Evangelizing Through the Culture — A Manifesto

Deal W. Hudson
December 10, 2014

How to describe something that is all around you, influencing you during every waking hour, perhaps while sleeping as well.  Culture is like that, like the air you breathe but completely unaware, unless you are choking.  That’s precisely why I am raising the issue of culture directly, because to a great degree it is choking us, doing us harm without our knowing it.

Culture cannot be avoided, so that’s not the solution to the problem. As I will explain, human life inevitably creates a culture, multiple intersecting rings of culture as a matter of fact. Each of us lives within the intersection of those rings; thus, to do something about the culture, about the harm it’s doing, you have to first become aware of what you are up against.

sally-davies-jesus-saves-1339975040_bFirst, notice that culture is used to describe many things, the state of a nation, of a region, of an ethnic group, a local community, an institution, a kind of education, a family, and an individual.  Just what are we referring to when we use culture in all these different contexts?  Rather than provide a strict definition, it’s more useful to offer a description of what all these uses of culture have in common:

When we refer to the culture of anything, we are recognizing a specific set of values and attitudes belonging to it, values and attitudes expressed in a myriad of ways, through the arts, films, books, music, radio, TV, the Internet, the media, newspapers, manners, fashion, clothing, architecture, jokes, gestures, formal and informal education, politics, laws, jokes, customs, language, religion, commerce, business, travel, possessions, family life, sexual behavior, heroes, villains, and shared ideals.

The list above is not exhaustive, of course, but it’s long enough to suggest that everything we experience in our lived environment, even how we view the past and future, is a part of the culture, a way through which values and attitudes, especially our ideas, are communicated and learned.

Most of this communication and learning happens to us without our even being aware of it — thus, the necessity of becoming aware of what culture is and how it works.  Now this is the crucial point: Knowing the nature of culture, its power in shaping our lives, makes three things possible: 1) to protect yourself from its harmful influence; 2) to take part in shaping the culture in beneficial ways; and 3) to recognize the ways culture provides a way to knowing what is good, true, and beautiful, or to put it another way, all that is worthy of knowing.

Catholics have heard much in recent years about “evangelizing the culture,” which would be #2 on our list. To evangelize the culture also assumes the fact of #1, that the harmful influences of culture should be avoided whenever possible. But what is usually not recognized in the call to evangelize the culture is that you have to use culture in
order to evangelize.  In other words, you have to evangelize the culture through the culture. Why? Because everything you will use in the process of evangelization will belong to a culture, whether it is a book, a TV or radio show, a film or video, music, or even simple speech.

In fact, all the centuries since the birth of Christ contain cultural “artifacts” that themselves embody evangelization, embody the true, good, and beautiful, transcendentals which lead back to God the Creator. Where does this leave us?  It makes the task of evangelizing the culture much easier, more realistic and effective.  But it also opens up the new world of evangelizing through the culture, looking up the culture around us, as itself bearing the Word being spoken.

It’s my belief that the most effective evangelization is that which can find a point of contact with as many people as possible, as many different kinds of people as possible — this doesn’t represent a mere “worldly” escapade. The way that is done is by meeting them where they are, or by drawing them toward something they find attractive and starting them on their journey at that place.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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