The Challenge of Popular Culture
THE INSTITUTE FOR CHRISTIAN WORSHIP—
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Feb. 27-Mar. 1, KEN MYERS—The Gheens Lectures
"Christian Worship & Contemporary Culture"
THE CHALLENGE OF POPULAR CULTURE
Every generation of Christians faces unique challenges. The first-century Church had Caesar's lions and the Colosseum. Christians a few hundred years later, following the conversion of Constantine, enjoyed more liberty for exercising their faith, but faced the terror of Visigoth, Ostrogoth, and Bulgar invaders. Still later the peril of plague swept through Europe and, unlike certain Biblical pestilences, showed no discrimination between the faithful and the wicked. The sixteenth century brought the renaissance of Biblical truth in the Protestant Reformation, but it also brought religious wars and persecution by competing churches.
It might seem and extreme assertion at first, but I believe that THE CHALLENGE OF LIVING WITH POPULAR CULTURE may well be as serious for modern Christians as persecution and plagues were for the saints of earlier centuries. Being thrown to the lions or living in the shadow of gruesome death are fairly straightforward if unattractive threats. Enemies that come loudly and visibly are usually much easier to fight than those that are undetectable. Physical affliction (even to the point of death) for the sake of Christ is a heavy cross, but at least it can be readily recognized at the time as a trial of faith. But the erosion of character, the spoiling of innocent pleasures, and the cheapening of life itself that often accompany modern popular culture can occur so subtly that we believe nothing has happened.
Christian concern about popular culture should be as much about the sensibilities it encourages as about its content. . . . I have tried to make the case that popular culture's greatest influence is in the way it shapes HOW we think and feel (more that WHAT we think and feel) and how we think and feel about thinking and feeling. . . .
Popular culture, like the meat offered to idols in 1 Corinthians 10, is a part of the created order, part of the earth that is the Lord's, and thus something capable of bringing innocent pleasure to believers. But not everything that is permissible is constructive. That is the main theme of this book.
Modern American popular culture presents many opportunities for innocent pleasures, but its principal attributes are, I believe, obstacles to enjoying the best of human experience. Popular culture is in many ways a very trivial matter. Some readers may balk at taking it so seriously. But its triviality, while making it seem innocuous, also enables it to be extremely pervasive, and that is its most toxic quality. It unobtrusively provides the backdrop, scenery, costumes, minor characters, script, and background noise of much of our lives. When we arrive, the stage is already set, the lyrics and music written, our lines and our movements already determined. Popular culture has the power to set the pace, the agenda, and the priorities for much of our social and spiritual existence, without our explicit consent. It requires a great effort no to be mastered by it.
— Kenneth A. Myers, ALL GOD'S CHILDREN AND BLUE SUEDE SHOES: CHRISTIANS AND POPULAR CULTURE. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1989, pp. xii-xiv. ISBN 0-89107-538-0.
Free demo of MARS HILL AUDIO—www.marshillaudio.org/demotape/demotape.asp
Ken Myers' bio—www.marshillaudio.org/about/myersbio.asp
2007 Gheens Lectures— www.sbts.edu/pdf/announcements/gheenslectures.pdf
[It is a great joy to have Ken Myers on our campus this week. I have been a faithful subscriber to his MARS HILL AUDIO JOURNAL for many, many years. That ministry has played a significant role in helping me to think Christianly in our increasingly pluralistic society. Please take advantage of the free audio sample that is available (see above). Also, if you are unable to join us for the Gheens Lectures on campus this week, please remember to check www.sbts.edu/icw where the free audio lectures will be available.]
Have a great week,
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Music and Worship
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
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