A few days ago, I came across a list of the top 25 “most-meaningful cultural influences of 2018?” It was a list compiled by a website that I subscribe to called Christ and Pop Culture.
Christ and Pop Culture provides deeply researched articles and insights from film, literature, politics, sports, etc., and they do so from a Christian perspective; however, while they provide honest insight they are not critical or judgmental, which is evident from their top 25 list and its goal. The top 25 list looks at the “favorite people, works of art, or cultural artifacts” that the Christ and Pop Culture’s writers “feel best represent God’s truth and grace in the world.” But they don’t merely focus on things that are particularly Christian or from Christians. Their list is, by their own admission, “extremely weird;” it is “a meandering, whiplash-inducing product of the diverse perspectives of (their) writers.”
The list does have a goal, though, and I think it is a fantastic, admirable goal: “The goal of our list is to illuminate and appreciate the good both in and outside of the church, to show the way God uses Christians to shine a light on the world, and the ways God’s common grace spills out into the most surprising places.”
I read over their list of cultural influences and they are right; some of them are extremely weird – but their explanations do a good job of highlighting why they think something is good, or how God uses Christians, and or the ways God’s common grace spills out. For instance, they pointed out a pod-cast called Apocrypals – where two guys who are not Christians read the Bible without being jerks about it. It is quite good. The podcast hosts do not make fun of the Christian faith; they simply interact with the Bible, dig into it, look at the history, and talk about it. They do a pretty good exegetical, hermeneutical job. I really enjoyed listening to them and I’d recommend others do as well.
The list also includes the movie A Quiet Place. This is a movie starring John Krasinski (Jim from The Office) and Emily Blunt. The two, real-life spouses, play a husband and wife in the film who are tasked with protecting their three – soon to be four – children from alien creatures with no eyes but incredible hearing. The slightest sound can draw one of these creatures from miles away, which spells trouble for humanity. The movie falls into the horror category; it is intense, which may lead some to wonder why Christ and Pop Culture would include it as a cultural influence – especially one consistent with their goal. They do so, however, because of how the movie has “cultural indicators about the ways people approach child-rearing and marriage in the midst of unexpected and unforeseeable difficulties.”
Christ and Pop Culture also include the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House on their list of 25 most-meaningful cultural influences of 2018. This is another spine-chilling inclusion that is about a family that moves in and starts to remake an old estate and house. The trouble is that the house is, as you’d expected, haunted house by some particularly possessive spirits; indeed, the house is alive and has plans of its own for the family.
As much as I hate to admit it, The Haunting of Hill House made me jump a few times, which was one of the reasons that I found it so entertaining and a reason that I thought the folks at Christ and Pop Culture had lost their minds. Then I looked at their reasons for making it one of their top 25. Frankly, I couldn’t agree with their point more. In Hill House they find an important message for people who are dealing with all sorts of grief, pain, loss, and suffering. According to Christ and Pop Culture, “Life is worth living, Hill House says, not despite the suffering in the world, but because of it. There are hagiographies that haven’t said it better.”
I brought Christ and Pop Culture’s list up because I think it does a good job of furthering a discussion I’ve been having with some friends of mine. Our discussion was prompted by some significant changes that are happening in our community – specifically – but our broader culture as well. As things change, we are wondering if, what, and how those cultural changes impact the way we live out our Christian faith.
I’ve known some Christians over the years who have pulled way back from culture, feeling it better to be disengaged than engaged. Most of the time they do that as a way of protecting their children. I understand that but it isn’t something I’m prepared to do. Granted, for some Christian folks changes on the national level can be difficult and it might seem wise to hide out – so to speak. For instance, in the past few weeks, several new faces took their oath of office on the Bible, some on the Quran, and some on books of law. What’s more – somewhere around 153 openly gay people were elected last November – including Colorado’s Governor Jared Polis – who is the first openly gay person elected governor in US History. These are the sorts of changes that have some Christian folks staggering or looking for a bunker to hide in.
The truth is, things have changed, which I believe prompts the discussion that I’ve been having with my friends. Personally, I believe that Christian people must think about how those changes give shape to the way we are to live as followers of Christ. I also believe it is critical that we do not try to simply ignore the cultural shifts; now I’m not suggesting that Christian people compromise the core of their faith to please others or to simply acquiesce. However, I do think it is critical that Christian folks recognize that with a change in culture comes a change in the way we live our faith, which I’m pretty sure is supposed to be a public faith and one that is known by its love for neighbor and its trust in God.
That’s why I brought up the folks at Christ and Pop Culture to begin with. I think they are on the right track. They are one of the few Christian groups out there that looks at the culture in, what I consider, a very Christian way. They certainly aren’t living in fear of being swayed or are they willing to compromise. They are on a solid, theological footing. At the same time, they are able to recognize beauty and goodness – even when it doesn’t emerge from a particularly Christian locus. I think that is incredibly important given the ways in which our culture has changed.
As I said earlier, I like Christ and Pop Culture’s mission / goal. In fact, as I continue to have the discussion with my friends I plan to harken back to Christ and Pop Culture a lot. I think it is the sort of goal that the church / Christian folks can share in; I do believe we need “to illuminate and appreciate the good both in and outside of the church, to show the way God uses Christians to shine a light on the world and the ways God’s common grace spills out into the most surprising places.”