What Is Cultural Engagement?

I just have a quick question: What do we mean when we talk about cultural engagement?

Is it a feeling? Like a sense of outrage over what some CEO or politician did? Is it anger? Despair? Sorrow?

Is it strapping on your armor every morning to join the other Twitter warriors in daily combat?

Is it knowing where the President ate dinner last night and how many hours he slept and how many bowel movements he had in the past 24 hours and what ridiculous thing passed from his thumbs or mouth in the last thirty minutes?

Is it being able to label yourself woke?

Is it sharing certain articles? Is it following certain people?

Is it apologizing for things you didn’t do to people you don’t know?

Or is it asking forgiveness for your actual sins to real people in your real life and accepting the real consequences?

Is it knowing the latest trending hashtag?

Or is it knowing the names of your neighbors’ kids?

Is it debating hot national topics that you have little power to change with people you will never meet?

Or is it pulling up a stool next to the guy in the local Dunkin’ Donuts to talk about issues in your local community that effect his daily life?

Maybe it is both. Possibly.

But what if we did less of the mutual patting-of-backs that takes place on Twitter and more engaging of real people in our communities–many of whom don’t care how passionately you champion women online. She’s a single mother trying to keep her kids and pay her light bill. What now? I’m glad you feel some type of way about politics and education; meanwhile, there’s a 15 year-old in your local school who can’t read. What now? Glad you are against abuse. So a young woman just showed up at church with her child and bruises from her boyfriend. She needs somewhere safe to stay for a few days. What now?

We are all seeking a kind of self-affirmation that we, in fact, are not the terrible people berated in the latest trending hashtag. So we do the worst thing: we listen in order to respond. And we always have a response, don’t we? Aren’t we all so crafty? We’ve got a 280 character answer for everything.

What if we just listened…to listen?

And when we did respond, what if we didn’t just tap keys on a glass screen in order to put it back in our pockets feeling more justified in our smug self-righteousness? What if we responded “in secret”–in the real world, in your town, in my town where none of our followers can see? Isn’t that the harder work after all? Isn’t this the kind of thing the Heavenly Father, who sees us in secret, promises to reward (Mt. 6:3-4)?

Sorry, I just wanted to ask a question.

(photo credit)

Published by Chad C. Ashby

Instructor of Literature, Math, and Theology at Greenville Classical Academy Greenville, SC

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