Last week, we hosted an annual event on campus called Missionaries on the Walk. Cougar Walk, named after the University’s mascot and the main campus thoroughfare, was occupied by 30 different mission organizations for three days, culminating in a night market event, and a student-led open mic night. An incredibly high turnout the Night Market and the Glorify open mic night event gave testimony to the fact my campus culture is shifting, albeit slowly, but shifting nonetheless.
While I was too busy to take it in at the time, I realized that last weeks reading, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World, by James Davidson Hunter, alluded to some of the cultural shift I’ve been sensing. I thought it might be helpful to look at this event, Missionaries on the Walk, through Hunter’s seven propositions on culture. First, Hunter claims that culture is a system of truth claims and moral obligations. Essentially a worldview becomes so embedded into our habits and lifestyle that it’s hard to recognize it as worldview and not reality. I have noticed that as we have held this event, the language around it has shifted. For instance, when I was a student, it was called “Global Vision Week”. However, over the years, we have done a lot to use word sets on campus that intentionally combine local and global, encouraging students to see them as two sides to the same coin. Thus, changing the name to “Missionaries on the Walk” implies that these visiting missionaries and organizations can come from anywhere to visit our campus. The habit of hosting Missionaries on the Walk in February has become engrained in our campus community, so faculty, staff, and students seek out participation in the Night Market especially. This nomenclature and historical context also highlights Hunter’s second idea that culture is a product of history.
In proposition three, Hunter argues that Culture is intrinsically dialectical, or that it exists “between the ideas and institutions; between the symbolic and the social and physical environments” I realized this to be evident in our Glorify event. This event was entirely student driven and was an open-mic event where students could give testimony of how God showed up in their lives, in all God’s glory. This event lasted for over 2 hours and students brought amazing experiences of God’s goodness and grace to encourage the campus community. On a Christian college campus, a symbol of God’s glory is something that can organize human activity, leading to a broader understanding of the unity between the institution and the individual. This leads into Hunter’s proposition four, that culture is a resource, which is a form of power. I realized that as students shared throughout the night, as Hunter states, their power “starts as a credibility, an authority one possesses which puts one in a position to be listened to and taken seriously. It ends as the power to define reality itself.” For the students sharing, the Glory they were giving God through the words of their testimony was not just influencing culture and power of the night, they were literally giving testimony of their reality.
Propositions five and six really hit on the networks that are generated around culture. Essentially, it isn’t necessarily the power of an individual or an organization that creates culture, but it is the network within one finds themselves. I met with a mission recruiter from United World Mission who happened to be on campus, in no conjunction with the event, but as we were walking through the event, she was stopped multiple times by her friends who worked in similar roles at other mission agencies. I realized that when you are in a network of people who are mission or ministry minded, essentially everyone knows everyone. It becomes less about the individual working for the organizations, and more about the work of the organizations as a whole.
Finally, proposition seven centers around culture, which is neither autonomous nor fully coherent. Essentially, it would be easy for us to think of culture as completely separate from all spheres of life, but it just doesn’t work that way. Culture has layers, many of which are tied up in the economic complexities of America. I have realized this truth over the last 8 weeks of this semester more than any other time in my life. As I walked through Missionaries on the Walk last week, I thought about how nice it would be if this event could exist outside of the other things that happened that week – the significant institutional change, the staff transitions, the tears, the hurt, the celebration. But as much as I would have liked that, I realized that Institution continues to run, even during Missionaries on the Walk.
As I recalled the events of last week – I was reminded myself of the glory of God. When I least expect it, God shows up through my reading, and through my workplace. Thanks be to God.
 James Davidson Hunter, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010), 32.
 Ibid., 34
 Ibid., 34
 Ibid., 35
 Ibid., 36
 Ibid., 38
 Ibid., 38