In his book The Tapestry of Early Christian Discourse, Vernon Robbins defines 5 kinds of cultural categories: Dominant Culture, Subculture (which has 3 subcategories), Counterculture, Contraculture, and Liminal Culture (168-170).
A Dominant Culture is "a system of attitudes, values, dispositions, and norms supported by social structures vested with power to impose its goals on people in a significantly broad territorial region...either indigenous or conquering cultures."
A Subculture is one that imitates "the attitudes, values, dispositions, and norms of a dominant culture and claim[s] to enact them better than members of dominant status." Subcultures can be further defined based on the prominence of a specific characteristic: Network Subcultures are predominantly driven by communication and loyalty; Conceptual Subcultures are predominantly driven by a conceptual system; Ethnic Subcultures are predominantly driven by an ethnic heritage and identity.
A Counterculture is one that "arises from a dominant culture and/or subculture and rejects one or more explicit and central values of the culture from which it arises." Robbins cites use of the term "cultural heretics" as a good description.
A Contraculture is one that does not involve more than one generation and is "primarily a reaction-formation response to a dominant culture, subculture, or counterculture." Members of a contraculture have negative ideas in common instead of positive ideas that unite them.
A Liminal Culture "exists only in the language it has for the moment...will appear as people or groups experience transition from one cultural identity to another...[and] exists among individuals and groups that have never been able to establish a clear social and cultural identity in their setting."
These categories, for me, raised many questions regarding the cultural status of Christianity:
In which category does the prevailing model of corporate Christianity best fit?
In which category would the teachings of Jesus fit (as best as we understand them)?
In which category does the trend toward non-traditional forms of corporate Christian practice (house churches, et al) best fit?
What do you think? Where does Christianity best fit in these categories?