Pop Culture: Big Mac for the Mind

hamburgerIn his book “How Now Shall We Live” Chuck Colson challenges that the first step to examining “the worldview behind pop culture” is to find “ a workable definition of pop culture.”  So combining different thoughts Colson  suggests in the chapter we might say that pop culture is: “a new culture, mass produced and standardized, light in substance and meaning,which transcends particular ethnic groups and invades all cultures.”  He states that “the call to redeem popular culture is surely one of the most difficult challenges Christians face today, because pop culture is everywhere, shaping our tastes, our language, and our values.”  Perhaps one of the greatest challenges it poses is the threat to becoming a person of substance.  As he points out in the chapter, most aspects of the Christian life require discipline and concentration.  What pop cultures offers us is easy distraction, mindless entertainment.

In the documentary “Supersize Me”, a man decided to see what the effects on his health and body would be if he ate McDonalds at every meal for months.  The film documents his daily visits to the food chain and the end results.   Aside from the obvious result of just being sick of eating fast food, he gained weight, looked gross, and felt sick and sluggish.  Anyone who watched the film would think twice about eating fast food.  Yet we daily infuse our minds with a diet which is no less healthy.  Colson refers to Marshall McLuhan’s famous adage “the message is the medium.”  What this means is that it is not only that the content of pop culture is of little substance, but so is the form in which it comes.  Pop culture is full of forms which require us to use our intellect very little.  The form is such that it is meant to be entertaining but little else.  One example is the book “Twilight.” It is an enormously popular book and netted 70 million dollars as a movie on its opening weekend.   Not bad for fluff.  A friend of mine suggested we read it.   I picked it up and read the first paragraph and then put it back down.  I said, “Forget this. Let’s read the greatest vampire novel of all time. Let’s read Dracula.”  I wanted to see if Bram Stoker could really depict evil as I have encountered it.  He did not disappoint.  The book was riveting.  Half way through the novel I had already looked up twenty vocabulary words I was not familiar with, and that’s not just because I am stupid.  The book had weight and substance.  It required me to come to it with curiosity.  It made me grapple with evil.  It engaged me in thought.  It was a long book, which required discipline to finish.   In short it was a classic.

If we want to be weighty people, people of substance, we have to look at our diet.  We have to, as Colson challenges, read things that “challenge our mind and deepen our character.”  We must strive to feed our minds and listen with our ears to things of excellence. There is no more excellent thing upon which to feed than the word of God itself. What kind of people would we be if we stopped watching t.v. And used that time to read the word of God? We would be transformed and the effects would be eternal.

Colson, Chuck. How Now Shall We Live. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999.