I watched a video yesterday that gave words to something I've been pondering for awhile.
This guy proposes that culture flows downstream. It starts at the top and trickles down between every pebble in every valley, and if you want to change a culture then you're going to have to get upstream. In other words, people in positions of influence shape culture. Yes, the people choose the leaders (at least in America), but the leaders then have immense authority over what happens in our culture -- everything from which laws are passed to what kind of music we hear on the radio.
With that in mind, I'd like to say that I think Americans are extremely ignorant -- or negligent -- of the influence we have in the world. Developing countries borrow our movies, our music, our fast food chains, our Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi, our legal systems, even our catch phrases (but not so much our fashion, thank goodness). I'm here in a country that in many ways is still recovering from decades of dictatorship, yet I have channel after channel of what I call "dubbed or subbed" American TV shows. We have Disney Channel, for crying out loud. Even if it's not an accurate depiction of what life is really like in America, it's what much of the world sees and looks up to, and it comes from us. Not only that, but for missionaries, a lot depends on how difficult and how expensive it is for partners in America to give various forms of support. Whether the average family can afford to (and is willing to) give that support depends on a lot, too. I guess you could say that in a lot of ways, America is pretty far upstream. We need to take responsibility for that.
You hear a lot from our generation about wanting to change the world, and that's a nice thing to want, but I think it would be good to start by working to change America. School teachers, professors, lawyers, community leaders, the Moms and Dads who raise them... We as Christians need to be seeking, accepting, and using positions with all kinds of influence -- not for our own gain, but for the world's sake. For Christ's sake.