Saturday, October 22, 2005

Christianity: Flying in the Face of Popular Culture, Part II

Good Things and Bad Things about American Culture

Before I can make a case that Christianity should "Fly in the Face of Popular Culture" I need to make some observations here about our popular culture. I will start with my lists, and then elaborate.

Good Things About American Culture
* freedom of expression
* freedom of choice
--- I think all the good things eventually bubble up to those two, but I'll add another anyhow:
* the "Pioneer" spirit

Bad Things about American Culture
* excess consumerism
* excess commercialism
* excess reliance on credit
* "American Bigotry"

Things in American Culture that are a Two-Edged Sword
* Fast Food (this is really more of a symptom of the other issues)
* Freedom of Choice (hey, that was on the "good list" what's up?)
* Freedom of Expression (ditto)
* Consumerism

Now the details:


I've talked about consumerism before (and how the root of all evil in our lives is the desire to consume) {I will try to link, but I don't know how to search through my blog for things}.

At any rate, consumerism has a good aspect: there are many products and things to choose from - it also encourages the Pioneer Spirit (which today is mostly entrepreneurial) - the innovation of new products, and more so: new cures, new ways of conquering death and nature. Also the spirit of competition and open market encourage growth and improvement in society.

Yet, this is a two-edged sword. How we hate the constant bombardment of advertisements, the telemarketers that call us at dinner time. My own perspective on the matter is: (a) If I want or need something I will go out and investigate it and find it and buy it on my own. SO LEAVE ME ALONE, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

I really do need a "no soliciting" sign on my house, because I have scorched quite a few hearts that have come to my front door to attempt to sell me something. And, oh, if you make the mistake of calling my house to sell me something - you'll get hung up on (at best).

But, the really annoying thing about consumerism is the way that "the powerful" control the markets. An example: There are plenty of great novels that have been written (and some of them published) out there that are equally as entertaining, thought provoking, spell-binding, captivating, suspenseful, etc. as the Harry Potter books, or as Dan Brown's books (to give you two examples), but it is the ones that the publishing companies pour all their marketing dollars into that meet with success. On the one hand you can't blame the publishing companies: they have to make money, and they end up publishing a lot of books every year that are losers, so they rely upon the occasional best sellers to break even. But you certainly can blame it on the concept of commercialism in general, because it encourages this sort of thing: it targets the "least common denominator" because that's where you have the best chance of success, and leaves all the truly remarkable things (the ones that will only speak to 10% of the population or less) out there in the dust.

I think long term this has a demoralizing effect on society and culture. It encourages people to keep their minds in the gutters (because that's what everyone else does.) It is hard to find the "lofty" novels, the things that truly speak to the heart or elevate the mind, because publishers can't make money on those things.

Freedom of Choice
Freedom of Choice is a great thing, until it leads people to butcher their babies because they think that is their choice (whether or not to have a child.) It is unfortunate that the baby-killers have chosen this term as their slogan. But I'd like to look beyond that.

Freedom of Choice is truly a great thing in our society. Nowhere else can you find the Pioneer Spirit, because people do not have the choice to invent something, people do not have the choice to read whatever they want to read, and learn whatever they want to learn, and become whatever they want to become. In a sense, "Freedom of Choice" is what God gave Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Yet, there must be some level of moral restraint to that freedom. A society/culture that allows itself the freedom of the choice of suicide will eventually destroy itself. Why do you think all of the master-minds of international terrorism are educated in U.S. Universities? That's because our own universities are the best places to learn how to destroy us.

If "freedom" means merely: "you get to choose what Mosque you go to" then that isn't freedom. Equally, if freedom means merely "you get to choose what Christian Church you go to" that also isn't freedom.

The freedom of choice in religious expression is, of course, very important to me. But I sometimes get the feeling that among my fellow Christians that's all they care about. There are many more aspects to Freedom of Choice and Freedom of Expression. I so value this freedom that in recent years I've become politically oriented as a libertarian, because I think government keeps taking away our freedoms.

There is no freedom of choice if you have to get a building permit (i.e. make pay-offs to the political authority) to change an electrical plug in your house! It is nothing more than feudalism.

Freedom of Expression

Freedom of expression is closely tied to freedom of choice. Freedom of choice means nothing if you cannot express that. How would it be if you had the choice to be a Christian, so long as you kept it secret? You couldn't go to Church. You couldn't evangelize. You couldn't share your faith. Sound familiar?

Again, I sometimes feel that Christians I meet would do everything to protect our Christian freedom of expression, but would rather limit or even outlaw the freedom of expression of other faiths. On the contrary, unless you uphold the freedom to chose any religion and the freedom to practice any faith, it isn't freedom.

Again freedom of expression is a two-edged sword. It must have certain moral restraints and cannot be unbounded. As an artist, perhaps, I value the freedom of artistic expression about all other freedoms. I find myself at constant conflict between the good and the evil inherent in that. As a practical example: I think the human body is one of the most beautiful things in all of God's creation. It has been celebrated in art for thousands of years (so I do not think my opinion on that matter is unique). However, I must constantly struggle with the issue: at what point is it art, and at what point is it pornography?

Fast Food and Other Symptoms

Fast food is the perfect example of a practical symptom of our culture. Fast food is very convenient, particularly with our busy lives. We don't have time to sit down and make a proper meal, so we can grab something for cheap that we can gobble down even while we are driving the car. On the other hand, we all know it is killing us.

I think pretty much all of our freedoms, and all of the good aspects of our culture have a negative aspect. The negative aspect comes when the positive aspect is taken to an extreme.

This post is too long, and I'm going to have to split it. More to come in Part III.


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