Monday, November 29, 2010

Popular Culture • Redeemable

The reason Dick Staub is so hard on Popular Culture in his book The Culturally Savvy Christian is because he sees in it the possibility of incredible power for good. These wonderful storytellers could be writing the tales that would guide future generations into lives of wisdom and excellence, but instead they're merely hawking merchandise. The content of Popular Culture could be life-giving and soul-enriching, but instead it is mostly shallow, self-indulgent, hedonistic tripe. It could be a force for spiritual guidance and conversation, but instead it dumbs everything down to the lowest common denominator and invites us to write our own Scriptures and become our own gods.

Popular Culture must be redeemed. Fortunately, it is redeemable. While much of what we find in Popular Culture is the 21st Century version of Baal worship, there are elements which still seek to tell the truth rather than simply get ratings or sell records and merchandise. One piece that comes immediately to mind is one of my favorite TV shows of all time--LOST. I've blogged extensively about LOST, and even taught a Sunday School class using it as a paradigm for how Christians should engage with Popular Culture.

In one of those posts I wrote about my own understanding of how Christians ought to engage with Popular Culture:

My hope is that we can find a middle ground where Jesus is redeeming Culture, where we can find spiritual value in the art, film, music, etc. of the unbelieving world. This is a place where we are not afraid of the media of Hollywood and the entertainment industry, but where we can view it critically and redemptively--where we come to a show like LOST not expecting a full gospel presentation, but rather an artful glimpse of the image of the gospel. If we can manage this perspective, not only will we no longer be so exasperating to a cynical and unbelieving world, but we'll find doors of connection and evangelism opening for us that never would have opened before. Who knows but that God would want to use a silly TV show like LOST to bring some people into his kingdom.

There are a host of redemptive elements within Popular Culture--doors not only for the Gospel, but also for the cultural transformation that comes from telling the truth, pursuing the good, and creating the beautiful. This cultural transformation will not happen, however, unless individuals are transformed. As Staub says, "Any hope of restoring culture starts with restoring the individuals who make culture, and any hope of restoring individuals starts with rediscovering the origin of our capacities in the one who made us." (60) We cannot transform culture unless we ourselves are transformed. We must become well; and the only way to become well is to get serious about God's deep, transforming, and loving presence. More on this to come...

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