Judging Pop Culture Consistently

Which of these three statements would trouble you the most if you heard another Christian say it?

  1. ‘I love the Beatles!’
  2. ‘I love Star Wars!’
  3. ‘I Love Vampires!’

Based on my experience in Church and being around Christians I believe that ‘3. I love vampires’ would win in a landslide.

My question is…..why?

Consider the following. Which music supergroup was responsible for promoting a romantic worldview that led people away from marriage, brought eastern mysticism into mainstream popular culture as a viable alternative to Christianity and declared themselves to be ‘Bigger than Jesus.’? That would be the Beatles.

Which series of movies became an idol  for hundreds of thousands of geeks and fanboys, promoting a mythical philosophy that is based on Zen Buddhism? Following this thousands of the movies’ worshippers declared that they had started to practice the fictional religion seen in the movies and become Jedi Knights themselves. No points for guessing Star Wars.

Now which mythology promotes the concept that demons are real and that they have a serious aversion to the cross of Christ? Which mythology’s heroes are painfully aware of their sins, are desperate for redemption and freedom from the guilt they carry? Whose heroes are painfully aware of the dark side of their nature and are struggling against it in order to live up to higher ideals than what their original nature would dictate to them? That would be vampire mythologies.

Now based on the above descriptions does it really seem right that vampire stories are routinely rejected as ‘evil’ or ‘demonic’ by Christians and that it is wrong for a Christian to watch or read them?

For the record I’m not saying that Christians can’t love the Beatles or be fanboys of Star Wars. I love lots of stuff about the Beatles and I love Star Wars (despite George Lucas’ violent attack on my childhood through episodes I-III). The above descriptions are heavily slanted but I do so to make the point that everything that is not biblical in its worldview can be subjectively interpreted.

You cannot just say I won’t watch Harry Potter or vampire films but I don’t have a problem with Star Wars or the Beatles. At least not if your reasoning is that you won’t watch them because vampires and magic is evil. So is eastern mysticism and you can find plenty of that in that in the ideas of the Beatles and in Star Wars.

Some would argue that this is a good reason to reject all of popular culture and anything that doesn’t have the tag ‘Christian’ on it. Many have done so at one time or another. A better idea is to learn to think biblically and critically so you can recognise what the narratives being expressed in popular culture are and what the deeper messages behind them may be. When we can do this then we can find the redemptive elements and glorify God in and through them. We can reject those elements that are false and lovingly point that out to others as well.

When we do so we can see that some of the lyrics of the Beatles can be expressed between a husband and wife and can be beautifully embraced while the lies of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ (I know he wasn’t with the Beatles when he wrote it) can be rejected. The foolishness of ‘the Force’ from Star Wars can be understood not to be a synonym for the Holy Spirit but more appropriately as the ‘chi’ from Eastern mysticism. We can embrace the need to fight through our identity conflicts as both Luke and Darth Vader do but we need to do so through the prism of being new creations in Christ rather than a ying to the yang mixture of good and evil.

Finally we can see the many, many, many redemptive themes that play out through vampire mythologies. As an example here are two quick ones from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The vampire Angel was at one time Angelus, one of the most feared vampires of all time. After killing a gypsy girl the girl’s family put a curse upon him that returns his soul to his demon body and he is suddenly flooded with the guilt and remorse of hundreds of years of bloodshed. It is not unlike all of us who have been given the gift of faith by the Holy Spirit and for the first time experienced the full conviction of our sins and the price that Christ ultimately paid for them. This new knowledge given to us points us towards our need for a saviour, a desire to be restored to purity but also a knowledge that we can never amend for all that we have done.

And then there is the vampire Spike, the Sid Vicious of vampires. A demon who never had a qualm about killing or moral depravity until he falls for the heroine Buffy. He tries to overcome his sinful self and love her honestly but he cannot overcome his demonic self and attempts to rape her. So hounded by the depth of his depravity he seeks out to find away to become a better man and regain his soul. For all the pain that he endures though it is only when in the shows final episode when he sacrifices himself for Buffy and her friends, knowing that she doesn’t love him but giving himself sacrificially anyway that he becomes a real hero. Even Vampires can be a type of Christ.

When deciding what to watch or read or how to counsel others always be led by your conscience but also inform your mind so that you can apply the principles of scripture using the rational mind God has given us in submission to the Holy Spirit that leads us.

**************

HBC: This is a fascinating subject, one on which Christians take differing perspectives. For a thorough discussion of this topic, we recommend the book, Living with the Underworld, by Peter Bolt.

D.A. Carson comments on Peter’s book: “In a Hollywood-constrained vision of angels and devils, of monsters and the living dead, of alternative worlds with goblins and terrors and sorcerers, we need to recognize where the true horrors lie, where contemporary fantasies embody them, and where they entirely miss the mark. Peter Bolt is a good guide because his ‘take’ is firmly grounded in a careful reading of the Bible and in an equally sensitive grasp of twenty-first century Western culture. Besides, his book, far from being terrifyingly ponderous and gray, is a pleasure to read. It might even get you to go back and look at a recent film with fresh eyes.”

Advertisements

6 responses to “Judging Pop Culture Consistently

  1. A well thought out and clearly expressed post. I am in agreement. Thanks!

  2. I very well written blog James. You pose some really good thoughts/arguments, and I am sure lay the foundation for some intriguing discussions.

    I have some thoughts… but instead of writing them here, I might write a blog post on them 🙂

  3. I disagree…… The Beatles did not lead the world away from marriage…they were simply suggesting that in order to be happy, all you need is love. And also, John’s quote about being “bigger than the beatles” was taken out of context. He was simply pointing out the fact that teenagers and kids at that time seemed more interested in the beatles than jesus and religion…..which was true.Kids weren’t reading bibles constantly…NOOO….they were listening to beatle records..watching them on tv and they were always being talked about!!! Clearly you don’t know much about the beatles…..yeah they did drugs, but they were also very caring people, who wanted help make the world a better place.
    also…have u ever even seen a star wars movie….like come on!!!!! They never even say the word zen. It’s about being at peace with yourself,,,and focusing your mind on what you want to achieve the most…which even christianity promotes.
    And as for vampires…..well, they aren’t all bad!!! In practically all things dealing with vampires there are always the good ones, and the bad ones…kinda like christians. They are good Christians and bad christians.
    In my opinion, christianity is just a another word for a capitalistic, evil, government dominated bunch of stupid people who think they are the greatest people on the world, when they are no better than satin himself.
    You guys think all other religions are wrong..as you clearly mentioned about star wars and Buddhism….welll…guess what……YOU ARE WRONG!!! seriosuly…..check out a book on evolution and charles darwin….the facts are all supported…..theres no heaven..and no hell….its mythology. yeah, there probably was a guy named Jesus……but there was probably more than one..it was a common name. He was just drunk alot….he drank alot of wine…and he was with his drinking buddies…..and they thought he was performing miracles….meanwhile no…they were all just hammered.

    look…..im sorry if im slamming your religion…but you know free speech and all…but i am right for the most part….evolution has been proven, god hasn’t been, and i am right about vampires,The Beatles and star wars….think about it….listenin to a beatles song, watch star wars and twilight. Think about it all before you go and post something thats dissing some major media contributions.
    again, im sorry…im slightly opinionated when it comes to The Beatles…i’ve dedicated my life to them…and i’ll do what I have to do…to stand up for them and defend their honour….because that is what a good person does…defend those who are being defended against…..

    • Hi Delana,

      Thanks for commenting. You packed quite a lot in there. 🙂 Let me just reiterate my point because I’m not sure you picked it up. I wasn’t saying the Beatles are evil, or that Star Wars is evil or that Vampire stories are evil. My point was there are elements of different stories that are compatible with what the Bible teaches about the world and elements that aren’t. The Beatles absolutely promoted ‘love’ but they also denied that marriage was God’s means by which a man and a woman should share romantic and physical love. Star Wars contains some elements that Christians would endorse but it also mixes in elements of Buddhism. See here (http://www.next-wave.org/may99/starwars.htm) for an interview with George Lucas about the religious elements of his story. In regards to Vampire stories – I love them too! And my point is that its ok for a Christian to say that provided that they are thinking about what messages are being communicated through the story and what elements are true according to the bible and which parts are fantasy.

      As to your comments on Christianity in general, rather than attempt to answer them all here let me simply ask you this. Do you really think a bunch of drunk buddies of Jesus who were misled or just made stuff up about Christ would have still believed everything after they had sobered up and then wrote it all down before going to their death for proclaiming that Christ was God and that he had risen from the dead? Think about your friends when they’ve been tanked. Know any of them who were willing to die the next day on account of their drunken flashbacks?

      • I believe some of my friends would actually be willing to die the next day……perhaps if they thought i died…..and in the morning i was no where to be seen….i know of atleast one person who actually really would kill themselves over that. I see your point to an extent….but not really. And the beatles really didn’t denie marriage and get married for those reasons….I mean..they all got married……because they wwere all in love, and if they get married because they are in love what is wrong with that? and i have never heard anything about how the beatles related marriage and god..soo if you have a quote or something……i’d be happy to read it.

  4. btw..I LOVE The Beatles, star wars and vampires!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s