Tuesday, 21 December 2010

engaging with popular culture: why do it?

In the first 3 posts of this series (1, 2, 3) I looked at a bit of a theology of what popular culture is.

Let's now spend a bit of time looking at why I think it is helpful and important for us to engage with pop culture.

In some ways you might argue that we are to be different and separate from the world, strangers in a foreign land and all that, and so you could use that argument to say that we shouldn't engage with pop culture. I'll come back to that later in the series. But first:

Why engage with popular culture?

The first reason we should do this is because we have precedent. The apostle Paul did it. Click here to have a read of Acts 17:16-32.

Notice how in these passage we see numerous examples of Paul doing what I'm arguing we should all be doing, as Christians.

Paul, confronted with a city full of idols talks to the people where they're at. They have an altar to an unknown God - Paul sees the altar, and he realises that they've recognised some truth in the midst of their idolatry. They worship all these gods, but it somehow still feels empty. They know they still haven't quite grasped the truth, and so they show their longing for something more, something deeper, in this altar. And so Paul picks up on this:

"People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you."

Further on Paul continues to model engagement with popular culture. He goes on to quote some of the poets of the day. The poets, in their writing, had recognised some truth: 'For in him we live and move and have our being', 'we are his offspring'. The poets had used their God-given, interpretive abilities to look at the world and begin to recognise some truth. Paul say's 'You've seen something there – let me shed a bit more light!', and he leads them on to expose the full truth which they've began to glimpse.

So engaging with popular culture: why do it? The first reason is this: we have a biblical precedent.

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