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Cultivating Cultural Memory

Cultivating Cultural Memory


Memory, historical and otherwise, is a weapon of cultural self-defense. History is not just what is written in textbooks. History is in the stories we tell ourselves about who we were and who we are. History is embedded in the language we use, the things we make, and the rituals we observe. History is culture - and so is Christianity. To be indifferent or even hostile to tradition is to surrender to those in power who want to legitimate a new social and political order. To perceive the critical importance of memory and the role culture plays in preserving and transmitting it is critically important to Christianity's survival.


Rod Dreher, Live Not by Lies.


It should come as no surprise that we love old things at Oaks. We love old hymns, old books, and old stories. This isn't just quaint sentimentalism born out of a desire to relive the glory days...whatever those are. Rather, we love and appreciate these old things because, as Dreher put it in the passage above, they help us know who we were and who we are. To utterly adulterate a notion from Tolkien, we love not the old books for their oldness, but for the truth that they convey. The books and stories that we use and tell transmit culture from one generation to the next. In some ways, we are acting like the monks of the Medieval world in preserving the past and our "cultural memory."


Needless to say, that cultural memory, especially the Christian culture of our nation, is being attacked at every level of education from pre-school to the institutions of higher learning. It is no longer fashionable to claim that objective truth is real and that somethings in our society are objectively better and closer to that truth than others. As our postmodern, post-sanity culture continues to devour itself and disappear into the black hole of absurdity we have the opportunity to raise up a new generation of Christians, and leaders who can be a shining light in a very dark world.


Dreher closes his chapter on cultivating cultural memory with this, may it be an encouragement to you;


Seminars on literature, history, philosophy, and theology that dissidents held in their apartments to help one another remember who they were - these are the things Christians in our post-Christian societies should revive. Classical Christian schooling, both in institutions and in home settings, is a great way to revive and preserve cultural memory. Less academically, we can celebrate festivals, make pilgrimages, observe holy-day practices, pray litanies, perform concerts, hold dances, learns and teach traditional cooking - any kind of collective deed that connects the community with its sacred and secular history in a living way is an act of resistance to an ethos that says that past doesn't matter.


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