I have recently been reading two very good books. The first is Popologetics by Ted Turnau. The second is Hollywood Worldviews by Brian Godawa. And they are incredible!
So far Popologetics has dealt with why Christians should engage with the culture they are living in, and how understanding popular culture and speaking into it can aid a more holistic apologetic. I haven’t finished it yet but its been life altering so far.
And Hollywood Worldviews has tackled straight on some of the misconceptions that Christians have about the media, specifically movies and how to watch and interpret them.
One thing that has struck me reading both books is that we are ALL influenced by some culture. Whether you are someone who naturally shies away from diagnosing and analysing films like American Hustle, or whether you can’t wait to get stuck in to the latest Adele album, we are all influenced by the world around us, its values, hopes and dreams. Whether you like it or not, you will respond to culture in some form and be moulded and influenced by the world around you. In ways that you don’t even notice. Like the fact you check Facebook. Responding to Culture. The way you laugh at the sarcasm in Friends. Influenced by Culture. The fact that you will definitely have been in a conversation about the Hunger Games with someone in the last four months. Culture. You can’t escape Culture because its one of the threads of the tapestry our lives are woven into.
So how should Christians deal with culture? What is our response to be? Should we dive straight in? Are we allowed? How does the Bible deal with culture? There are too many questions to answer here, so just go and read the books. But I thought it might be useful to have a short description of the two common responses to culture that Christians assume. Note that any useful insight represented is probably not my own, most likely it comes from the two books mentioned above. So here goes.
Firstly the symptoms of the Cultural glutton:
– You probably don’t ever say no to watching a movie, no matter what it is.
– You’ll happily say ‘oh I just love _____’ without analysing what it is that band/film/artwork is selling/teaching/representing.
– You get bored or annoyed when other Christians start analysing films or songs because they’ve obviously missed the point and are stopping others from enjoying that thing.
Second, the symptoms of a Cultural Anaemic:
– You look down on those Christians who engage with popular culture because they seem to tread a dangerous line of loving the world too much.
– You secretly, or openly, think that every song in the charts and every film nominated for an oscar is ‘unbiblical’
– You automatically write off friends in your head when they have seen certain films, because if they’ve watched ‘_______’ then they’ve gone too far.
-You have absolutely no idea why Christians would ever get into that TV series or that book or that artist.
Which one are you?
Some personal notes.
There are elements of myself in both of those descriptions. I naturally want to watch every film, because I love movies as an artwork. I often forget that some films will be deeply unhelpful for my personal battles against sin. What is interesting and funny to you might be troublesome for me, and lead me to sin in ways that you will not be tempted to. But the indie film that I love about a girl looking after her siblings after her Dad messes up will keep me intrigued for days, whereas it might stir up feelings of hatred and animosity towards your run away Father. We face different temptations, all common to man, and so never unique, but different nonetheless. So I need to learn to say no to the horror movie that I won’t be able to get out of my head or dreams for weeks. And I need to not judge you for watching that same film.
On the other hand, sometimes we need to be better analysts. When I come out of the cinema and say ‘that film was great’ and have absolutely no desire to assess it’s effect on my emotions, hopes and dreams, then I am in danger of submitting my emotions, hopes and dreams to that worldview. I am in danger of signing up to that lifestyle, that belief, that ambition. And the risk is that I will be blind to the conflict between the worldview that film has represented and the biblical worldview Jesus Christ has called me to, as his child.
I mustn’t shie away from engaging with popular culture because its part of this fabric of life, and to do so would be dishonest to existence. But I must engage my heart, my head and the truth of God’s word in everything I encounter, because the gospel must speak into that worldview or else my heart is at risk of turning away from the living God to worship something which has no power to save my soul.
These are my thoughts so far. In summary, let’s watch films, listen to music and engage with popular culture with our brains switched on and our hearts keenly instructed by the grace and Lordship of Christ. But let’s also be aware that we have different limits as human beings, and let’s help each other to say ‘no’ when we need to.
What are your thoughts on that very jumbled splurge?