Christianity and Pop Cultureby Rit Nosotro
In what way is Christianity in conflict with popular culture?
Popular culture is, by definition, “is the vernacular (people's) culture
that prevails in a modern society”1. It is the culture that
has been developed in part by certain corporations attempting to make a profit
– for example, the music industry, film, television, radio, video game
publishers, book publishers, and the fashion
industry. Another part of popular culture comes from the folk culture. While
this folk culture existed before commercial culture, the merging of the two
has produced something else entirely different – pop culture. Pop culture
is also influenced by some of the professional sector; namely, universities
and the scientists that present information (along with some interpretation)
to the public.
So why, many people have asked, should Christians bother with popular culture? One of the reasons is that we need to study popular culture simply because it is the reflection of human nature, and human nature a reflection of God.2 This development of our human culture is a result of the command of God in Genesis 2:15. But simply because pop culture has many problems is not a good enough reason for us to isolate ourselves from it. The abuse of something is not an adequate reason for us to cease using it, or studying it. For example, even though Playboy misuses photography, we do not avoid cameras to show women respect. Some people have said the popular culture’s main problem is not merely what it is saying, but how it is saying it.
Ransomfellowship.org offers the following chart in Christian discernment2:
|Pop Culture||Traditional and High Culture|
|Focuses on new||Focuses on timeless|
|Discourages reflection||Encourages reflection|
|ursued casually to "kill time||Pursued with deliberation|
|Gives us what we want, tells us what we already know||Offers us what we could not have imagined|
|Relies on instant accessibility; encourages impatience||Requires training; encourages patience|
|Emphasizes information and trivia||Emphasizes knowledge and wisdom|
|Encourages quantitative concerns||Encourages qualitative concerns|
|Celebrates fame||Celebrates ability|
|Appeals to sentimentality||Appeals to appropriate, proportioned emotions|
|Content and form governed by requirements of the market||Content and form governed by requirements of the created order|
|Formulas are the substance||Formulas are the tools|
|Aesthetic power in reminding of something else||Aesthetic power in intrinsic attributes|
|Incapable of deep or sustained attention||Capable of repeated, careful attention|
|Lacks ambiguity||Allusive, suggests the transcendent|
|No discontinuity between life and art||elies on "Secondary World conventions|
|Reflects desires of the self||Encourages understanding of others|
|Tends toward relativism||Tends toward submission to standards|
It is obvious, then, that pop culture has affected some modern-day churches. Most churches stress a “personal savior,” a personal relationship with God that has no mention of His death or His grace. They stress individualistic morals and relativism – for example, the Methodist church’s acceptance of a homosexual female pastor. Also, as the above chart notes, the church oftentimes will change according to the demands of the market: for example, some people have suggested that the church get up to date, or change with the times.
Much of this pressure comes, as said before, from the entertainment and film industry; namely, Hollywood. In WWII, Hollywood was a place of mass appeal – it has now changed into an institution of the elite. This transformation of the movie industry was spurred somewhat by Vietnam, but mostly by people born into the industry rather than climbing their way up the ladder. Hollywood dominated the media industry in America in 1971, with 70% of all revenues coming from the US. Today, that number has sunk to 30% from the US; all the rest has come from Europe and Asia – Hollywood has conquered the global media industry.4 With such a monopoly on the media, it is no wonder that Hollywood has influenced churches and people.
In conclusion, we can see that pop culture and Christianity are at irreconcilable odds with each other. Those who have tried the incorporate them have compromised Christianity, giving outside viewers a false picture of what the Bible teaches. The best way for Christians to counter this propagation of popular culture and to promote Christianity is to gain ground in the media. By winning in the arena of ideas, we can gain the respect of our pagan observers. For example, we should (and many Christians have) publish Christian magazines; start Christian radio stations, and film Christian movies. The goal is to counter Hollywood’s domination of the media. We should not, under any circumstances, retreat into our homes and think that it will all go away – we are a light unto the world.
1. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popular_culture. World History. 25 May 2005.
2. Christian Discernment 202. http://www.ransomfellowship.org/D_202.html. World History. 26 May 2005.
3. Kenneth Myers. All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes. World History. 26 May 2005. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0891075380/christiaphilosop/104-9095344-0266369
4. Michael Medved. “War Films, Hollywood, and Popular Culture.”
Imprimus. May 2005.
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