I remember a time when I realized that American culture did not need to be fixed (nor could it), but that it needed to be renewed. I need to not have a list of criticisms of what is wrong so much as a vision for what ought to be that leads to abundant life for everyone.

Please remember that culture in a civilization are those shared mores, traditions, and worldview that are practiced but not openly discussed. Culture is a powerful director of thoughts and behavior that leads to greater life or death for people in very practical ways.

When I consider what a rejuvenated culture in America looks like, I know that one key is the re-introduction of honor.  Rather than a mere respect for what someone can do for us or mental appreciation of their qualities, honor is a demonstration of the value you ascribe to that person (or object, but we’re sticking to people in this discussion).  It is visible and costs something to you (your time, attention, heart investment, work, etc.).

Most cultures have honor structures built in where people regularly show one another honor due to age, class, gender, ownership, or authority.  Though they regularly show honor to the person, what they are really honoring in most cases is the position, or sometimes their own capacity for honoring.

Due to peculiarities in our history, Americans abandoned visible honor structures in favor of freely honoring people as eternal beings made in the image of God. As our culture changed to use individual freedom to focus inwardly, we now have a general absence of honor and find it rather startling (or it goes viral on social media) when it shows up.  We usually let people do their thing as we do our thing, and we show “respect” to people who deserve it.  I’ve noticed an increase of the word “shame” in our civil discussions (especially in politics), which is a concept directly in opposition to honor.  Though this trend may trouble some, I predict that it will lead to an increase of demonstrated honor by some.

When Jesus demonstrated true honor by washing His disciples’ feet (a menial task only a servant would do), he gave a model to cultures with honor structures to step outside those structures and honor people as people.  But to Americans, this model gives a different message: to do something for others as opposed to doing nothing.  We have so much more capacity for honor when we stop focusing on our own needs.