from other related works. Rather than immediately analyze hot-button issues like the hookup culture, gender identity, and racial tension (all topics thoroughly discussed in later chapters) they recognize the inevitable: the culture will change. That’s why it is vital to provide folks the tools necessary to think through the essential principles that shape all cultures at all times.
Once Stonestreet and Kunkle tackle specific cultural issues, they break them down in some helpful ways. First, they identify the various justifications society uses to further each issue. For example, on the issue of pornography, they address the idea that porn is harmless or that it is simply personal and private. On the issue of addiction they address the idea that drug and alcohol abuse is not that big a deal or that it’s recreational and, thus, not hurting anyone else. They analyze these societal falsehoods and then provide action steps that are real and practical to counter the culture in a winsome way. Not only that they provide a way to, as they call it, recapture God’s story in the midst of each particular culture issue. All of these features as well as discussion questions for small groups (at the end of each chapter) are an excellent way to bring the material off the page and into our circles of influence. And that’s the most important aspect to a book like this: applying what we’ve read to real situations in real time for real change.
By the way, A Practical Guide to Culture is not just for adolescents! A lot of us adults need to think through these cultural issues just as much as teenagers do.
A Practical Guide to Culture is the essential culture-shaping tool that we all need. Buy it, read it, apply it. You won’t regret it.
To buy A Practical Guide to Culture by John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle, click here.