March 19, 2012
I believe that Christians should engage with all forms of culture and should start by evaluating the messages from a biblical viewpoint -- does the underlying message of any particular piece of art / music / article or story agree or disagree with what God has revealed about Himself? Sometimes Christian ideas are present in secular media; sometimes they are not. If Christian ideas are present, it's valuable to recognize common ground. If not, it can be harmful to try to "Christianize" the media, especially in youth ministry, as doing so can lead teens to believe that truth is in all things.
(I remember a few years ago when our youth group showed "School of Rock" and asked teens to comment on what was good about it; one girl said that Jack Black's character prayed. It didn't seem to matter to her that he was praying to the gods of rock.)
Evaluating messages from a biblical standpoint can be a starting point for discussions with others about why they believe what they do and can help point the way to Christ.
God reveals Himself in culture even when you aren't looking for it. I have been ambushed by God in surprising movies like Pulp Fiction and Fight Club. No truer words have been spoken than those of Verbal Soze in "The Usual Suspects." "The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. And like that, poof. He's gone."
In 2008 I blogged about finding hearing Psalms in Metallica's "Death Magnetic."
I wasn't looking for this stuff, it was just there. God is in culture.
Thanks for your interesting response Josh. After reading your thoughts I went back and re-read mine... and I stand by what I wrote. It goes without saying the "leave them alone" comment was made within a particular context. Too often the church is parasitic... we latch on to something and in the process of "transforming" it we end up killing it, or at least controling it for our own purposes. This piece was an attempt to say in a short amount of space something I've articulated elsewhere in expanded form. The power of heavy metal (or any form of good music) is it's ability to rupture the status quo... characterized by the inability to fully "name" or "contain" what is going on. It opens up space for young people to create... to have agency... outside the constant institutional eye of "big brother." I'm afriad that too much of what passes for "transformation" of culture - or the Christian engagement of culture - is the control and manipulation of culture... the wedding of various forms of cultural expression to an agenda. What I'm arguing for is a true experience of various forms of popular culture by letting them "be" without always having to control the conversation. Let's meet "head bangers" on their terms... not ours.
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