Culture is religion externalized. It is the sum total of not only the institutions normally associated with the idea of society (family, church and state), but includes all the relational interplay of those institutions and the people that make up them. It is a less than tangible idea that integrates the little things in life with the issues of life: from how we greet one another to how weddings and funerals are administered.
Taking this simple premise, one can work backwards, as it were, from the elements of culture to the religion that lies behind them. Take for instance, the popular game of Life. As many of us played the game in childhood, we recall the relatively rigid path that always leads to
a counting of money: he who retires with the most money wins. In the last few years, the game morphed into a hydra-path spanning normal family life goals, living a single's life or trying to tour the world. Money is no longer the objective, or rather, money is only one legitimate path of life along side play, entertainment, family and anything else.
Most readers can quickly perceive how the original and the contemporary versions of Life reflect differing concepts of life and its goal. In fact, they reflect differing concepts of the Gospel. For games are a part of the larger culture that spawned them. Certainly games do not always and only directly reflect that culture, but certain games stand out more clearly than others. So, the original 50s game reflected the "he who dies with the most money wins" mentality; the newer version reflects the "he who dies with the most __ [fill in] wins" mentality. For in this multicultural universe every path is legitimate and every goal is valid.
Historically, the original game of life was not geared toward money but long and fruitful lives. Milton Bradley of the 1800s made the original, original game of life, but it had too much virtue to suit the 1950s company. In turn, Milton received his idea from another popular game in the early 1800s: The Mansion of Happiness. In this game, with sixty spaces spiraling toward the center of the board, the object is good works. Land on a spot of virtue and advance; land on a space of vice and move back. Break the Sabbath day and retreat six spaces.
Yes, the Sabbath day. One can perceive immediately how different was the culture of the early 1800s in contrast with today's culture--even with today's Christian culture. A Christian game I played as a child was Bible trivia pursuit. What analysis can one make of that? It is easy to read the questions in the game and see a Christianity that revels in ignoring the big issues of life that separate churches: baptism, predestination, free-will, the Sabbath. Not one doctrinal question of significant debate between honest Christians existed in that early game. The same can be said of many sermons these days as well.
The culture that many Christians wish to enjoin upon their fellow man is blasé and bleak. And the Gospel proclaimed is benign as well, challenging little and thinking only of man. The churches need to go back to yesteryear and proclaim the big issues of life instead of reveling in the trivial. Only then will there be a culture of life for the dead.