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You are what you read

"You are what you read" Continued...

Issue: "Summer Books 2002," July 7, 2002

So did any cultural transformers make the bestseller chart? Of all 100 books, only one faced directly the fact that our culture is in trouble. Only one was about the need to engage cultural issues in a Christian way. Only one was explicitly about the culture's desperate need for God's transforming power. The one book of all the bestsellers that had much of anything to say about the culture, the only one that raised specific issues our nation is facing, the one transformer, was Pray for Our Nation.

Subtitled "Scriptural Prayers To Revive Our Country," this 96-page book published by Harrison House is nothing more than a collection of prayers for national problems, for our leaders, for the military, for problems such as racism, violence in schools, and national disasters. The book first came out in 1999, but it apparently struck a new chord after Sept. 11, 2001. To the credit of CBA and its customers, it became the No. 5 bestseller.

Family values

The masses of American Christians may not be much concerned for their culture, but they are concerned for their families. This is an important start.

Although the implication has been that the bestseller list shows little interest in culture on the part of American Christians, an exception must be made for the family books. These show how culture actually affects ordinary Christians, from the influences of pop culture on their children to the bad ideas being taught in the schools.

The family books do tend to show an awareness that it is a dangerous world out there, full of temptations, falsehoods, and overt sin. Christian parents want to protect their children from the bad cultural influences. They also want to make them strong, disciplined, well-equipped, and well-educated Christians, able to resist peer pressure (that is, cultural pressure) and to do what is right (transform the culture).

The family books also show a great concern to build strong marriages. In an age of divorce, when Christians seem to have as many broken marriages as non-Christians, the books for husbands and wives about how to better live out their marital vocations by loving and serving their spouse are a healthy sign.

And how is this done? Most of the books attempt to apply biblical teachings to the family, showing how God's Word-the law, but also the gospel and the spirit of forgiveness it creates-can transfigure the relationship between husband and wife, parents and children.

Some bring the insights of secular psychology, folk wisdom, or common sense to family problems (e.g., how to communicate more effectively). But most of these do not use secular thinking to trump the Bible. Rather, they use them together, in a Two Kingdom kind of way, to help solve concrete problems in family life.

The family is the basic building block of every culture. If Christians can get their families right-and raise their kids in the right way-they may become cultural transformers after all.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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