If you were to come up to me and ask “What is one book that you think every contemporary Christian should read?” my answer would probably be Ken Myers’ work All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes: Christians and Popular Culture. Tomorrow I’m attending a conference where Ken Myers will be moderating a panel discussion and giving a lecture in a breakout session. I’m very excited for the opportunity to hear him speak and possibly meet him so I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what I’ve learned from him over the past few days.
One of the things that I’ve done is look over some of the quotation that I’ve saved from his book in my Evernote and I came across a quotation that was so relevant to our current cultural controversies that I thought I would share it and comment on it here. Before I give you the quotation I want to lay a little ground work. On the whole, Meyers’ book examines the negative effects of popular culture. More acutely, Myers shows how the embrace of popular forms of music and culture by Christians and Christian churches has had dire consequences.
With that said, here is the quotation that I found so illuminating to our current cultural controversies. Be sure to keep the Jenner and Dolezal controversies in the back of your mind while you read:
Biblical Christianity teaches that the self is not self-defining. We are all created in the image of God, whether or not we want to be. We all stand in judgment before a holy God, whether or not we want to. We have all been given certain natural abilities, opportunities, frustrations, and liabilities by a sovereign God. We do not, as many would have us believe, "create our own reality." There is one reality, ordered by the one God. We are answerable to Him for our conduct within that reality. Our cultural life should encourage us to acknowledge that reality is centered in Jesus Christ, not in our self. At root, popular culture's dynamics tend to encourage a self-centeredness that Christians ought to avoid. (pg. 101)
Western, popular culture, which is the dominant cultural climate that we all exist in, makes a grand assumption about the neutrality of reality. According to this perspective, the world is nothing more than a stage for each actor/individual to play out their own self-defined role. Each individual is encouraged to cast themselves as whichever character they chose and write their own lines. Any critical engagement with an actor's performance or choice in wardrobe is taboo in this culture (“Who are you to tell me that I wasn’t Oscar-worthy?”).
But the problem with all this is that it is founded on a faulty premise.
As Myers points out, this world is not neutral. We do not get to chose our own destinies or define ourselves. In fact, this world is a world of “whether we like it or not.” In the end it doesn’t matter if you don’t believe in God, because God will exist no matter how much you choose not to believe in Him. In the end it doesn’t matter if you make up your own moral standards, because God will judge us all by his own righteous standards whether we like it or not.
Popular culture teaches us (not always on a cognitive level mind you) that we are the “masters of our fate and the captains of our souls.” And this is one of the main reasons why Christians should reject popular culture (especially in our forms of worship). The Christian faith is a rich story about an objective God and his objective creation that is in objective rebellion against Him and yet He is in an objective process of making right again, by objective standards. Popular culture is all about subjective YOU. When we’ve been raised on television we assume the premises of popular culture and are tempted to go along with the folly of transgenerism or transracialism, but this is founded on a lie. To live a life founded on a lie is to be in bondage. You’ll remember that someone famously once said “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
As a culture we do not know the truth and we are in bondage. We are in bondage in the worse way, we are in bondage to ourselves. Our foolish desires to determine ourselves rule over us cruelly. These desires mock us as they drive our culture deeper and deeper into foolishness all the while demanding approval along the way. Our foolish desires are so strong that we are no longer able to even see that the emperor has no clothes.
Food for thought.
Michael lives with his wife (Caroline) and dog (Beau) in Athens, GA where he teaches history and economics to high schoolers. Michael enjoys reading, watching soccer, drinking bourbon, and taking walks with his wife and dog.