“Not-your-father’s-whatever”

 (If you’re here for church content, bear with me.  It’s coming up later in the post.  Parallelling museums and church culture is one of my personal hobby-horses. )

If you read the “About Me” section of this page (and if you didn’t, don’t bother:  it’s not very helpful) you will have seen that I’m a recovering museum geek.  There’s something happening in the museum world that is, on one hand, very exciting (for nerds like me), but on the other hand, exceptionally disturbing.  Taking cues from the power-hungry for-profit world, museums are currently striving to “become” “relevant”  (as if they weren’t already important to society).

By “relevant,” most of them mean that they’re trying to reach audiences they traditionally do not reach.  This is good to the degree that broadening the audience means that more people are exposed to potentially life-enriching experiences with art, history or whatever subject matter the museum in question is intended to handle. 

But this holds such potential for crappiness:  it often results in watered-down messages, appeals to the lowest common denominator (as opposed to elevating conversations), ignores or abandons mission, and frequently – and ironically – reflects and re-inforces the elements of culture that museums are meant to transcend.  (Here I’m especially talking about fast-food-esque appeals to base emotion – exhibits and programs are attractive, easy to digest, not terribly challenging, and utterly lacking in “balls.”)

Don’t get me wrong – I firmly believe that if organizations, institutions and fields don’t change, they will stagnate, perhaps retrograde, and maybe even falter and die.  Change in itself is not the issue.  The problem lies in the arrogance that accompanies these changes.  The current generation of museum “experience designers” (whatever that means) holds a high degree of contempt for tradition, for the way things used to be in the museum field (including core principles), and likes to define itself and its “products” over against the old, antiquated, musty-dusty-crusty and tragically outdated way of doing things. 

I’m not a traditionalist.  That is, I don’t support traditionalism.  But I believe strongly in tradition.  Again, change is inevitable, but change says less about a culture than does the packet of “stuff” (items, processes, beliefs, etc.) that we carry with us from one generation to the next.  Tradition should be respected – not scorned.  To unceremoniously dump an old tradition in favor of something radically new necessarily means that violence has been done to the tradition.  It means an utter disregard of what came before.

We see this in museums and we see this in churches, especially in society’s view of “church.”  Following is a very well-stated posting about this in the church context.

http://danwhitmarsh.blogspot.com/2008/03/case-study-in-power-of-language.html

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One Response to ““Not-your-father’s-whatever””

  1. Greetings. I just found your blog about five minutes ago and this is a great analogy. As far as either a museum or a church superfiscial changes are going to take place from time to time, but should “NEVER” compromise the truth. For example, I remember someone stating how every revival gives birth to a set of hymns. The wordings and styles may change, but they must never compromise scriptural truth.

    You have really hit on a major issue here because we live in a time when men are not enduring sound doctrine but are heaping to themselves teachers with itching ears. Thanks.

    Have a blessed weekend in Jesus.

    timbob

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