If We Christians Want to Change the Culture, We Are the Change We Seek

By Joshua Charles Published on June 11, 2016

America has her candidates. Having weighed them in the balance, many Christians have found them wanting.

The fact that America desperately needs a statesman is not the problem. The problem is that her people don’t want one.

In our form of government, derived as it is from the authority and continuing approbation of the people, it is entirely inappropriate to begin one’s diagnosis of any problem of national consequence with a focus on “politicians” or the “establishment,” both cheap terms of derision that have become all but meaningless.

Look at our people, our culture, our habits of mind and heart. That is the source of our problems, and the only source for our solutions.

The only possible conclusion one can arrive at is that our culture, both “right” and “left,” is sick. Any culture whose political expression could nominate Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is a sick one, with troubling implications for those on both sides.

A Silver Lining

But there’s a silver lining. Because the problem is our culture, finding solutions is an enterprise within reach of all of us. We don’t need another new organization to “change the culture” so much as we need the efforts of ordinary, everyday citizens within their families, communities, cities and states.

You want to change the culture?

If you are a Christian, be the church. If you’re a father, be a great one, training your children’s’ minds and hearts, and exhibiting a life of virtue before them. And if you don’t feel prepared to do so, then learn together with your children. The same for mothers. Teach them their heritage, read the great minds with them, study greatness, learn the lessons of villainy. As John Adams said to his wife concerning his own children, “Let us teach them not only to do virtuously but to excel … to be steady, active and industrious.”

If you are a student, study with excellence and dedicate yourself to first improving yourself, and only then the world around you. If you’re in business, find solutions for people. If you have a job, serve well, honor your boss, and contribute to your workplace culture. If you are an artist of any kind, create great art that brings the necessity and urgency of beauty to the forefront of our benighted modern consciousness.

As a citizen, discover what it means to manifest civic virtue by voting, contributing to the community and teaching your children to do the same. Study the greatness of our forebears who gave us a country to improve or screw up, as we so choose.

As an individual, resolve to improve your own character and involve the input of others (mentors, etc.) rather than give in to the self-defeating narcissism of the age that merely seeks approval for every personal quality, no matter how disordered and destructive. If young, find elders. If old, find young to pour into. However old you are, be excellent wherever you find yourself. Eschew victimhood. Embrace courage. As Rabbi Hillel says, “Where there are no men, be thou a man.”

Stop With the Dreams

In other words, let’s stop with visionary dreams of “changing the culture” that largely ignore the vital and irreducibly necessary quality of personal virtue, that assume we can change the culture without changing ourselves. Can we stop projecting our wishes and fears onto “the culture” as a way of evading personal responsibility for a task that we can begin this very moment, this very day?

Cancer begins on the micro level and is thus defeated on the micro level. As Democracy in America author Alexis Tocqueville warned us in the 19th century, “Society is endangered not by the great corruption of the few, but by the laxity of all.” If we so choose, we can end whatever laxity we ourselves have drifted into, and we can do so today.

All these things are harder than starting another new organization. Freedom and virtue are hard. We’ll see if we have it in us to follow the harder path, because that’s the only thing that will change our culture — and ensure that in the future our political parties nominate people everyone on left and right can admire.

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