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POP CULTURE EXPRESSION OF ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY
TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, I want to take you to an article out of The Jewish Voice. The Museum of Pop Culture is looking to expand, adding a second location in New York City. The Museum of Pop Culture opened in Seattle nearly 20 years ago. 7,000 visitors come through this museum every year. Now they’re going to open a second site in New York City.
DR. REEDER: When you go to that museum, what are you going to see? There are certain spheres within a society that become almost the factory that produces pop culture as their product. What they are is somewhat obvious when you think your way through it, but what they can be may not be as obvious and that’s what, ultimately, I’d like to get to today.
In pop culture right now, it’s basically shaped by the music industry, the entertainment industry in its various aspects, from the products of cinematography, the YouTube industry, commercials in the media, novels that are read, television industry and the cablevision — and all of that contributes to the culture.
AIM IS TO SEEP INTO EVERYDAY CULTURE
They all have an impact, but when we talk about culture, what are we talking about? Culture is how society does business. Pop culture is how the society functions and what it expects within the popular spheres of life — the public spaces of life. For instance, right now — we talked about this yesterday — there is language in the workplace that would have been unthought of 50 years ago, thus you have the rising of a #metoo movement, which inevitably will come when the pop culture has created that environment that people are then being violated by what supposedly is acceptable, yet ultimately is destructive.
TOM LAMPRECHT: Well, Harry, speaking of 50 years ago, CBS News recently reported it was 50 years ago in 1968 when the Broadway play, “Hair,” took root in pop culture. Unfortunately, I’ve got to report that that was probably the first time in Broadway where all the people on stage decided to take their clothes off. Is pop culture a reflection of our culture or is it dictating to the culture what our standards ought to be?
POP CULTURE “IDEAS” ARE NOT ACCIDENTAL
DR. REEDER: I think the pop culture is the product that these various industries — the entertainment sphere, the academic world, all of that — is beginning to operate a certain way to produce a sense of, “This is what we think the environment ought to be.” Some of it has hooks and hangs on and some of it disappears, but all of it has an ultimate impact.
The spheres of influence, unless they are impacted, influenced, retarded and restrained by the grace of God coming through the people of God and the power of the Spirit of God, will always take a culture into a death spiral in which it makes the unthinkable thinkable, and then the thinkable becomes acceptable and the acceptable becomes doable.
You get a sitcom that gets you to laugh that homosexuality is a merely harmless event and you’re laughing at it and if it becomes laughable, then it becomes thinkable, now it becomes acceptable, and once it becomes acceptable, then it becomes doable, and once it becomes doable, it becomes part of the culture. Once you begin to say it enough in a song, in a novel, in a movie, in a broadcast, on television, then it becomes mainstreamed into the culture.
You’re exactly right: once it gets into the culture, it doesn’t come in static; it continues to move in a downward spiral. The only hope is the influence of God’s grace that would restrain it and retard it by behavior that is both appealing yet confrontational.
“Oh, here is a family that has both order and ardor, has both ethical parameters and yet passion in relationships and compassion in relationships,” and that’s seen in the family, and that impacts a neighborhood and that impacts a city. And where should that be coming from? That ought to be coming from the Gospel ministry as the Gospel ministry presents the redeeming grace of God that transforms sinners and, once you’re transformed in your relationship to God, you begin to be transformed in your life — salt and light.
If the salt is salty, it doesn’t take much for it to affect the environment. If I speak of the contributors to pop culture being media, academia — being the entertainment industry, political industry — if I keep saying that, everybody will agree with that, but what they won’t think of, the most powerful influence upon pop culture can be the church of Jesus Christ.
THE CHURCH & CULTURE
However, the church will not — now, listen, Tom, this is important — the church will not impact the culture if it makes its mission to impact the culture. The church has to make its mission and its message to impact people with the Gospel, taking the Gospel to evangelize and disciple. And, as people get right with God and God works right within them, then their life changes and they become light in the culture and light dispels darkness, and they become salt and salt purifies, penetrates and preserves.
And so, it becomes a consequence of cultural blessing when Gospel transformation takes place so the church needs to see itself, not on a mission of cultural transformation, but as an instrument of cultural transformation as it fulfills its mission of Gospel evangelism and discipleship.
CHANGE THE PEOPLE, CHANGE THE CULTURE
I’m hoping I’m saying that clearly and plainly because, while we want the church to impact the culture, that cannot become the mission of the church — the mission of the church has got to be the Gospel mission and the Gospel message in the lives of individuals. And, when they change, their life makes an impact first in their family, in their church, in their community and in their workplace.
A LITTLE BIT OF TRUTH CAN GO A LONG WAY
Think of salt. My wife makes this corn on the cob; it’s unbelievable and I know what makes it unbelievable: butter and salt. However, it doesn’t take that much salt and it doesn’t take that much butter for a large ear of corn to be transformed. It doesn’t take that much salt to transform an entire pot of green beans if the salt is salty.
And, by the way, when it happens, notice that I don’t go up to my wife after the dinner and say, “Honey, that was the best butter and salt I’ve ever had in my life.” No, I say, “That’s the best corn on the cob I’ve ever had in my life.” But what made it so appealing and so attractive and what made it so tasty? What made it something that drew me to it in appreciation? It was that salt that was put upon it.
That’s the way the Christian is so let your speech be seasoned, is it were, in salt. Let your life by salty. Lift up the light and then, as the Gospel transforms your life, your life transformed will affect your family, your relationships at the workplace and all of that affects the pop culture.
I am not amazed at the downward spiral of our culture as expressed in pop culture because that’s the way it always goes because of the sin nature of humanity; what amazes me is the absence of the impact of common grace from God’s people and His church in the culture and that’s there because we have not engaged in the work of redeeming grace and evangelism and discipleship with a clear Gospel message and fulfill our Gospel mission, “Go and make disciples of all the nations.”
COMING UP TOMORROW: 50 YEARS SINCE RFK’S ASSASSINATION
TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, on tomorrow’s edition of Today in Perspective, I want to talk about another event that took place 50 years ago and that was the assassination of Robert Kennedy.
DR. REEDER: Tom, it’s interesting that you brought out a date, 1968, not only the production “Hair,” but that was a pivotal moment in pop culture. It also was the year of the assassination of Martin Luther King and it was the year of the assassination of Robert Kennedy, who, himself, becomes an example of movement in his life that reflects the culture and impacted the culture. Let’s take this up, even as we are in the very days that we remember that event of his assassination 50 years ago.
Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.
This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.