Should We Be Against Christians Who Are Against Popular Culture?

E. Stephen Burnett and Cap Stewart explore the truth and challenges of Brad East’s recent Mere Orthodoxy article “Against Pop Culture.”
on Jul 16, 2019 · 23 comments

Last week a little piece at Mere Orthodoxy went semi-viral, at least among my smart Christian friends.

No surprise there. The article was titled, simply, “Against Pop Culture.”

Well! We can’t have that. Right? Especially when writer Brad East just came right out and said things like:

Reading, cooking, gardening, playing a board game, building something with your hands, chatting with a neighbor, grabbing coffee with a friend, serving in a food pantry, learning a language, cleaning, sleeping, journaling, praying, sitting on your porch, resting, catching up with your spouse or housemate: every one of these things would be a qualitative improvement on streaming a show or movie (much less scrolling infinitely on Instagram or Twitter).

There is no argument for spending time online or “engaging” pop culture as a better activity for Christians with time on their hands than these or other activities. Netflix is always worse for your soul—and your mind, and your heart, and your body—than the alternative.1

Understandably, this opinion came across like a big ol’ foot stepping right on a few culture-engaging Christians’ wireless earbuds.

Why this ‘popular culture’ topic matters to us

In theory, I should feel the same negative response. After all, I’m writing a book (with Ted Turnau and Jared Moore) on a related topic. It’s about how gospel-hearted families can raise their kids to engage popular culture for God’s glory. (Release target: spring 2020.)

For Christian fans of fantastical stories, this issues also matters.

We need to have some biblical and rational response to ideas like this, rather than simply sneer, “Ho-hum, another legalist.”
— E. Stephen Burnett

After all, our favorite stories make up this thing called popular culture. So if these stories are a waste of time, we’d best learn this early. And we need to have some biblical and rational response to ideas like this, rather than simply sneer, “Ho-hum, another legalist. Just like those nasty parents/church/youth leaders I learned to ignore.”2

Instead my response is more mixed. Just as it would be—and I think should be—to any popular culture trend.

Joining me to explore our mutual response is Cap Stewart. He’s a contributor to the new book Cultural Engagement: A Crash Course in Contemporary Issues.3 Cap has also written often, including here at SpecFaith, to challenge our assumptions about popular culture. Neither of us are strangers to Christian critiques of popular culture. But we also have some rebuttals to any re-reactive sort of “against popular culture” critique.

What ‘Against Popular Culture’ gets right

E. Stephen Burnett:

Okay! So I can finally sit down and jot out a few positive responses to that Mere Orthodoxy article.

Without getting into the author’s crucial follow-up, here’s what I did like about this “Against Pop Culture” piece:

(1) Diagnosis of the popular culture “lovefest.”

Some Christians have this lovefest when they grow up, move out, go to school, try a new church, and then realize, “Hey, folks, there’s a lot of pop culture around here. And get this: It’s not. All. Terrible. Like the Sunday school teachers/mom-n-dad said it would be!” (Well, on the one hand, I’m not sure Mom and Dad or the teachers actually said that. And I wish we’d be a little more discerning with our own memories.)

(2) A recognition that this leaves out some people.

All this “engaging popular culture,” as in the kind that goes on with young Christian thinkpieces and such-like, actually leaves people out of many conversations, rather than drawing them in.

Honestly, I skip maybe 80 percent of these thinkpieces for this very reason: I don’t actually follow all that much of what’s ragingly popular in our culture (e.g., America). The internet and specialized fandom/interest groups is a cause of this. I’ve found my favorite genres and stories and franchises, at least in visual media, and by and large, I stick with those. It’s actually rare that I branch out.

(3) A basic observation that popular culture consumption can become a waste of time.

This is, frankly, a monster-lurking-in-plain-sight that many articles and books with titles like Finding the Gospel in XYZ just don’t address explicitly. If they do, it comes off as more of a “Now, of course we don’t want to overdo this …” type of disclaimer. It sounds like the reverse of the kind of thing a genteel legalist would say when he says, “Now, of course we know that ‘entertainment’ can be harmless …” before following it with a great big “Buuuut …”

Cap, what did you like about the article, and/or think that it began to approach well?

Cap Stewart:

After reading the piece several times, and trying to view it with as charitable a position as I can, there are a few points I can appreciate.

First is the acknowledgement of extremes: how overprotective guidelines for children (whether provided by parents or some other authority structure) can lead to a pendulum swing later in life that is too far in the other direction. If one grows up under a strict art-aversion paradigm, art indulgence might feel like the proper solution. Or, to put it another way, when one is told not to engage with pop culture in any way, they may eventually feel that the proper stance is to engage with pop culture in every way.

A second element I can appreciate is East’s well-meaning but ill-suited push-back against indiscriminate indulgence in entertainment. If our Christian subculture is leaning in error, I think it is toward the indulgence end of the spectrum rather than the avoidance end. And if indulgence is the main problem, it should be addressed more often and more readily than it is. Addressing the dangers of avoidance when indulgence is the prevalent is dangerously myopic.

Our enthusiastic embrace of pop culture can be a sign of outright idolatry. We are quick to follow entertainment as our own personal pied piper.
— Cap Stewart

A third element, closely related to the second, is the idea that our enthusiastic embrace of pop culture can be a sign of outright idolatry. We are quick to follow entertainment as our own personal pied piper, even if said entertainment leads us right off the cliff of banality (to paraphrase a different, and much more godly Piper).

What ‘Against Popular Culture’ seems to ignore

Cap Stewart:

The problems I have with the article, however, outweigh the positives. All of the above points are either only hinted at or buried under much needlessly hyperbolic language. East paints with such a broad brush that he fills his article with the wrong color. His sweeping generalizations distract from the heart of his message.

I have no problem with click-baity titles if they aren’t deceptive and actually deliver the goods. As a rare exception, “Against Pop Culture” is problematic because it does deliver the goods: it actually makes East come across as (basically) being opposed to all forms of pop culture. There are “no good reasons,” he says “for why Christians (or anyone) ought to be enthusiastic consumers of pop culture.” He also says, “Netflix is always worse for your soul—and your mind, and your heart, and your body—than the alternative.” Elsewhere, he says to care about engaging with pop culture is “a silly thing to believe, and the silliness should be obvious.” None of these are helpful statements.

There’s also the confusion displayed in the article about what exactly constitutes pop culture. According to East, we are to forsake pop culture and do other, more important things, including (among other things) reading and playing board games—not to mention activities like chatting with a neighbor, grabbing coffee with a friend, and catching up with your spouse or housemate (all of which could very well involve discussions about popular culture).

When all is said and done, this article, as it stands by itself, seems tailor-made for the phrase “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Yes, there’s a lot of dirty water here, and we need to drain the tub (so to speak). Yet if extreme and indiscriminate indulgence in pop culture is unhealthy (and it is, and it must be addressed), so is the extreme and indiscriminate opposition to all pop culture. We can’t be just wise as serpents or innocent as doves; we need to be both.

Cultural Engagement, editors: Joshua C. Chatraw, Karen Swallow PriorI am all for exercising temperance when engaging with pop culture. A large portion of my research and writing over the last several years has been cautionary in nature. Heck, my essay in the recently released anthology Cultural Engagement is entitled, “When Art Becomes Sin.” It appears that East and I agree that the church’s standards on pop culture engagement have been severely compromised. I just think there’s a lot of collateral damage with the approach East has chosen to take in this piece.

What Christian popular culture writers also seem to ignore: a biblical argument for popular culture’s purpose

E. Stephen Burnett:

I agree with your positive reading and yet also your “baby with the bathwater” concerns. But some of the critiques I’ve read seem to come from a position of reaction based on personal experience. In other words, people may say things like, “I grew up being taught (or catching from the evangelical cultural winds) the notion that popular culture = evil, and this article is just more of the same.”

Well, this doubles down on a very flawed approach to anything, based on personal experience and personal association. Either the “against pop culture” or the “against religious legalism” folks are starting with the same word: “against.” In other words, their beliefs begin with a subconscious assumption that something has gone wrong with this “world” and we must fix it. In a gospel paradigm, however, that starts too late. You’ve missed a  “chapter 1” of the story. Instead we must go back to that first chapter and ask, “what was originally right?” That’s an argument based in proactive truth as defined by our Creator, rather than reaction to “the bad guys.”

In this case, East (both in his original article and in the followup) seems disinterested in the origins of popular culture in the first place. There’s no effort to engage with popular culture’s biblical purpose (if it has one) or popular culture’s place in God’s economy.

Unfortunately, though, some of his critics make the same flawed judgments. So we end up circling the same questions of whether engaging/not engaging popular culture will endear us to certain persons or help us be better neighbors with them in order to affect our culture.

These are vital questions, but they are secondary. Only if the Christian’s “chief end” is “to evangelize the lost” would these questions be of utmost importance. But this is not our chief end. Instead, our chief end (per the Westminster Shorter Catechism) is “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” This leads to the highest priority when engaging with anything in this world: how ought we do/not do this thing to the glory of God?

East’s followup article offers a lot of important clarifications. He makes this vital point:

I’m rejecting the case made by far too many Christian writers, academics, and pastors that their fellow Christians should be engaging pop culture. As I wrote, that is silly, and its silliness should be dazzlingly apparent to all of us.

If we as Christians write about popular culture—that is, human stories and songs, usually delivered via technology—we must insist on putting the “biblical purpose of human culture” material up front. We must show our work.
— E. Stephen Burnett

On this I agree. In fact, some writers’ pro–popular culture materials carry a tone as if to say, “Hey hey you guys popular culture ISN’T EVIL!1!!” These also tend to ignore any biblical purpose of culture, and strike me as at best happily sophomoric, or at worst willfully naive about the idols and vapid trends pervading popular culture.4

Here, perhaps East has explored the “biblical origins of culture” question elsewhere, and it’s at the back of his body of work. But at this point, I don’t think we can afford to limit this concept to the footnotes. If we as Christians write about popular culture—that is, human stories and songs, usually delivered via technology—we must insist on putting the “biblical purpose of human culture” material up front.

We must show our work:

  1. That we have considered the biblical origins of human culture-making (based on the cultural mandate) of Genesis 1:28,
  2. God’s original purpose in giving us this gift,
  3. How this gift is affected by the Fall,
  4. How the Old Testament saints built culture (even popular culture) for God’s glory.

Even more importantly, now that Christ has come and we live in the Church age, we must explore how Christians see popular culture in light of Christ’s redemption. This will include (but isn’t limited to) popular culture’s role in the Great Commission. Finally, we must see in light of eternity, the future and physical New Heavens and New Earth, what role popular culture may have in the Kingdom. Because, frankly, if we don’t at least suspect that some popular culture may (literally and physically) last forever, why bother with it now?

However, I do think these themes will challenge East’s original audience more than folks like him who purport to be “against pop culture.” E.g.:

I had at least two audiences in mind with my original piece. One was the group criticized directly: those who believe, and write, that Christians ought to “engage” pop culture. And the reaction of at least some folks proved, to me at least, the point: there is a kind of nervous insecurity on the part of folks who “love” pop culture and who therefore need it to Be Meaningful . . .

Regarding this, we are on the same team. You don’t need popular culture to Be Meaningful in order to fit in with the Joneses—even if your intent is to evangelize the Joneses.

However, the first flaw here isn’t in such a well-meaning Christian’s over-baptism of popular culture.

The flaw appears in the Christian’s insistence on trying to be the good-cop Christian, that is, the Christian who will not condemn popular culture (like all those bad-cop Christians that he and the unsaved neighbors surely know about, right?). And the flaw is in the Christian’s belief that his chief end is to represent Jesus to his neighbors. Not so. His chief end is to glorify God and enjoy God forever—which includes representing Jesus to the neighbors. He who would be a great and non-legalistic Christian, to help lead the unsaved masses, must first be God’s servant. And this primary role must lead us back to those old and un-hip questions based in personal piety and purity.

All things streaming on Netflix may be permissible, but not everything is beneficial (1 Corinthians 10:23). In that text, Paul isn’t primarily interested in how we participate in cultural activities based on our witness to the watching world. He’s interested in whether we are being personally idolatrous or holy.

Are Christians always ‘counter-cultural’?

Cap Stewart:

You make some good points. And it is right that we need to go back to “chapter 1” of God’s story in order to better understand what was true and right and good about God’s created order before we can effectively critique.

It’s much more easy to be “against” something without doing the legwork of appreciating what to be a proponent of. (I can be guilty of this myself, as much of my cultural commentary is on what is wrong with certain aspects of it. Even in my opposition, I need to make sure I communicate what I am for as well as what I am against.)

Not to be too dramatic, but that’s actually a Satanic strategy. He can’t create anything good to begin with. He can only work against the good that God has created by perverting it. Satan’s whole identity, in fact, is wrapped up in what (or, rather, who) he is against. He’s not for anything.

E. Stephen Burnett:

Amen! And speaking very frankly, living this kind of anti-based life is no way to train for eternity.

And this tendency is behind any argument based on “counter-culture.”

Former generations of Christians were “counter-culture” versus, say “Big Hollywood,” or MTV, or boycotts against Disney.

Now, their children (having become adults) happily adopt that “counter-culture” mindset, but mainly turn it against Christian cultures.

Either way, the starting point remains the same: “Let’s not be bad guys.”

Rather than, “Let’s be worshipers of God according to his holy revelation.”

Cap Stewart:

Indeed. And the thing is, on the surface, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between the two. After all, a properly robust Christian worldview will be quite counter-cultural.

E. Stephen Burnett:

In some ways, yes. In other ways, perhaps not.

For example, have you noticed how “the culture” is at once still encouraging promiscuous dress but also resisting the sexual exploitation of female heroes in fantastical movies? A Christian with an ethic of “Look at what The Culture is doing, then do the opposite” would be very confused here. Because human culture is like many humans themselves–hopelessly (apart from Christ) mixed up. A hot mess.

Cap Stewart:

Yeah, C. S. Lewis (via Screwtape) pointed out that humans have the capacity to adhere to conflicting views/convictions without even realizing it. It’s something we all do–to a certain degree, at least.

How then should Christians critique popular culture?

E. Stephen Burnett

On that note, let’s strive to treat Christian critiques of popular culture—and critiques of “Christian popular culture engagement”—in the same way. Let’s consider them carefully and thoughtfully, rather than reacting as if to say, “Oh, no, here we go, another legalist on the scene.”

With that in mind, and with your recent published essay in Cultural Engagement in view, how do you think that Christians ought to critique popular culture?

What are some healthy worldview tenets, holiness guidelines, and any other principles to follow?

Cap Stewart:

Those are good questions. As a partial answer, I think your point earlier, that we must discern God’s original intent for all of creation (including popular culture), is important to remember.

In his manifold wisdom, God created man in His own image to reflect and glorify Him. Part—though certainly not all—of our image-bearing work includes creation: the development of industry, arts, customs, and the like (i.e., culture). As image-bearers of our creator, we can express His redemptive purposes through cultural development.

Yes, the Fall has affected all areas of our lives, and sin taints even our best efforts. But God’s original intent for his gifts remains, and it can be viewed through expressions such as hard work and recreation, faithful pursuits of singleness and marriage, expressions of justice and mercy—and the development of culture through such means as the arts, entertainment, and technology.

Based on an eternal perspective, it is reasonable to assume that our mandate to share and reflect God’s image will continue in the new heavens and the new earth.
— Cap Stewart

The cultural mandate is just that—a mandate. It is a divine commission. We cannot adequately reflect God’s image apart from it. And based on an eternal perspective, it is reasonable to assume that our mandate to share and reflect God’s image will continue in the new heavens and the new earth.

To be sure, it is foolhardy to extrapolate that all forms of culture making (and culture critiquing) are equally valid and equally admirable. (They are most certainly not. Some deserve to be praised and some deserve to be condemned.) It also foolhardy, however, to condemn all forms of culture (including pop culture) as inherently invalid and irredeemable. The Christian’s endgame should be informed by the endgame of the kingdom of God. And in God’s wisdom, He advances his kingdom in part through the advancement and development of culture.

Toward that end, I think it’s imperative to remember our Savior’s encapsulation of the Christian’s duty: to love God with our whole being, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Mark 12:28–32). This can help us both as we look inward (to evaluate our own heart’s posture) and as we look outward (to praise or critique aspects of pop culture). There are legitimately complex areas that require a nuanced approach (although I think there are fewer such instances than the current consensus permits). Still, if we don’t start with Christ’s summary of the law, the eyes of our hearts will incorrectly perceive a plethora of shades of gray, and will miss many of the vibrant colors and stark black/white contrasts revealed to us through Scripture.

Cap StewartCap Stewart is an independent business owner and freelance writer. He’s been a fan of speculative fiction ever since picking up This Present Darkness in fifth grade, and his beloved gamer bride makes up for whatever nerdom he lacks. Cap is a contributing writer to the book Cultural Engagement: A Crash Course in Contemporary Issues (Zondervan, 2019). He also blogs at Happier Far.

  1. Brad East, “Against Popular Culture,” Mere Orthodoxy, July 9, 2019. East clarified in a followup article that he’s more speaking about Christians who say we must engage popular culture.
  2. “Ho-hum, another legalist,” etc. is itself a very legalistic response. For more, see David Strain, “Our Attitude Toward the Pharisee,” Tabletalk (June 2016), also readable online.
  3. Editors: Joshua D. Chatraw and Karen Swallow Prior. (Notice I have not included the Amazon link. We need to figure out what to do about Amazon, folks. Our solution may need to involve multi-adaptive shielding.)
  4. I note that these articles often have plenty to say only about the idols in The Evangelical Church, conservative politics, and so on. This emphasis only affirms my working theory that these critiques have a lot to do with the writer’s personal history or lingering conflicts with church or family backgrounds.
E. Stephen Burnett explores fantastical stories for God’s glory as publisher of and its weekly Fantastical Truth podcast. He coauthored The Pop Culture Parent and creates other resources for fans and families, serving with his wife, Lacy, in their central Texas church. Stephen's first novel, a science-fiction adventure, launches in 2025 from Enclave Publishing.
  1. Travis Perry says:

    Good nuanced discussion guys.

    However, I am curious about the implications of your comments on a cultural mandate–yes, I agree that humans will create culture and that’s part of how God meant human beings to be. Yes, I agree it is right and proper for Christians to go forth as creators of culture, including so-called popular culture (I don’t see how is the “popular” part really different from “regular” culture in any Biblically significant way). It makes total sense for us to work to shape our culture for the better.

    But do we have an obligation to be consumers of culture? We have permission, sure, within clear limits of avoidance of things that will cause us to sin (or influence others to sin based on what we do). But is permission the same thing as a mandate?

    Isn’t a Christian totally free to decide to withdraw from the consumption of popular culture if he chooses to do so?

    The only problem is if that same Christian implies that you are some kind of terrible sinner because you don’t make the same choice he did. Obviously, he’s not allowed to do that…

    • Cap Stewart says:

      Those are excellent thoughts, Travis. I think you are right to point out that we are not obligated as Christians to be consumers of culture. There is a big difference between permission to do something and a mandate to do something. True Christian liberty involves both the ability to *enjoy* certain pursuits and to the ability *avoid* certain pursuits. That is a helpful distinction to make, and I’m glad you brought it up.

  2. notleia says:

    Joke’s on East. I can crochet and stream Netflix AT THE SAME TIME.

    It’s like a weird sort of capitalist-flavored asceticism, that idea that we’re supposed to be productive at every waking moment, with no time for relaxation or self-care. That even our hobbies are supposed to produce things that can turn a profit. At this point, we might as well borrow the Japanese word for death by overwork. To borrow a old-timey labor strike catchphrase, Bread and Roses.

    • I know what you’re saying and agree with what you say is wrongful about that kind of attitude. At the same time, I don’t think that’s exactly what they’re getting at. I’ve found my opinions about my use of my own time have changed drastically after having a kid. Certain life experiences give us different perspectives. I think it’s a mistake to broad-stroke say my perspective or opinions should apply to you. I know I’ve wasted too much time on video games, and so have made adjustments so that I hardly play anymore. I feel good about that. I don’t think video games are evil or always bad to use. But there’s legit way better ways to use my very limited time–like being with my family. I wish I had always held this opinion, but people tried to tell me my whole life that video games were a waste of time and I blew them off. Everyone just has to come to their own conclusions based on their conscience, and deal with what it means for them in the long-term. It doesn’t tend to be effective to try to police people publically.

      • notleia says:

        Well, it’s Christian subculture where I seem to encounter that idea most, that we have to justify our existences by working, or something. Like a weird fetishization of the Puritan Work Ethic (TM). Granted, it’s mostly invoked by cranky old men who are angsty about the Frivolous Things The Youths Do.

        Whereas while I’m getting older I’m getting crankier about unqualified randos telling me what to do when I didn’t ask their advice in the first place.

        • “On the seventh day, God rested.”

          Right there in Genesis is the implicit command to rest as part of a life-rhythm. God specifically endorses this in the fourth commandment and in several other commands that promote rest and recreation.

    • But can you read anime subtitles and crochet at the same time? :p

    • Rachel Nichols says:

      Fun fact. Long before TV, in the 18th century, William Law decried “fancy work” or needlepoint as godless since you could spend the time praying, reading Scripture, or making garments for the poor.

      • So many things that are assumed to be “regular” culture were, at one point, considered popular culture and thus frivolous, ungodly, and so on.

        • In a Christian epistolary novel I just read, originally published in 1867, the young heroine agonizes about whether the pleasure she takes in music and drawing is frivolous. At last she concludes with great zeal that she will sacrifice her love of the arts in order to dedicate herself wholly to Bible reading and prayer, but her resolve fails and she falls into despair. She then has the following conversation with her mother:

          “I see how it is,” [my mother] said; “you have forgotten that body of yours, of which I reminded you, and have been trying to live as if you were all soul and spirit. You have been straining every nerve to acquire perfection, whereas this is God’s gift, and one that He is willing to give you, fully and freely.”

          “I have done seeking for that or anything else that is good,” I said, despondently. “And so I have gone back to my music and everything else.”

          “Here is just the rock upon which you split,” she returned. “You speak of going back to your music as if that implied going away from God. You rush from one extreme to another. The only true way to live in this world, constituted just as we are, is to make all our employments subserve the one great end and aim of existence, namely, to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. But in order to do this we must be wise task-masters, and not require of ourselves what we cannot possibly perform. Recreation we must have. Otherwise the strings of our soul, wound up to an unnatural tension, will break.”

          “Oh, I do wish,” I cried, “that God had given us plain rules, about which we could make no mistake!”

          “I think His rules are plain,” she replied. “And some liberty of action He must leave us, or we should become mere machines. I think that those who love Him, and wait upon Him day by day, learn His will almost imperceptibly, and need not go astray.”

          “But, mother, music and drawing are sharp-edged tools in such hands as mine. I cannot be moderate in my use of them. And the more I delight in them, the less I delight in God.”

          “Yes, this is human nature. But God’s divine nature will supplant it, if we only consent to let Him work in us of His own good pleasure.”

          As a reader, I found it fascinating that the heroine talks of her love of music and drawing as a consuming obsession for her — positively fannish, one might say. And yet her mother says the real solution is not for her to give them up, but to commit her heart and soul to God and let Him teach her how to use those interests wisely.

    • Just as a side note, East included sleeping, resting, or sitting on one’s porch as better alternatives than Netflix, so apparently he actually thinks rest and a lack of productivity is acceptable. (Quiet reflection while sitting one one’s porch isn’t ENTIRELY wasteful, but certainly less productive than a lot of other things.)

  3. That first quote you have from East makes it seem like he lacks a lot of understanding and nuance. Pop culture can be bad, but at the very least he’s over exaggerating when he basically says ANYTHING is better than watching Netflix and whatnot. Like, if someone’s depressed, distracting themselves with a TV show is probably better than drinking themselves into a stupor. And, reading is part of pop culture. Even if he’s like ‘only read classics or nonfiction’, he forgets that classics often were a part of a pop culture at some point or other, and nonfiction often contains pop culture references.

    Thing is, pop culture and whatnot can actually be very useful to engage in. It simultaneously reflects and shapes people’s thoughts, feelings and therefore actions. It can be a way of illustrating examples we can point to when having certain discussions. It can ask us important questions so we can already have them answered in our heads before dealing with them in real life. Also, there’s been several times when seeing something in a show has helped me put real life experiences into context.

    Whether or not something is extremely useful depends on how people engage with it, though. For a lot of people, engaging with pop culture is going to have some use or another, even if they view it as mindless entertainment. But for other people, it’s very important. I’ve seen lots of people comment on YouTube videos with the lessons they learn from watching, say, Naruto. Like, one person said they probably would have been less kind and compassionate if it weren’t for that show. Other people made a list of like ten characters and stated what they learned from each one.

    I’ve learned a lot about people and how to deal with them because of my interest in stories, which is very important for someone like me that wants to navigate social situations well but has a hard time with it.

    In some ways, I think pop culture and writing and all that has been a bit better for my walk with God. Like, maybe it’s distracted me, but at the same time, I may very well have been distracted anyway. After hearing the same bible stories over and over again and all that, it’s very easy for me to get caught up in daily life, whether or not pop culture is involved. But, pop culture and writing kind of calls my attention back to God in some ways. Like, asking what a show’s implications are relative to Christianity gives me a reason to think and care about God. And more recently…I dunno. Trying to write chars that have a meaningful relationship with God can be hard sometimes. And I see Christian fiction sometimes that doesn’t illustrate actual relationships with God as well as I’d like. This is sort of convicting for me. Like, how close are any of us to God, really? If we were doing everything we were supposed to regarding God, wouldn’t we be able to write about that relationship just as easily as we write about romance and friendship?

    • Not to mention that it’s nonsensical to imply you can avoid interacting with pop culture to begin with. It’s just part of life.

      • Yep. Though I don’t know what his exact definition of pop culture is. But, in a matter of speaking, the bible itself is sort of part of pop culture when we think about how it’s influenced Western writing and how many references modern stories make to the bible without even realizing it.

      • Rachel Nichols says:

        Billboards and people discussing current events are forms of pop culture.

  4. Kevin Robinson says:

    YES!! So East is OK with me playing Eldritch Horror, Magic the Gathering and Cthulu Wars! Board Games are OK!! 😀 (Just kidding. I believe the standards apply to board games as much as anything and there are certain ones I won’t play. I just thought it was amusing that he gave a broad pass to board-gamers. I have a feeling he’s not aware of some of the junk in the board game world.) At any rate, EXCELLENT article and discussion, gentlemen. I enjoyed it immensely. Helped me even clarify a few things in my own heart. I’ve been really struggling with a lot of current entertainment and have all but written it out of my own life lately. So much garbage and in-your-face agenda. But you have reminded me not to allow myself to go full legalist nuclear option. Never-the-less, I do think the idolatry issue is growing and there is less and less to celebrate. It is definitely easier to break it off cold-turkey. But your biggest point that hit me was on the idea that we should be about what we’re FOR more than what we’re AGAINST. If we’re going to win this generation, we’ve got to celebrate beauty and art and heroism and do less crinkling our noses and frowning at everything.

  5. I am concerned with mindless consumption of TV, movies and pop music. It’s promoting materialism/consumerism and naivete. In addition to being harmless as doves we’re to be crafty as snakes.

    Christianity has its own pop culture full of banality. While not promoting unchastity or overt idolatry it too is full of materialism and lacks discernment. Until the indie publishing scene I only would read nonfiction from CBA houses. For fiction I read only YA and the classics. Glad we have more options now.

    BTW, C.S. Lewis was no big fan of movies. He stated “There is death in the camera.” Movies and TV kill the imagination and stifle rational thought with sensory overload, regardless of the message. I watch movies occasionally (last one I saw was Unplanned. Amazed at how good a Christian movie could actually be!) But if you watch TV 8-12 hours a day–on days off work–you should be concerned and prayerfully evaluate your life.

    • Actually, that’s more dependent on what one watches and how they engage with it. Obviously there’s a such thing as too much TV, but a lot of the shows I’ve watched have stimulated my imagination just as much, if not moreso, than books. And it can actually STIMULATE rational thought by giving more scenarios for one’s brain to chew on. That’s a lot better than assuming that simply going through the motions of every day life will somehow improve irrational thought more than something that’s actually thought provoking.

What do you think?