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Entries in Popular Culture (1)


Christians and pop culture: why?

I don't watch television in the day much, and when I do, it's generally the news with my lunch or maybe something I'm watching for entertainment. While I was away, I DVR'ed Home Fires, and watched an episode of that with my lunch last week. While I was away, however, and had my parents' television on, I was subjected to a few shows that left me wondering about humanity in general. First, The People's Court, and second, Dr. Phil. Dr. Phil didn't last too long, though; we turned the channel to a nature documentary instead.

When the introduction for the show came on Dr. Phil, I said out loud, "Seriously? This how this guy makes a living?" Pardon my ignorance. It was the first time I had ever really watched him. It could only be called one thing: ridiculous. Why do people get on television and air their twisted stories? And better yet, why do people watch? It's kind of like staring at a car accident as you drive by.

Pop culture is everywhere. It seems like our culture's primary reason for existing is to be entertained. And it's not just the larger world. I have seen any number of pop culture references in Christian circles. All of a sudden, the female heroine for reading is Belle from Beauty and the Beast. I was about to read an article a couple of weeks ago and it opened with a reference to the new Disney live action movie as an introduction, and I clicked away. No, there is nothing wrong with entertainment, but it seems as if the fascination with popular culture is alive and well in the Church. And I don't mean simply partaking; I mean dwelling on it for longer than is necessary or helpful.

I was preparing my Sunday school lesson this week, and the opening question, in an effort to teach teens about Malachi and the sins of the people in that book, was to ask them to name a famous singer, athlete or other famous person, and tell why they admire that person. It's one thing to live alongside popular culture, but to encourage young people to look to those people as sources of admiration does not seem wise to me. Needless to say, I won't be opening my lesson that way. Even otherwise good Sunday school material has its weaknesses. This is why I believe churches ought to write their own material instead of buying pre-packaged material. But that's a topic for another post.

I grew up in a home that did not love or revere God. I ate up popular culture eagerly, because I was able to. I read silly teen magazines and dwelled on actors and actresses for my models. I reached a point in my late teens when I asked myself: "Is this all there is?" I wanted to move away from that kind of thing. When I was converted, I wanted to keep those things at a healthy distance. Perhaps my experience has made me more critical of popular culture than I should be. But I can't help but wonder how we can be counter-cultural (because, after all, the Christian life is indeed counter-cultural) if we don't keep some distance.

Someday, if I am a grandmother, I may be forced to endure Disney movies for the sake of my grandchildren. I hope that if that day comes, I will have the right attitude toward them, and encourage those little minds that entertainment is fleeting, and need not become our obsession.