Christian culture wants to edify and be edified. Edification is mentioned several times in the New Testament, basically saying we should do stuff that edifies ourselves and each other. It’s a lovely concept and Christians want to take it seriously. But the Bible doesn’t give a whole lot of specifics as to what is edifying and what isn’t. Christian culture wants to know exactly what that means, so they have filled in the blanks.
Christian culture has guidelines about which sorts of things are edifying and which aren’t. There will be instances in which you find something to be edifying that your Christian culture compatriot does not, and you’ll be afraid to tell them because they are swift to express their concern. In the same breath they are likely to cite Romans 14:19, I Thessalonians 5:11, II Corinthians 12:19, Philippians 4 or Ephesians 4 as scriptures which reference edification. This is a good start to an edifying conversation, for real, but should you persist in your contrasting opinion then they are likely to pull out I Corinthians 10:23. Christian culture likes to keep this verse holstered. It’s their trump card. It says “all things are permissible but not all things are beneficial” and it’s often the last word in a ruction such as this. Christian culture doesn’t give much credence to the “all things are permissible” part. Surely Paul didn’t mean that. He says we have freedom in Christ but that is kind of ridiculous. They give weight to the “not everything is beneficial” bit. It usually ends the discussion (and puts a damper on any relationship that was taking place) by quieting the mistakenly-edified party with a familiar dose of shame.
Everyone within the wide expanse of Christian culture knows exactly what is considered edifying. The ideas are so specific and far-reaching that you’d think they’d sent out a memo, yet they’re mostly unwritten and the whole of Christian culture holds to them with remarkable tenacity. For one, everyone understands that you need to choose your friends carefully. This is a big one: you need edifying friends. Common sense dictates this anyway, but when Christian culture says it it’s code for “Christian friends,”or more specifically, “friends active within Christian culture.” The unwritten rule says you may speak with unsaved people or Christians of a weaker stripe but you shouldn’t linger except for intentional, directed witnessing. You should also be an edifying fixture in your workplace. Your coworkers should be aware that you are a Christian, otherwise any edification you might bestow on them would not receive its due as being explicitly sourced in Christ.
Edifying movies and television programming are insisted upon. Edifying speech is another big one. There is to be no gossip (except by the prayer request loophole) or coarse joking. Dick jokes are verboten. Helen Keller jokes are pushing it. Your speech is to be edifying in the manner that Christian culture says they are edified by. This is why you hear people say “I’m really ticked” or “P.O.’d.” (Christian culture knows nothing of the Greek word scubula aka shit which Paul used with the Philippians, but that’s another blog post entirely.)
Edifying music includes Christian radio, new country, Celine Dion and Coldplay. Carrot Top is edifying. Neil Hamburger is not. The Stuff Christians Like blog is edifying. This one, not so much. Worship leaders work their tails (not asses) off to bring you the single most edifying worship experience every Sunday. At conferences they urge fellow worship leaders to examine the songs they lead. First off, they say, are the words Biblical? Does it teach about the Gospel? Is it Christ-o-centric? Does it stir my soul to worship God? Have I myself worshiped the Lord in listening to this song? I guess NWA and Gwar are getting crossed off the worship roster. No gosh-darned way. The worship leader says he is opening up more to other styles “but if the end result is that if I’m not worshiping the Lord as I listen to this song, if it does not stir me one bit, if the truth isn’t solid, and if the melody doesn’t match well with that truth, I don’t know why I would lead it at my church.” They really say that: the melody must match well with that truth. Bet they won’t be singing “Come Thou Fount” to the tune of “Killing in the Name,” even though that’s a well truthful song.
Abstract art isn’t considered edifying. The abstract scares Christian culture. They aren't edified by anything not overtly literal or immediately accessible. They prefer art that is easy to “get,” especially if it represents creation. Talking about one’s sinful past does not edify unless it’s for the sake of sharing your testimony, never for the sake of reminiscing. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling? That seems a little crazy. Better stick with the culture’s ideas of what’s edifying just to be on the safe side, and school those who get it wrong. You can’t possibly be edified by that. Would you use that language if Jesus were here? You’d watch that movie if Jesus were sitting next to you? No you would not. Christian culture is sure that they know. It’s what they do.
Here are some handy graphics to guide you in your next interaction with Christian culture.
Here's one more thing Christian culture finds edifying:
...but this picture makes them nervous.