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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Connecting with Culture’s Guide to 2021

It’s tempting, when writing a review of the year, to reach for a nice, pat narrative. Something quick but profound, neatly tying up all that’s happened since the New Year fireworks detonated.

But after the almighty turmoil of 2020, for many of us 2021 felt simply… flat. Stung by constant uncertainty, we’re wary of anything so concrete as a narrative. Instead, we’re learning to live in a shakier world than the one we remember, improvising as we go.

Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. As Christians, we’re called to live as ‘strangers in a strange land’ (1 Peter 2:11-12), drawing our ultimate assurance from our heavenly Father. And when we listen to his voice as well as the fearful cries of the world around us, we can do more than simply join in the wailing. We can respond in love – sharing his peace in our homes, workplaces, pubs, clubs, and beyond.

To help you put that vision into practice, we’ve collected six of the most significant Connecting with Culture articles of 2021. Together, they’re an encouragement to respond to the world around you as Jesus would – living out your faith with compassion wherever you are.

As Dickens would say, may that be true of us, and all of us, in 2022.


Not Just in America

The year had barely found its feet before events in Washington, D.C. rocked the world. In response to the Capitol insurrection, our CEO Paul Woolley offered Joseph Conrad’s words: ‘The horror! The horror.’

But in the face of darkness, horror alone is not enough. Calling for a practical, humble response in our own lives, he wrote: ‘If we oppose racism, we should redouble our efforts to put into practice the theology we profess, that all human beings are created equally in the image of God. And if we object to the way Christianity is being co-opted by one group, we should avoid the temptation of co-opting it into another.

‘We should be rigorous in critiquing, theologically, our own political assumptions and commitments, and invite others to do the same.’

Purpose, Meaning, and All That Jazz

It might come as a surprise (or it might not) that the year’s most philosophically inquisitive film came from Pixar. Soul follows a man who dies before his time and, en route to reincarnation, must help a fellow disembodied blob discover her ‘spark’. With that premise established, hilarity ensues.

But Soul does a lot more than just keep the kids quiet. It neatly encapsulates our culture’s individualistic view of human purpose, and raises a whole host of questions about the meaningfulness of work, art, and relationships. Rachel Smith invited us to watch through biblical lenses – and offered an even more compelling vision…

Happy Families?

Even if you’ve never read a gossip column in your life, chances are your phone serves you at least one Harry-and-Meghan-related article a week. In March, they were interviewed by Oprah Winfrey about their strained family relationships – and the internet duly blew up.

In our most commented-on article of 2021, Katherine Ladd explored how their experiences of loneliness and pain reflect a wider crisis in Western society, and how we can each play our part in response. Aware of our mudslinging comment culture, she concluded: ‘A distinctive response to public scandal is not to look down on others but to […] ask where we can give more grace this coming week.’

Not Just Another Angry Woman

That same month, 33-year-old marketing executive Sarah Everard was kidnapped, raped, and murdered by PC Wayne Couzens. Her death sparked a nationwide debate about women’s safety and policing in the UK, with vigils in Sarah’s memory held across the country.

Sharing her own experiences of being targeted on London’s streets, LICC’s Kim McCord called for each of us to fight injustice by protecting those whose lives we influence day by day. ‘Jesus responds to injustice by standing alongside the vulnerable, and the women on our frontlines will notice how we respond too.’

No Clean Lips with Dirty Hands

Ahead of the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Rachie Ross of Christian Climate Action delivered a searing indictment of our collective laziness in the face of disaster. With fewer than 60 harvests left, 90% of large fish dead, and the spectre of rapid heating swiftly solidifying before us, her words were direct.

‘For the love of God and the next generations, will we rise up and remind ourselves who we are, and what we need to do? Engage, rage, and pray. Speak up, stand out, and get God’s house – the church – in order. We must call out governments, and place enormous collective pressure.’

How Do We Rate?

Finally, we move from the macro to the micro. As the year drew to a close, writer Deborah Jenkins looked at a small but ubiquitous frontline: online review systems. From taxis to coffees, pot plants to pyjamas, these days every purchase, service, and experience we have comes with a ‘rate me!’ label.

She pointed out the impact a dose of grace can have in these momentary judgments. We can bring relief and hope by extending thanks for good work, mercy for overworked staff, and generosity where poor service is the result of oversight or stress.

What better note could there be to end a year of often daunting challenges? Day by day, action by action, person by person, we can join God’s kingdom work where we are – in his power, transforming the world around us for the better.

Josh Hinton
Marketing & Editorial Lead, LICC


  1. Great round-up! Just one thought – that there is a common thread through all of these issues: the internet! Things have been changing so fast in recent years. It is a bit complicated – too much to try and unpack here. But I think as Christians we need to understand more, if we’re to be salt & light in the online world, which increasingly impacts things that happen in the ‘real world’. For example, the storming of the Capitol – this couldn’t have happened without the online ‘conspiracy cult’, QAnon, which sadly many US Christians have fallen into. Harry and Meghan are part of another media ‘war’ – in print and on the airwaves, but also very much online. Harry joined a group of thought-leaders at the Aspen Foundation this year to try and help plot a course to some better paths forward. Deborah’s article is a perfect answer to much of this – yes, please let’s remember love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and self-control – every time we pick up our devices. So that we avoid being device-ive (ta-da!) and instead be peacemakers and reconcilers to help turn the tide!

    By Jon Brewer  -  31 Dec 2021
  2. Always topical, tantalising, troubling, but ultimately therapeutic. A necessary jolt to a complacent and comfortable ambling through life, a reminder of our continuous point of reference, to our wonderfully gracious, generous and life- giving God. May you all (LICC family) be mercifully and kindly blessed in 2022.

    By Hugh  -  31 Dec 2021
  3. Good morning. Happy New Year to the whole team. It is very interesting to take the gospel to other places, but many times they did not teach us, in the church where I attend, how to do it where I work. When I read your articles, it gives me ideas on how to do it. Also the Culture articles help me to see better how to analyze my life as a Christian. It helps me a lot, that is why I have translated some articles into Spanish for some Christian friends because I think it will be very useful.

    By Nahum Assur Roldan Azaña  -  31 Dec 2021

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