The final post in this section of my 'engaging with popular culture' series looks at the last reason why I think doing this is important.
We should engage with popular culture because it also influences us.
Whether we realise it or not, as we watch films, as we read books, as we engage with culture then unless we're careful, we could be picking up values and ideas that are contrary to what we believe, and that might be giving us a distorted view of ourselves, creation or God. Pop culture presents a worldview and we can easily find ourselves buying into it, without even realising.
You get to the end of fellowship of the ring and Aragorn says 'Let's hunt some orc' and you think "Yeah man, I want to come with you". Or you read Harry Potter and there's a little bit inside you that wishes that you were part of that world rather than this one. Or you get to the end of a romantic film and you sigh and think 'I wish I had someone like that; then i'd really be happy.'
Pop culture is successful when it causes some sort of reaction like this - this is pop culture at it's best. I think it's often fine and right to be swept up in the emotions of a piece of pop culture - that's surely part of the point of it? But at some point we need to sit down and think 'what exactly is the worldview that's being presented here and should I accept it as truth?' Or 'Should I be influenced to think this way about... relationships, family, wealth, career, or whatever?". Unless we think these thoughts, then it can be very easy to let ourselves be moulded by culture. Romans 12:2 says 'do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind'.
Just as a little aside here, it's worth saying that some popular culture should be left well alone. What that is will be different for each one of us - we usually know in what areas we're most tempted. You know your own heart, and you know that watching certain things, reading certain books, listening to certain music and so on leads you to sin. Not all pop culture should be engaged with. If it does cause to sin then leave it alone – it's not worth it.
Jesus could go to the parties and mix with the sinners and not sin. Paul could read the poets of the day and not have his mind warped and his worldview twisted so that he made idols. And so engagement with popular culture must be right in some contexts. But, as we've been looking at in this post, if something is a temptation our reaction shouldn't be to try to engage with it: we should flee it.
But if it doesn't fit into this category then, as I've said above, we shouldn't think it's then ok to unthinkingly absorb everything in front of us. Engage with it critically, and don't be moulded by it. And when you do recognise some lie in popular culture, make sure you praise Jesus for opening your eyes to the truth and the right way of thinking. Praise Jesus for enabling you to have real joy in seeing the world and 'doing life' in the way that you've been created for.