We live in it, work in it, experience it all around us—the culture in which we live and move and have our being, the place where God has placed us! How do we cope with it? How do we critique it? Do we need to critique it?
In his new book, Pop ologetics, Popular Culture in Christian Perspective, (P&R, $19.95, www.prpbooks.com) Ted Turnau says, "Yes, we do." For many reasons. We need to help our children understand what is good or bad about the movie they are watching, the video games they are playing, the book they are reading, music they are listening to, whatever.
We need to examine and critique popular culture for our own attitudes about it. We need to look at it from our worldview or basic beliefs, as we consider how to take part in many of the opportunities in our culture. And we need to be ready to talk with our friends and neighbors about those same opportunities and experiences. Popular culture is all around us and it "has the power to influence our beliefs," says Turnau.
Turnau, who has studied popular culture for many years and who teaches cultural and religious studies at two universities in Europe, says he wrote it not for scholars, but for "thoughtful, everyday Christians," who are interested in serious reflection. He notes that his book is "for all who are interested in considering non-Christian popular culture from a Christian perspective"; and for those who would like to be able to discuss and present "intelligent, biblical answers back to worldviews presented in popular culture."
In Part 2, Turnau critiques five different Christian worldviews that have responded to popular culture but perhaps not in the most helpful ways.
In Part 3, he offers what he hopes is a more "balanced approach" with suggestions and how-tos on how to listen, read, or watch elements of popular culture. He says that popular culture "threatens to press us into its God-rejecting mold," and we must resist "by engaging and wrestling with it, we must respond with a Spirit-guided Christian-critical imagination."
Turnau offers ways to practice critiquing popular culture, including five questions we might use in learning to critique some aspects of the popular culture. He suggests conversations with friends and family members as ways to discuss the good and bad in the culture and how we might respond to it. Another way is to host group discussion nights with friends. And, of course, talk with your children, and share opinions with them.
There is a huge amount of material to digest here. If you read this book, you will be thinking about it for a long time. No doubt, it will help you follow St. Peter’s advice to "always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence (NRSV)."