Archives For pop culture

The Briefing‘The Shack’ film stirs debate
A fictional and emotionally destroyed Mack Phillips answers a mysterious invitation to a remote, isolated cabin. There he finds a trinity of fatherly love in a woman named “Papa” whose cohorts teach Phillips forgiveness and the faith to run on water — literally. It’s the synopsis of the movie “The Shack,” based on William Paul Young’s book by the same title, that some described as a biblically sound parable. And as with the book, others are criticizing the movie as a farce that serves to deeply distort rather than affirm biblical truths.

Poll: Decide bathroom access by biological sex
A majority of Americans think bathroom access should be granted according to biological sex, according to a new poll. Of the 545 Americans adults surveyed, 56% disagree with the assertion that people who are transitioning into the appearance of the opposite sex should be legally allowed to use whichever bathrooms they want.

Screening & abortion bringing ‘Down Syndrome-free world’
In the last nine years, no babies with Down Syndrome have been born in Iceland. Holland is following suit, with a heavy push for prenatal screening. Though 74-94% do choose to abort, a large percentage of women there (and in Britain, nearly 1/3) opt out of the prenatal screening, so some babies with Down syndrome are still born in Holland.

Christian families flee Sinai after ISIS threat
Egyptian Christians are fleeing the restive Sinai Peninsula, some with just the clothes on their backs, amid a series of killings and an explicit call by Islamic State for its followers to target the minority group. Most had gone to churches but were being provided government housing Egypt’s state newspaper, Al Ahram, quoted a parliamentary affairs minister as saying.

Tim Keller stepping down as Redeemer pastor
Later this year, Redeemer Presbyterian will no longer be a multi-site megachurch in Manhattan, and Tim Keller, 66, will no longer be its senior pastor. Keller will be stepping down in a move that corresponds with a decades-long plan to transition the single Presbyterian Church in America congregation—which has grown to 5,000 members since it began 28 years ago—into three churches.

Sources: Baptist Press, The Federalist, ForEveryMom.com, Fox News, Christianity Today

COMMENTARY | Nick Rynerson

“Pop culture” is often treated like a dirty word in the church—thought to consist of mostly irredeemable entertainment produced to make money off the masses. A common approach is to avoid secular music, films, art, and television, or at least to not admit to consuming it all that much.

But that isn’t often what our real lives look like. Most of us are at least closet pop culture consumers—we indulge in one or two sitcoms, a favorite secular radio station, or a superhero movie every now and then.

And maybe that’s okay.

Nick_Rynerson_March15Popular culture is not the enemy; first and foremost, pop culture is a place for storytellers to, well, tell stories. Moral discretion is important. (And biblical! See 1 Corinthians 8:7-9.) But we miss a wealth of spiritual and theological depth if we chalk up all entertainment created by non-Christians as irredeemable and misguided; we also miss out on the opportunity to identify and empathize from a distinctly Christian perspective (Acts 17:28).

Stories offer us insights into our culture’s longings, revealing God’s truth in the world around us. In his excellent book “The Stories We Tell,” Kentucky pastor Mike Cosper reminds us that a story is never just a story—it’s a window into our culture’s imagination and longings (see Romans 2:12-15).

“Storytelling—be it literature, theater, opera, film, or reality TV—doesn’t aim at our rational mind . . . It aims at the imagination, a much more mysterious and sneaky part of us, ruled by love, desire, and hope,” Cosper writes. “When people, against their better judgment, find themselves hooked on a show, we can trace the line back to find the hook in their imagination.”

Stories, according to Cosper, can reveal much more about a person, people group, or culture than a strictly informative presentation or a list of facts. Stories communicate what people truly desire.

Take, for example, a certain Best Picture nominee from last year. The movie contains some strong language, an ambiguous ending, and other elements that might lead some Christians to believe that it has nothing to offer spiritually (and for some to wisely not engage the film). However, if we look closer, we can clearly see some distinct things the storytellers—the director, writer, characters, etc.—believe about God, life, and themselves.

Without spoiling the film, which centers on the relationship between a talented young jazz drummer and his demanding/abusive instructor, the characters have a very human desire: to be great. The devotion of the characters to the pursuit of greatness, and its sway over their future happiness, is deeply identifiable. Like the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, the characters sacrifice their life for the pursuit of self-glory, predictably leaving themselves and others miserable.

Ever since the Fall, man has been trying to claw his way back to perfection. Everybody longs for his or her flaws to be taken away, and many of us think that if we just work hard enough, we will reach the promised land of perfection.

As Christians, we know this is vanity (Romans 3:23), but the characters in the film sacrifice their lives and their sanity to meet every iota of their own personal law. This pursuit is hardwired into us and until we find personal and entire perfection in Christ, we will always fall short.

That’s serious, biblical truth, communicated (probably unknowingly) in a 2-hour movie produced with a secular audience in mind. The next time a movie, song, or TV show comes on that you are tempted to write off as irredeemable, consider if it might have something to teach us about God, the creator of all things.

In Acts 17:22-27, Paul not only quotes Greek poetry, but also alludes to the radical truth that we’re put where we were (i.e., in our cultural context) to speak eternal truth into subjective cultural contexts. In his book, Cosper uses this example to illustrate a distinctly Christian way of story-listening.

“As Christians living in the midst of these stories, we have an opportunity to both learn and bear witness. Stories teach us a lot about ourselves and our neighbors, and they provide windows into how our world is wrestling with the effects of the fall.

“They also present opportunities to respond with the truth.”

Nick Rynerson is a staff writer for Christ and Pop Culture and works for Crossway in Wheaton.