Nancy sent around a really interesting article this weekend. It begins this way:
One night, a couple of years ago, I walked in on a group of evangelical college boys sitting on a bed watching The Daily Show. I felt alarmed, and embarrassed, as if I had caught them reading Playboy or something else they had to be shielded from. Jon Stewart, after all, spends at least one-quarter of his show making fun of people like them. But they eagerly invited me in. I soon learned that they watched the show every night it was on, finals or no finals. So strong was their devotion to Jon Stewart that I was tempted to ask: If Jesus came back on a Tuesday night at 11, would you get off the bed?
Over time, I came to understand this as a symptom of a larger phenomenon: evangelicals’ deeply neurotic relationship with popular culture. Whether or not they were the butt of all of Stewart’s jokes seemed irrelevant to them. The point was that the high priest of political comedy spent a lot of time thinking about them. Once, after I’d met Jon Stewart, they all crowded around and asked the same question: What does he really think of us?
The author of the piece, Hanna Rosin, is the non-evangelical author of a newish book on Patrick Henry College. And for me, perhaps the most insightful statement in her piece is that young evangelicals “are much more critical consumers and excellent spotters of schlock.” Even not having grown up in the evangelical subculture, I can see how true that is. While I certainly agree that our popular culture is depraved, you simply cannot explore some of the so-called Christian music and other consumer goods out there — if you’ve ever seen anything else, that is — and not conclude that some of it is just terrible. Or maybe much of it.
That doesn’t mean it’s all bad, of course. There are number of artists — Chris Tomlin, for instance — who write meaningful songs and sing them well. (In my experience, as well as my wife’s, these tend to be in the sub-genre of worship music, not the more generic stuff — which, as Ms. Rosin points out, often sounds like a bad love song with Jesus’ name substituted for that of one’s beau. That is a credit neither to him or to our people.) And like I said, I understand the motivation. But you know what? Just having good motivations and not failing completely doesn’t mean we’re doing much of a job.
And I don’t say this just to poke fun at, say, Christian rap. (She’s right — it exists.) It really is an important subject — especially if you, like my wife and me, think you’re heading toward parenthood. Whether we want to immerse our kids totally in the evangelical subculture is a real question for us. At this stage, the answer is no. One reason is that unfortunately, we think that if we do that, not only will our kids have very little of an idea of what actual good music sounds like. And there’s a more important one: God calls us to be salt and light in the world. While that certainly means shunning many of the world’s practices, that doesn’t mean hiding. It doesn’t mean not being aware of what’s out there, and what the evil one is using to ensnare others. (In fact, with this in mind I myself am trying to stay up on popular culture a bit more these days — you can’t protect your kids if you have no idea what’s going on.) It means engaging with the world. Clearly, a six-year-old won’t really be doing that, but they have to be ready someday.
Anyway, as you can tell, those are just my evolving thoughts. Check out the piece itself and see what you think.