Friday, November 26, 2010

Popular Culture • Soullessness

In the first chapter of his book, The Culturally Savvy Christian, Dick Staub describes the popular culture in which we live as having four dynamics: General Superficiality, Soullessness, Powerful Influence, and Spiritual Delusions. On Wednesday I wrote about General Superficiality, and today we'll cover Soullessness.


Popular culture is soulless, and the more we thoughtlessly and passively engage with it, the more we surrender our own souls to it. “Though often devoid of spiritual, intellectual, or aesthetic substance, popular culture nevertheless thrives because the sustaining forces of today’s entertainment culture are technological and economic, not spiritual, ideational, or artistic. Despite its mind-numbing shallowness, popular culture appears alive and brimming with vitality because impersonal commercial interests are propping up and exploiting today’s spiritually, intellectually, and artistically anemic enterprise.” (11) Popular culture is not about art, knowledge, education, enrichment, beauty, or truth; it is about money.

Teenagers are uniquely targeted by popular culture because it thrives on youth. “Eight year olds are persuaded that they are teenagers already and then the twenty-five year olds are convinced that they are still teenagers. …For the first time in the history of our species the most vital, active years of a person’s growing life are dedicated to one major goal—self indulgence.” (Robert Bateman, 12)

“Humans have been transformed from producers to passive consumers.” (13) You are a bank account. Worse yet, you are a credit card—consuming more and more of the products of popular culture with money you don’t have. You are not a valuable member of culture because you produce something worthwhile or because you pursue the good, the beautiful, and the true. Your value is directly tied to your capacity for consumption. “The driving force behind the emergence of popular culture…is not a love of artistry or the good, the true, and the beautiful; it is the cultivation of a sizable, wealthy, impulsive generation groomed to be consumers from the cradle to the grave.” (13)

The whole exercise is ridiculous! “We buy things we don’t need, made by people who don’t know or care about us, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t really like!” (14) Popular culture promises us abundance—life to the full!—but in the end it dehumanizes us. From the perspective of popular culture, we are not people seeking depth and enrichment, we are a demographic and a marketing target. The soullessness of popular culture strips us of our humanity.

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