But the more I adopted a posture of suspicion and critique, the more I felt I was missing something. I had trouble accounting for my own consumption- was my delight in my Apple laptop simply a sign that I had surrendered to the siren song of consumer culture? Disturbingly often I encountered people of tremendous cultural activity who seemed to be enjoying themselves too sincerely and faithfully to be mere idolaters. And the same newspaper that delivered news of yet another cultural meltdown also brought reason for hope: an artist working to create beauty in a war zone, tens of thousands of spring-break volunteers descending on a hurricane-ravaged coast, and a big-box retailer that actually paid its workers well, covered their health insurance and sold fine wine to boot.
I thought back to my years serving with a campus ministry at the world’s most prestigious university. For many years we were adept at deconstructing the pretensions of Harvard and calling students to a countercultural kingdom life that would undermine (or, to use one of our favorite words, subvert) Harvard’s power. Our specialty in Harvard critique certainly attracted a certain kind of student, those disaffected from Harvard for one reason or another. But we had a very hard time accounting, in the language of faith, for the delights of a place like Harvard: the thrill of research in a well-equipped laboratory, the ineffable joys of the library stacks, the exhaustion and exhilaration of rowing in a six-man boat on the Charles at 5:30 in the morning. I suspect many students who visited our fellowship, oriented as it was toward critiquing the culture, simply moved on, puzzled at our diffidence or even annoyed at our apparent hypocrisy. If Harvard was so bad, why didn’t we just counsel students to leave and give their tuition money to the poor?
What was missing, I’ve come to believe, were the two postures that are most characteristically biblical- the two postures that have been least explored by Christians in the last century. They are found at the very beginning of the human story, according to Genesis: like our first parents, we are to be creators and cultivators. Or to put it more poetically, we are artists and gardeners. Culture Making, pp. 96-7