Sunday, November 28, 2010

Popular Culture • Spiritual Delusions

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. In previous posts I covered General Superficiality, Soullessness, and Powerful Influence. Today we'll finish this miniseries off with the Spiritual Delusions of popular culture.

Spiritual Delusions

“The teacher and the preacher tell the stories. The stories shape our beliefs and values. The beliefs and values guide our choice of an identity. The identity determines our association with a community or tribe. This entire system was once the domain of religion, but today, media culture has displaced religion as the mediator of the spiritual journey. How reliable is this new guide?” (21) Where are we going? Who are we becoming? By what principles is popular culture guiding us? Who has drawn up the map? When and how and why does popular culture possess the moral authority to be our guide? The answer to these questions is frightening.

“Today’s spiritual delusions are the product of misguided beliefs embedded in the sixties credo: I am the supreme arbiter of all things. Experience is better than reason. Feelings trump traditional mores. If it feels good, do it. Relativism trumps absolutes. There is no truth; there is only what is true for you in a given situation. Expression is more important than imaginative capacity or beauty. All authority and every institution must be questioned. You can’t trust anybody over thirty.” (22) To reasonable people, this philosophy—this religion—is easily refuted; but popular culture has taught us to abandon reason for relativistic pragmatism (Whatever works!) and self absorbed emotionalism (Whatever!). Rather than freeing us, this religion traps us within the worst of ourselves. It keeps us juvenile and shallow—exactly the types of people who make the best consumers!

The so-called pursuit of freedom of the 1960s has given way to the religion of affluence in the 21st century, something called “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”. It is moralistic because people believe that if they are good they will go to heaven. (What is good? What is heaven?) It is therapeutic because people believe that God wants them to be, above all, happy; he acts not as God or King or Lord, but as a Cosmic Therapist who helps you work through your issues. (What does it mean to be happy? How do we become whole? How do we become well?) It is deism because this God is distant and only involved in what you want him to be involved in. (What sort of God waits at your beckon call?)

Popular culture teaches us that we don’t need God to be spiritual. In fact, we don’t need religion or church or any other human being on the face of the earth to be spiritual people. We can love others well enough by ourselves, thank you very much! It tells us that we are the masters of spirituality—that we can pick and choose what is true for us and what works best for us. At the heart of the spiritual delusions of popular culture lies syncretism, the fusion of elements of different religions into one, personalized religious system. Everyone gets to write their own Scriptures and be their own priest and god. After all, I am the supreme arbiter of all things.

1 comment:

Breena said...

last paragraph...So true. Completely scary...well it all is scary!