So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:27-28)
It seems like every day a new skirmish breaks out in our never-ending “culture wars.” Whether the fight is over COVID, race relations, abortion, or gender equality, we are more divided than ever in the battle over right and wrong.
Every four years, the American political machinery pitches the same strategy for winning these culture wars: Elect the right person and they will introduce new laws or appoint the right judges to legislate our desired brand of change.
But is this really how large-scale cultural change happens?
The evidence suggests that it is not. Just as Adam and Eve were called to “fill the earth” before they were called to “rule” it, so it appears that cultural creation precedes political change.
Take the LGBTQ+ cause as an example. This movement started to gain meaningful traction, not after a law was passed, but once Hollywood got intentional about writing empathetic and entertaining gay characters. As Vice President Biden said in 2012, “When things really begin to change is when the social culture changes. I think Will & Grace did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody has done [politically] so far.”
Look at the abolitionist movement in the U.S. as another quick case study. The tide against slavery turned long before the Civil War or President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Anti-slavery sentiment took off after the massive success of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. So great was the impact of that cultural good that upon meeting its author, Lincoln said, “So, you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war.”
Across the pond in Great Britain, we see the same story. As I pointed out in a recent devotional series, William Wilberforce is credited as the man chiefly responsible for abolishing the slave trade in the British Parliament (paving the way for Stowe and Lincoln in the U.S.). But as many historians have pointed out, Wilberforce’s legislative change would have never happened without the cultural change that preceded it. As one Wilberforce biographer points out, “The genius of the abolitionists—and the likely reason for their ultimate success—is that they understood that their battle was not merely political and went to great lengths to make the cultural case against slavery and the trade as well….How Wilberforce came to be the chief champion of abolition….after twenty years of battling…has everything to do with Hannah More.”
Who was Hannah More? Not a politician, but a culture maker like you and me. Over the next few weeks, I want to introduce you to this remarkable woman, and in doing so, outline the most proven playbook for creating large scale cultural change for the Kingdom.