Our world comes to us because of the work of people before us. The World We Inherit Take a moment to survey the room you are sitting in. Look at the items in it—a chair, a computer, a smartphone, a stack of books, a cup of coffee. Look even at the walls, the ceiling, the windows drawing your gaze to the world outside.
This is the physical reality of your life. And if you traced the origins of each item, you would find that every one exists because of the labor and creativity of other people. In our postindustrial global economy, they arrive through a series of decisions, emails and spreadsheets, factory shifts, computer commands, and shipping schedules to name a few that are executed by people we will never know. And those people are building off the tools and discoveries and labor of people who lived before them. Our material culture spans not just across oceans but also across time.
At the time of this writing, the newest iPhone—one of the best or worst cultural artifacts of this century, depending on whom you ask—had debuted.
Like a child on Christmas morning, I was aware only of wanting to play with it right away. This is true for almost every physical artifact in my life and perhaps yours, too: I rarely think of the why behind the simple what of my life. Yet everything there has been passed down in the warp and woof of human history. Nothing is a given, and nothing is random.
That is true for material culture. That is true, too, for what we might call institutional culture: government and businesses and schools and churches and nonprofits and neighborhood associations—all gatherings of people who guide and govern the way we live together, from the most intimate gathering, the family, to the most impersonal, the state. What language I speak, where I live, how I get from one place to another, what movies and music I enjoy, what I believe about voting and baptism and green bean casserole—all speak to a world that I have inherited from other people and institutions.
For full disclosure, Andy is a colleague at Christianity Today magazine. Culture, he notes, always and only comes from particular human acts of cultivation and creativity. We tell stories. We build hospitals. We pass laws. These specific products of cultivating and creating.
2017 in Arts and Culture: A Woman's Place
II So the world we inherit was sustained and created by the people before us, who had inherited the world before them. So overwhelmingly so that we barely notice it. The lyrics were written by a woman inspired by the Bible. As she told The Village Voice in I was just reading the Bible and thinking about how wonderful and powerful man is.
I was just sitting there and thinking about how, after all of these things that he made and he did, all of it was worthless without a woman—and you gotta have them kids—or a girl. It is a bald fact that the majority of our material and institutional culture comes to us because of the work and creativity of men. The great philosophers and thinkers and teachers were men, by and large, as were the great political rulers; nations rose and fell because of the rule of men. Women today contribute enormously to the global economy. In most developing nations, women are key to sustaining financial growth and supporting families and communities.
In the West, it is now accepted that women should be able to pursue education, and more leaders and politicians in developing countries are accepting this, too.
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Within the church, women are teaching the Bible, evangelizing the nations, and leading nonprofits. God never intended for men to reign over creation alone. He made all image bearers—men and women, who together reflect the image of God Gen. And in societies like ours, where the locus of cultural influence is the marketplace and no longer the home , women must be in the marketplace in order to shape material and institutional culture.
When the Psalm 8 call to exercise dominion falls more or less to only half the human population, then the creation—and fellow humans—fail to flourish. About two of every three Americans will see a movie in the theater in a given year not counting movies watched at home , compared with the one in two Americans who will read one book in a year.
Movies have the power to ignite social movements, give balm to our souls Inside Out, anyone? When we go to the movies, what we are often watching is ourselves, reflected back to us. One study found that, of all the top-grossing movies of , only 28 percent of all speaking characters were women. When it comes to the role of director, the rate is more like 95 percent.
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There are also great disparities in the number of films created by directors from non-white, non-L. The vast majority of the media that we consume, that is shaping our souls in a lot of ways, is created by men. And I love men! But no wonder so much of it is violent or sexualized. It matters because stories matter. We are story people.
But when our stories reflect the experiences and views of one segment of the population, we are missing a profound part of the human story. We begin to think of men as the default human, even though Scripture teaches us otherwise. Here is another example, one that has more harmful effects than Hollywood films do. Today, the U. Women and men show different symptoms and need different treatments.
But doctors are less capable of treating women when treatments presume a male body. For example, it usually takes people with an autoimmune disease on average five years and five different doctors to get the right diagnosis. And over 75 percent of those with autoimmune diseases are women. When a majority of doctors are men 68 percent in the U. Beyond the West, we see a grave cost in countries where women do not reign alongside men. In , when Rwanda descended into a genocide that lasted a hundred days and took about one million lives, very few women held political office.
Girls were not sent to school and were considered valuable primarily as child brides. It was only after the genocide—whose victims were overwhelmingly men—that women stepped up to the task of rebuilding the nation. Today, the East African nation is enjoying economic stability and peace, and women comprise 56 percent of its parliament. When our cultural artifacts and institutions are made or guided only or primarily by men, our world is stunted. Efficient, maybe. Containing beauty and truth and goodness, to be sure. But woefully incomplete.
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Men and women fall equally under the power of sin. The only thing sillier than believing that women are worse sinners than men is believing that women are better saints than men. Our world would have just as many problems if only women reigned, and it would likewise be woefully incomplete if only women reigned.
Let me also say here that power itself is not the problem. Again drawing from Crouch, we can understand power as the ability to steward, shape, and direct culture—from abstract institutions of business, religion, and law to the most tangible artifacts of food, buildings, and roads. We all have some power.
But since the beginning of time, power and gender have been linked inextricably. And this is not how things were meant to be. In Genesis , we read: God created mankind in his own image, In the image of God he created them; Male and female he created them. There is a reason God made us male and female.
Maleness and femaleness are mysteries. And they can vary—sometimes widely—in how they are embodied and expressed, depending on place, time, and culture. But maleness and femaleness are good.
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Together, they bear the image of God; they bear the image of God, together. They are good not just because they allow people to make more people. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground. The Bible itself is full of examples. Plenty of other faithful women throughout history demonstrate, through their very lives, that families, industries, and entire nations benefit when women live into the Psalm 8 call to reign over creation.
Oftentimes, their reign serves to undo the wreckage of a world ruled primarily by men. Such was the case for Alice Seeley Harris.
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In , the year Harris was born, Victorian England was enjoying unprecedented innovation, industry, and prosperity in every sector of society. Queen Victoria wielded authority on account of the royal throne, ruling over the largest empire the world had seen yet. But though a woman wore the crown, British culture rested mostly on the power of men. Even the queen affirmed separate spheres—although she clearly defied them!
Before marrying, Alice worked at a London post office while training to be a missionary. It was one of the few professions of the time that allowed women to travel the world, sometimes alone. It was the great century of foreign Protestant missions, with William Carey in India, Hudson Taylor in mainland China, and David Livingstone in southern and central Africa leading the way.