Pop Culture Christianity

A break from the Lent series today and just a few thoughts…

I don’t watch television in general. Rene (my wife) and I tend to rent movies and series long after the run on TV has finished. There’s advantages and disadvantages to this.

The biggest disadvantage is not having a clue what everyone else is so crazy about on TV. Of course, this is also an advantage because it means we can force conversation to revolve about more than some arbitrary show designed to turn our imaginations to slush and kill brain cells.

It also means we can control what inputs we have in our life.

Don’t be deceived, television and film makers have an agenda – and with a few exceptions it’s not God’s.

We’ve been watching “Grey’s Anatomy” recently. Ten seasons in eight weeks (we don’t go out much).

There’s some truly amazing research and writing gone into the production, but I have one major issue with it – and before everyone stops reading here I’m using this show as one example among many, not picking on it in particular.

My issue is what is written to portray “normal” life and what is written as “oddball” characters.

The central character has a very rough time of it. So far she’s been held at gunpoint, almost blown up, survived an air crash, suffered a miscarriage, had to deal with Child Protective Services, watched her closest friends get cancer and survive while another is hit by a bus.

And I thought my life had been rough.

She goes through all of this with – as a friend of mine used to say – no sign of God. She’s a person with no invisible means of support. It’s very humanistic in its approach.

The humanistic approach is even more apparent in the other characters.

Statistics suggest that there are many thousands more Christians – nominal or born-again – than gay individuals in America and the world in general. Yet this show – as many others – shows gay couples as the “norm”. To date there have been storylines around about six LGBT couples or individuals and only one about a Christian character. And while the LGBT characters are well rounded and developed characters, both main cast and guest parts, the Christians are the normal stereotype – highly strung, afraid of being “found out” as being Christians, ashamed for not being a virgin. All of which gets muted as they adapt to the “normal” life of the World. God gets sidelined as they find their place among “normal” society.

There’s something horribly wrong with this.

I personally have no issue with same-sex civil marriage and equal rights under civil law for gay couples. This is, after all, not a theocracy we’re talking about. The concept of saying God is ok with it grates a little as it goes against scripture in both the Old and New Testaments – I’m not referring to Sodom and Gomorrah here, but the Pentateuch and Paul’s Letters which are clear on the matter. God clearly says “no” on the issue of any sexual immorality, be it homo or hetero.

Maybe you think this makes me a prude. Or a radical conservative.

I hope not because I don’t fit either of those groups. At my age now, I’d have been one of the first to drop my stone and walk away when Jesus has the woman caught in adultery brought before Him. I note in the story that nowhere does it say she was caught with a man, just that it was an act of adultery.

Pop culture has glorified sexuality and promiscuity as the norm, and despite the pandemic of STD infections sweeping the globe we are generally no longer shocked by the news that 14 year olds are organising sex parties. It’s become the norm. The kids who stay home and get good grades at school and finish college education as virgins are ridiculed as being abnormal or “in the closet” about their “real” orientation.

And it’s been going on for some time. Willow and Tara in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” back in the late 90s, and even before that in the late 80s there were same sex couples appearing in soap operas like “Eastenders” and “Brookside” in England. Again, anyone who was portrayed as Christian was inevitably the one who turned out to be corrupt, stealing from the congregation or con-men simply trying to fleece people.

Then we have the other side. Christian production companies.

Eish…

I understand why they make the films they make, but the budget is so low and the acting generally is somewhat wooden that I cringe when I watch it. The glaring errors in “Exodus: Gods and Kings” differing from the book of Exodus are easier to overlook than the Biblically accurate but terribly portrayed two-dimensional pseudo-Christians of “Christian” media. Even where a well known actor like Kevin Sorbo takes a central role the rest of the feature can’t be carried by the single performance.

So we end up with pop-culture Christians. And that’s the image people think is real.

Or we have the Donald Trump effect claiming that his faith makes it ok for him to propose deporting 11 million people from the USA, building a wall to prevent migration from Mexico – and being racist, sexist and xenophobic about his reasons and opinions, and deciding it’s ok to ban 33% of the global population from entering the USA because they have a different religion.

That’s not Christianity, it’s Fascism. Pure and simple.

We as Christians need to wake up. Christianity is under attack in the West by Pop-Culture. The persecution is so subtle we overlook it, but every time we say “it’s ok, it’s only a TV show” we allow that idea to gain more ground.

I’m pro-life and pro-choice. I believe a baby in the womb – no matter how far along – is a life worth protecting. I believe that the “choice” needs to be made before the pregnancy, not 20 weeks into it. I believe at the same time that it’s a victim’s right to not be forced to carry her rapist’s child to term. I believe if tests show beyond doubt that the child would have severe debilitating illness that would shorten their life and mean they live it in constant pain that the humane thing to do is not to have that baby unless you can give it without any resentment all the love and care it will need to have a good quality of life, no matter how short.

Abortion should never be a form of birth control where the pregnancy was the result of the actions of two equally consenting adults. Sorry Liberal readers.

Abortion should be an option available to anyone who was raped, abused or where the pregnancy will definitely endanger the life of both the mother and the child. Sorry Conservatives.

Pop-culture makes us think it’s no big deal to live like there’s no God, and we’re crazy if we try. They portray “Fundamentalist” Christianity – a term I find I can no longer use to describe myself – as people who think the planet, in fact the entire universe is about 6000 years old. Me? I love dinosaurs. I love going to the Natural History Museum in London and looking at the fossils. I think it makes it even more amazing that God put all that through the world He created. I don’t know (or care) if humans fought the T-Rex or snacked on Wooly Mammoth burgers a billion years ago. It won’t shake my faith in Jesus either way because whether they did or not He still died for me!

Mike Yaconelli, at Greenbelt in 1991, said we should get rid of our TV sets. I was 19 and the thought horrified me. Now I’m almost 44 and have been without a TV for most of the last 5 years. And I haven’t missed it.

We are what we eat. We become the things we put into ourselves. It’s true for nutrition and even more so for information.

Let’s get away from this pop-culture version and find something more authentic.

Here’s a radical idea – turn off the idiot-box and *gasp* read a book! It can’t hurt. There’s some great writers out there. Frank Peretti, Max Lucado, John Eldredge, Terry Virgo, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkein, and hundreds of others who show God through fiction and non-fiction alike.

Let’s put pop-culture where it belongs.

In the trash.

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