For the last few weeks, I've been reading a new book called "A Matrix of Meanings" about finding God in pop-culture. Both of the authors share a conviction and build the premise that Christians need to be engaged in the culture for the purpose of bringing the Gospel into discussions that are void of truth.
Do I agree? In my experience, I've seen opposition to pop culture that is based solely on fear. There are those Christians that are fearful of the influence that popular culture will have on their lives. Others have chosen to sequester themselves from any cultural influence for the "fear of appearances." In their concern for what others may see, they don't want to be seen as partakers in the "things of this world." Others choose not to be engaged in culture, because it represents a lifestyle they are trying to run away from and the threat to return is too great.
Regardless, there are many reasons and the writers have recognized that many Christians avoid popular culture for a variety of those reasons. Based on that premise, I have enjoyed the majority of their discussion included in this book.
Hoping this would be a quick read or even a "giveaway" book, some of their conclusions may be a bit too academic for some and their discussions tend toward being complex. In many ways this is more of a text-book than a simple commentary on culture. Personally, as I choose to represent Christ in a very God-less culture, I still tend to think that the Gospel message is very simple and easy to convey, even so these authors have seeded several thoughts about what I am doing with my life and my faith.
Consider the following excerpts from the Introduction:
"There is a conversation about God going on in popular culture that the church is not engaged in and is often unaware of. If the Christian world continues in its scholastic mode, viewing culture as degraded and superficial, then the gap between church and culture will continue to widen. Our theological propositions will become increasingly redundant to a culture being influenced by other forces."
I've seen this first hand. Christians are unable to engage in the conversation, because they refuse to even enter the arena of popular culture. What I like about this statement is the acknowledgment that whether you like it or not, the conversation is taking place. There are movies and music being produced daily that calls into question God's existence and His attributes. Absolute truth is sacrificed daily on the altar of relativism. This weekend, the number one movie in nationwide theaters displayed adultery as common and acceptable. I'm not suggesting anyone fork out money on this trash, but be willing to at least know what Hollywood is producing and what a Biblical response should be. From the death of Micheal Jackson flooding across Twitter to the Twilight hype to the Serena Williams outburst at the US Open, you can choose to ignore these as over-hyped events or understand that like everyone else in the world, you are welcome to join the conversation?
"The Gospels were written for "the people." Educated Greeks in the first century communicated in Attic Greek, a high cultural form that excluded many. But the writers of the Gospels preferred Koine Greek, a "street-level" language that communicated to the masses. We must get back to that street-level discussion, where our faith was forged. People of faith need to become conversant with the new canon, the new literacy, and join the new conversation."
Of course Jesus did not create fans out of the religious elite of his day. The religious leaders were not comfortable with Jesus' approach, because it was both "common" and "convicting." 2,000 years later and not a lot has changed. The cineplex, a U2 concert, or even an online community developed for social networking can each elicit negative reactions from certain corners of Christendom. Jesus spent equal time in the temple and it was there that He engaged (and sometimes outraged) the leaders of His day, but His ministry also took Him and His disciples back out to the street, to the highways and into the homes of those in the Judean community.
"...he directed blistering challenges to the prevailing trends within his own religious tradition. His approach differs from many of the theological ethos developed within traditional theology that have been shaped by internal concerns about he church and its teachings. We contend that the marketplace (the cultural hot seat) was Jesus' academic arena, his theological context...Ideas are exchanged in the marketplace. the dramas of life, lived between the wedding song and the funeral march, are played out in the marketplace...The belly of messy culture is also the place where questions of ultimate existence and realities are posed in naked, stripped-down fashion, devoid of the religious language of etiquette and propriety. In the marketplace, doubts are aired, gloves come off, politeness takes a rest."
This is the part of their book that really echoed with me. For much of my Christian life, I have been drawn to the marketplace. What I would give to see Jesus lounging with the sinners and what an impression that would make on so many other folks today. You see, I'm not drawn to the little house on the prairie. Paraphrasing Brennan Manning in his book, Lion and Lamb, life takes place on the trail away from the complacency and safety of town life.
"Pop culture is our marketplace-the arena we visit daily ,to discover what it means to be human, to hear the questions society asks, to meet God."
Here is the basic premise put forth by the authors. Our "marketplace" our "arena" is popular culture. From music, to movies, to television, to sports, to social media, we are saturated in pop culture and the marketing associated with pop culture. I see two basic responses.
The first is to flee and ignore what the world is doing, producing, shouting, marketing, selling...preaching! Consider that if Christ or his followers had done that we would find no encouragement in scripture from the cast of characters that include Levi, Mary, Martha, Andrew, Tabitha, Peter, Paul, and the list goes on...
The second response is just the opposite. Take the time required to learn, listen and discover what the conversations are about, what the directors are saying, what the musicians are recording, what the television is preaching, what the writers are publishing, and what your "friends" are tweeting. Then, take the time to get involved with the conversation. Like Christ with the Samaritan woman at the well, stop and enter the conversation with those that least expect it. Realize that His conversation with her has nothing to do with the water she can get for Him, but it has everything to do with the water He is able to offer her.
Quietly Making Noise,