I thoroughly enjoyed James Davison Hunter’s book To Change The World. This is one of those books I’ll be diving more deeply into one day when all my other writing and reading slows down.
Whereas last week Douthat was encouraging culture change in his book through getting back to orthodox theological roots. According to Hunter, cultural change happens from the top down, not simply through clever personalities, ideas, or grass root undertakings, but rather through well-known systems, educational institutions and organizations, along with the provision of resources to finance this work. According to Hunter, changing the hearts of individuals is a worthy work but not enough for cultural change. Hunter believes if we fail to influence important power structures such as the fields of politics, education, and so on, we will make no impact on the culture no matter how many people throughout society embrace a Christian view.
Reading this section reminded me of a missionary couple I met years ago. They owned and operated the C Street house in Washington DC. The worked with an organization called The Fellowship and their mission was to reach out to powerful men and women worldwide. They told me if you really wanted to love the poor then you need to influence the rich for Jesus. To be honest it was hard for me to question them too much because I sensed genuineness regarding their calling. This husband and wife were trying to love congressmen and congresswomen for Jesus in hopes of having a greater impact on the poor. I’ve often thought of this couple and their top down approach to ministry.
Hunter shows how this is necessary and one example he shares is the Carolingian resurgence, he writes, “In the end, the good that was produced did not come about through literary, textual, musical, and artistic genius alone. Nor was it the result of brilliant administrative initiative. By the same token, neither was it a creation of the extraordinary wealth and patronage of the nobility. It was, of course, a result of the coming together of all three at once.”
One of Hunter’s many ways to influence culture from the top down is what he calls a theology of faithful presence. This was easily my favorite part of Hunter’s book as he spoke of our individual role and how it can have institutional impact. Hunter says, “For the Christian, if there is a possibility for human flourishing in a world such as ours, it begins when God’s word of love becomes flesh in us, is embodied in us, is enacted through us and in doing so, a trust is forged between the word spoken and the reality to which it speaks; to the words we speak and the realities to which we, the church point.” And then Hunter goes on to offer four attributes to describe God’s faithful presence to us:
#1 He pursues us.
#2 His identification with us.
#3 The life He offers us.
#4 His sacrificial love.
Hunter’s four attributes are a powerful reminder of the Heavenly Father’s love and pursuit of us and provides a powerful reminder of what should motivates us in regards to our relationships with others. One of my favorite quotes from Hunter is “a theology of faithful practice is a theology of engagement in and with the world around us. It is a theology of commitment, a theology of promise. It is disarmingly simple in concept yet in its implications it provides a challenge, at points, to all of the dominant paradigms of cultural engagement in the church.” I pray that I may be more engaged in the ministry of faithful presence.
 James D. Hunter, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010), 64
 Ibid., 241
 Ibid., 241-242
 Ibid., 243