Building a Family Culture: Discussion Group Resources

(For the full list of topics, go here).

By Anna Mussmann

Topic Introduction
In his book The Benedict Option, Rod Dreher encourages Christians to build an intentional family culture within the home. Mainstream culture, he says, is so corrupt that Christians can’t fully participate in it while remaining Christian. After all, the thought-patterns and behavior that mainstream culture teaches us to view as “normal” ought not to be normal at all. Besides, if we are just like our secular neighbors except for being laden with a few extra prohibitions, how can we offer them anything they don’t already have? We are called to be different.
It is Christ—not culture—who saves us. Yet for redeemed sinners, rejoicing in God’s good gifts, it is a tremendous blessing to live in a culture that helps us to love what is good and to remember what is true. After all, it’s hard to be different. Surely we desire this blessing for our children and ourselves.
In this session, we’ll look at the idea of building a culture. What does this goal even mean? Is it any different from the way secular folks customize their lives in accordance with their personal tastes, hobbies, and preferences?

Wikipedia tells us that “Culture is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and norms found in human societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities, and habits of the individuals in these groups.” Clearly, the creation of culture cannot happen if we remain passive consumers. How can we make our home a place where things are made, not just consumed?

In this essay, the writer Wendell Berry claims that modern marriage and home life are centered on the individual’s consumption of stuff. He contrasts this with couples whose lives are focused on producing and sharing something of value.  
In this blog post, “Auntie Leila” talks about thinking through your family’s principles and goals in a realistic way.
This interview with the authors of a book on culture contains a number of useful points about what “culture” really means.

Alternative Readings (in case you want to add or substitute)
I liked this piece by Joshua Gibbs. It’s a reminder to think about whether the things we spend our time on are designed to feed us or instead to make us want to consume even more.
In this piece, Rose Adle prompts us to wonder what it really means to “want better” for our children.

Some Discussion Questions to Start Off With
Here are some questions I prepared for my group’s discussion. 
You probably won’t need all of them!
1. The word “culture” is often used to mean the things we don’t like about the world (“our culture teaches that. . . ” What is a better working definition? What do you think of the quote below?
In A Practical Guide to Culture, John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle say,
“Culture is for humans what water is for fish: the environment we live in and think is normal. The main difference is, unlike the fish, we make our own environments. . . . Culture shapes our perceptions of reality. . . .
“Cultures consist of those products of human activity that have collectively taken on a life of their own. The worlds we create powerfully influence our lives by convincing us of what is normal. As we live in a culture, we become committed to its vision of life, unless we’re intentional otherwise. In other words, we make our cultures, and then our cultures shape us.”
2. What do you consider the strengths and weaknesses of modern American culture?

3. In what ways do we need to separate from the wider culture to have room to build our own?

4. What is the difference between fleeing what is bad in the world vs. seeking out what is good? How will this shape our attitudes and actions?

5. Have you had experiences with a well-developed culture ( workplace, clique, foreign country, etc.)? What do you think caused this group to have a distinct culture?

6. Wendell Berry says our technology-based culture is turning us into machines for the consumption of goods. Maybe we could add the consumption of beliefs and values to that. If we really want to “build” a different culture, we can’t just consume. Yet what does it mean to “produce?”

7. If we all start making things—say, gardening, praying Matins, making sourdough bread, and carving our own furniture--is that different from the world or simply choosing to create our identity around personal hobbies, just like everyone else does? Does this question matter?

8. Does it make sense to focus on building “family” culture instead of “conservative” culture or church culture? Why or why not?

9. Is there a danger that withdrawing from the wider culture will allows those on the “outside” to see us as “the other,” and thereby to dehumanize us? Is there a danger that we will do the same to them? Can we try to protect against this?

10. What do you think are the top three practical things you/your family could do to start building a unique culture?

I hope you find all this helpful! 

(For the full list of topics, go HERE).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please note: Comments are moderated and will appear on the blog once we've had a chance to approve them.

Thanks for joining the conversation!