Value number 5: Cultural Engagement
Thoughts from Headmaster, Rebekah Hagstrom
Fulfilling Liberty’s vision requires cultural engagement. What are Faith and Goodness if they aren’t exercised outside of the walls of the school, church, or home? What good is Truth if its defenders are silent or unprepared to speak and share it? How can the Biblical standard of Beauty influence the culture if those who know what it represents don’t exercise it themselves? It was this “living out” of Christianity that was central to its influence over the development and spread of Western civilization.
Secularism and Impossible People
The last 100 or so years, however, reflect a rapid and steady march towards secularism. Os Guinness, in his book, Impossible People, quotes a philosopher who compares modern day western civilization with a cut flower. It was Western civilization’s Judeo-Christian foundation that brought forth the life-giving principles of freedom and equality for all. Just as a cut flower eventually wilts in the vase, separated from the Biblical foundation, Western civilization struggles to uphold these values in any meaningful way. And in fact, that is exactly what we’re beginning to see all across the Western world: a wilting flower.
Guinness, provides the obvious, but not so easy solution: graft the culture back onto its Judeo-Christian foundation. Who is best suited for that role? Churches certainly are critical, but more critically, it depends upon the individuals who make up the culture living and speaking Biblical truth in their everyday lives. While it may seem overwhelming to imagine shaping the culture as a whole, if our students view themselves as part of the culture, rather than helpless victims of the culture, then they can accurately view their role as culture shapers.
What does it look like to shape culture? From Liberty Classical Academy’s perspective it means to develop a passion and sense of urgency for the individual people who collectively make up the culture. Societal norms and traditions change over the course of time but are shaped through key influencers in media, education, government, business, law, etc. At Liberty, we desire that our students will become those key influencers in all different realms of culture. That they will move into places of influence and use the academic skills and understanding of Biblical principles to speak truth, beauty and goodness within their workplaces and peer groups.
Liberty Classical students have been given the unique advantage of an education that teaches them to think deeply and analyze issues of relevance. Building on this, students can then communicate their thoughts and opinions in an engaging and persuasive manner. Combined with training in logic and reason, students have powerful culture-shaping tools. Certainly powerful enough, that when exercised with grace and respect, allows the student to wield great influence and shape the culture in the process.
Liberty desires students not only develop themselves academically and spiritually, but also develop a genuine faith. Faith forms compassion and a sense of responsibility to influence their world for Christ. Cultural engagement enables Liberty to fulfill its purpose, classically educating moral leaders who impact the culture for Christ.
Thoughts from K-12 Director, Jeff Button
Cultural Engagement should be an integral part of our lives as Christ followers.
As we train students in this value at Liberty, we try to do so with love and grace, but also with truth and authority. Recently, I attended a conference regarding cultural engagement from a Christian worldview. The presenters shared that in Scripture, we see three common responses to the culture of the ancient world; I believe we can see these same three responses at work in the modern world as well.
First, we see the attitude of battle, many in the ancient world saw Rome as the enemy and as the enemy they must fight and defeat it. Second, was the attitude of isolation; there were leaders during these times who saw the proper response as, “We must separate from this culture we find ourselves in, head for the hills!” Lastly, there was an attitude of collusion, manifested by the mantra, “Well, we can’t beat ‘em, might as well join ‘em.”
Perhaps you identify with each of these common responses to culture. The key take-away relating to each of these common responses is that they are well-intentioned, but incomplete. We see Jesus in his ministry on Earth as using the culture he was living in to influence people around him for things greater. Jesus spoke the language of the people and engaged those around him in greater and higher conversations. He did this while never losing sight of the real challenges and daily lives that those around him were living. We believe we can learn a lot from our Lord’s example, and at Liberty we are working to train students to engage and influence culture, without the need to merely fight, retreat, or collude with it.
Cultural Engagement Events
One tangible way that we teach cultural engagement to our students is by providing opportunities to take part in the great conversations of the day through “cultural engagement events.” These are mostly geared toward the upper school students, but they have become an integral component of a year at Liberty Classical. In just the past two academic years, our students have had the opportunity to partake in conversations and presentations with highly influential people. Some of these names include, Star Parker, Representative Jason Lewis, Steve Forbes, Charles Murray, Senator Tom Cotton, Mark Steyn, Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Stephen Moore, Tucker Carlson, Candace Owens, and Christina Hoff Sommers.
Each of these occasions have allowed our students the opportunity to engage in the big conversations of our day. Conversations ranging from racial equity and gender differences to tax policy, entitlement spending, education reform, and changes into the culture of higher education. These conversations are opportunities for students to process information and dialogue with those around them. They can agree or disagree with the presentation, but to do either well, they must first think and think deeply. To engage with the culture, our students must know what is happening in the culture. These opportunities provide the experience to learn, to process, to analyze, to engage.
Training Citizen Leaders
An additional way we teach students to engage the culture is through two specific upper school elective options titled, Leadership I and Global Watch. Global Watch is a course which transforms our students into journalists who read and analyze the events of the day (locally, nationally, and globally) while preparing press releases and leading discussions with their peers on issues both home and abroad. Leadership I is a course all about leadership. Students learn influence, interpersonal communication skills, courage, determination, perseverance, and faith as key aspects of effective leadership. This class takes an in-depth look at great leaders throughout history, ranging from William Wilberforce and Queen Elizabeth I to George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt.
At Liberty, we want each of our students to become well-informed, well-read, and well-spoken citizen leaders. Leaders that form an educated opinion on the issues of the day, and effectively use their excellent education to engage their culture and their spheres of influence for the glory of God.