Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Art: Take It, Leave It, But Don't Redeem It

Continuing our look at the relationship of the Christian to popular culture and media, I now turn to those who insist that the "missional" believer (or church) must embrace the genres of film, television, and music in order to "speak the language of the culture."

Appeal for this position is often made to I Cor. 9:19-23 where Paul claims to "become all things to all men in order to save some." Unfortunately for the "contextualists," Paul's demographic sensitivity is rather wanting, as seen in his placing all of humanity in one of two broad categories (Jew or Greek). It's kind of the equivalent of a missions conference holding a seminar called "Ministry to Non-Whites."

More damaging to the "incarnational" approach is the incarnation (the one of Christ I mean). One would think that something like, say, God becoming a human would be sufficiently accomodating without my quoting Panic! At the Disco in my sermons in order to "connect with the kids."

To our point, then, I would argue that it is a tad ironic that those who laud "authenticity" would advocate the believer's consuming pop media simply in order to build a bridge to people that wouldn't otherwise exist (anyone remember Mr. Rosso?). Just admit it: if you thought your dad was lame for saying "like, totally" to you when you were a kid, then it's a pretty safe bet that when we say "mos' def'" to ours the response is a similar rolling of the eyes. What... ever.

And finally, I often wonder why it's just white culture whose art is co-opted for missional purposes (either in its bourgeoisie, high-brow, wine-and-cheese expressions, or in its bohemian, arthouse, po-mo variety). I could be wrong, but if there are hip hop- or flamenco-inspired worship services in the PCA, I've never run across them.

Maybe Oscar Wilde was right, and "all art is useless." If art could talk, perhaps it would say, "Take me or leave me, but please don't redeem me."