It is so easy for us to divide our lives between the sacred and the secular. We go to church on Sundays and CSF during the week. But when we do all the other things that fill our lives – watch movies, study, work, hang out with friends – it is sometimes hard to see how our faith relates. For that reason we are spending a few weeks at CSF seeking to see how our faith does relate to everyday life.
Last evening we discussed how our faith relates to our entertainment – the movies and television we watch, the music we listen to and even the books we read (please, read more books!). The best place to start with any discussion like this is in the Bible. When we read scripture we see that right away in the beginning God created humanity with a purpose. Genesis 1:27-28 speaks of humans being made in God’s image which, among other things, indicates that we are little creators. We are called to create. This text also says humans are to care for God’s creation. So right away, even before any mention of sin, humans are given a job to do. Andy Crouch puts it like this in his book Culture Making: “Culture is what we make of the world. Culture is, first of all, the name for our relentless, restless human effort to take the world as it’s given to us and make something else” (23).
The next phase of the story is the entry of sin into the world. Due to the choices of humans, God’s good creation became broken. God brings healing to creation through Jesus Christ. Too often we limit what Jesus did to only individual salvation and forgiveness. Yet when we think of the big picture, we see that Jesus’ redemption applies to all of culture. Every area of life, including our entertainment, is affected. We see this hope for the redemption of all aspects of culture in Revelation 21:23-26:
“23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
What is amazing, even mind-blowing, is verse 26. In the midst of this picture of heaven, the new creation, we are told the glory of the nations are brought in. This means that any good of human culture will survive the cleansing fire of judgment. Somehow Jesus’ redemption applies to songs and art.
This story points us to a few important truths to keep in mind as we think about our entertainment. First, since all people are created in God’s image and tasked with creating culture, we may find truth that points to God (the Truth) in unlikely places. In other words, when we listen to music made by people who claim no allegiance to God, we should expect to be surprised in finding echoes of truth there. Second, since all people are affected by sin, we discover that even so-called “Christian” artists are flawed and sometimes create sub-par art.
In his book Culture Making, Andy Crouch lists a number of approaches Christians have taken to culture:
Condemning – This view looks at movies and music and simply condemns. Though some things do deserve condemnation (pornography has no redeeming qualities), in general this view is an over-simplification. It ignores those twin truths above (all people in God’s image, universality of sin) and seeks to say that some things are all good and some are all bad.
Copying – This view just takes what is popular in culture and copies it. I remember seeing a chart at a Christian bookstore once with a list of secular bands and the corresponding Christian band. If you like Pearl Jam, here is the “Christian” Pearl Jam. Copying also seems to over-simplify, as if sanitizing things makes it all good. It forgets, as condemning does, that sin affects all so even “Christian” music is flawed and even that “secular” music may point to truth. Also, mere copying is not true art. I think this is why many see Christian art as shallow. Rather then being creative, it is mimicking someone else’s creativity.
Consuming – I believe this is where most Christian college students are. This is to just consume whatever entertainment everyone else does. So we watch the same movies, listen to the same music and don’t really think about how it relates to our faith. If we are going to apply our faith to our everyday life, to love God with all our mind, we need to go beyond this. Remember, Jesus’ work is not just about individual salvation and forgiveness. If you think it is, your God is too small. Jesus’ redemption relates to every detail of lives.
Critiquing – We need to take the next step and think about what we consume. This doesn’t mean we can never enjoy movies or music because now we have an assignment. It doesn’t mean you have to be the annoying guy who over-analyzes everything. It simply means to not turn your brain or your faith off when you watch a movie. Every movie has a message and we need to be aware of that message.
Crouch gives some good questions to think about to help start this process:
Questions to ask:
(1) What does this cultural artifact assume about the way the world is?
(2) What does this cultural artifact assume about the way the world should be? What vision of the future animated its creators?
(3) What does this cultural artifact make possible? What can people do or imagine, thanks to this artifact, that they could not before?
(4) what does this cultural artifact make impossible (or at least very difficult)? What activities and experiences that were previously part of the human experience become all but impossible in the wake of
(5) What new forms of culture are created in response to this artifact? What is cultivated and created that could not have been before?
Last night I gave some examples of specific movies and television shows (The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, The Hunger Games, Gran Torino) and lessons/truths/messages I see in each of them. My encouragement to you is to think these things through when you consume entertainment. In this, you will be applying your faith to more of life and growing as a disciple of Jesus.
Along with that, I suspect many of you spend a lot of time with entertainment. My second encouragement then is to turn off the movies and music and spend some time reading the Bible. Because to apply your faith to these things well, you need to know the Jesus you have faith in.