Friday, June 30, 2017

Book Review: A Practical Guide to Culture by John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle [Clinton Wilcox]

Special thanks to Brett Kunkle for providing me with a free copy to review the book.

There aren't many books that I'm aware of that try to talk about the culture as a whole. There are certainly some good ones out there (such as Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death), but Stonestreet and Kunkle's book, A Practical Guide to Culture, takes it a step further in that they don't just talk about our culture and how we got here, but they actually provide practical steps on how Christians ought to live in this culture and how to raise Godly children in a culture that can't wait to corrupt them. Even if there were other books about culture, as culture has a tendency to shift rapidly, books like this one are constantly needed. After all, the concept that a person can marry someone of the same sex, as one of our Supreme Court justices rightly pointed out, is younger than the smartphone. "Trans rights" wasn't even a thing more than a few years ago.

As you're reading through this book, you might start to despair about the state of our culture, as I have a tendency to do. But one of the greatest elements of this book is that while the authors agree the picture looks bleak, there is no reason to lose hope in our culture. Even if things don't get better, culturally, none of this is new. The ancient Jews had to endure trials and exiles in the Old Testament, and whether than wait around for rescue, they were called to live as God's people throughout their ordeal. Our hope is in Christ, not in a short-term fix like elections or predicting the rapture.

The book is a lot bigger than I was expecting, but it is very well-written. You won't feel like you're slogging through the book. They use illustrations to help understand the concepts that they're talking about.

The book is written in four parts. Part one talks about why it's important for us to understand our culture. Part two talks about the elements that go to make up our culture, especially the fact that technology is such a huge part of it (e.g. the internet and video games) and what impact that has on us as people. Part three talks about the various cultural elements that will end up affect children who grow up, and how parents can help preserve their innocent as long as they can, and how parents can help their children understand these elements once they're ready to discuss them. Some of the elements they talk about are pornography, the hookup culture, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Finally, part four talks about what our Christian worldview is and how our worldview interacts with the culture at large, a culture that is "pluralistic" and increasingly hostile to Christian views.

All the while authors critique the bad ideas of the world, they are never cruel to the people who hold these views. They remind us that "[i]f we see people as culture and culture as the enemy, we'll likely see people as the enemy and confuse their bad ideas with evil intentions. But culture is not people; culture is what people *do* as people." (p. 33)

I would say that this book is probably appropriate for high school age kids and older. While there is nothing overtly graphic in the book, some of the topics the authors talk about might be a little too adult for younger kids.

This book is simply a much-needed resource in today's cultural climate. If parents and educators aren't pro-active in inoculating children against bad ideas, chances are we'll lose them when they get old enough and go off to college, where Christian ideas are not taken seriously by their professors. A Practical Guide to Culture will go a long way toward helping to give them that preparation.

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