Practice Cultural Discernment

“Practice Cultural Discernment” Sub-Pages:

QuotesPraying ItBasking In ItDigging Deeper – Making It Real

Learn to Recognize and Appreciate Good Art and Culture:

And please keep in mind that good art is not dependent on the personal life and beliefs of the artist. It’s better to separate those concepts and take each book, movie, song, etc. for what it’s worth.


The most influential of all educational factors is the conversation in a child’s home. – William Temple

One of the things about good conversation in the family is that it’s better if it’s not forced. You need to make room for conversation and make it part of your family culture. We don’t generally press our kids for answers to questions about a movie or book that they have read. We talk about them more naturally, as friends. Definitely one of the most helpful pieces to this in our family has been to do a lot of book reading and movie watching together.

It is the humble man who risks his dignity to speak up for what he loves. It is the courageous man who dares contradiction and the acrimony of argument to defend his beliefs. If one loves anything, truth, beauty, woman, life, one will speak out. Genuine love cannot endure silence. Genuine love breaks out into speech. And when it is great love, it breaks out into song. Talk helps to relieve us of the tiresome burden of ourselves. It helps some of us to find out what we think. It is essential for the happiest companionship. One of the minor pleasures of affection is in the voicing of it. If you love your friend, says the song, tell him so. Talk helps one to get rid of the surplus enthusiasm that often blurs our ideas. Talk, as the sage says, relieves the tension of grief by dividing it. Talk is one of man’s privileges, and with a little care it may be one of his blessings. The successful conversationalist is not the epigram maker, for sustained brilliance is blinding. The successful conversationalist says unusual things in a usual way. The successful conversationalist is not the man who does not think stupid things, but the man who does not say the stupid things he thinks. Silence is essential to every happy conversation. But not too much silence. Too much silence may mean boredom or bewilderment. And it may mean scorn. For silence is an able weapon of pride. – from Mr. Blue by Myles Connolly

Make Distinctions:

It is the mark of an educated man to be able to entertain an idea without accepting it. – Aristotle

Make a distinction between what is offensive and what is dangerous.

Not offensive and not dangerous Offensive but not dangerous Not offensive but dangerous Offensive and dangerous

Which one of these is the most problematic?

Experience Age-appropriate Modern Culture Together

Personal reading preferences aside, fluency in the language of pop culture can be of great value. It’s worth the time it takes to investigate what family, friends, neighbors, and children are reading, listening to, watching, and discussing. Sometimes that investigation goes beyond the detective work of parenting and the protection of our children to bring something rich and worthwhile into our lives, too. – Karen Edmisten, You Can Share the Faith: Reaching Out One Person at a Time

Our culture today, and our human nature in general I suppose, tends to focus on what the other guy is doing wrong. Any critique of myself or my favorite politician (or whatever) is viewed as an attack. I believe that we will never get anywhere in politics until we hold ourselves and “our side” (whichever side that may be) accountable for our faults and stop making excuses. I think this is related to part of what makes traditional liberal arts education so valuable – especially in an age where education is so often considered to be equated with a list of information stored in one’s head. Here are some different scenarios for how people encounter new information.

1. Read or hear about something.
2. Trust the source or hear something good about it.
3. Immediately accept or apply it.
1. Read or hear about something.
2. Distrust the source or hear something negative about it.
3. Immediately reject it.

A More Thoughtful Alternative:

1. Read or hear about something.
2. Try to understand what it means.
3. Be open to additional input.
4. Decide if it is good or true.
5. Figure out if it applies to you.
6. Accept or reject it as appropriate.

Our failure in judging of the things above mentioned, and of others, must be traced to the precipitancy with which at the first blush we regard them either with love or hatred; and thus, the understanding is blinded and hindered from taking a dispassionate view of them. Therefore, that we may not be in this way deceived, we must keep our will as much as possible in suspense and free from all inordinate affections.

When any object, then, is presented to you, view it with your understanding, and give it mature consideration before you conceive a hatred for it and reject it, if it is contrary to your natural inclinations; or, before you are inspired with a love for it, if it is agreeable to your taste.

For when the understanding, unclouded by passion, acts freely and clearly, it is able to detect the truth and to penetrate into the evil which is hidden under a fair appearance, and into the good which is veiled by a semblance of evil. Whereas, if the will is first inclined to love or hate any thing, the understanding afterwards cannot exercise a sound judgement upon it… – Lorenzo Scupoli, The Spiritual Combat

Talking About Culture with Your Children

TV commercial critique is a fun place to start with little ones. You can start by simply asking them what the commercial is trying to sell.

Movies and books are an easy and interesting starting place to talk with teens.

Note: You don’t need to crush the joy of discovery by lecturing them or giving them the answers. You also don’t need to over-analyze everything.

For example, I really appreciated being given the opportunity to enjoy the Chronicles of Narnia series for years before realizing on my own that it contained some Christian allegory.