The following post was written by Andy McLean, editor of The Gospel Project for Students
What movies and television series currently have the attention of your students? What artists and music genres are they gravitating towards? How involved, overall, do your students tend to be in pop culture in general?
Shortly after beginning student ministry, I began to see the overall need to help students think critically (as well as theologically) about the culture around them. Sure, there are tons of schedule demands in student ministry and there’s not much allotted time towards discipleship each week, but the need to help my students graduate to becoming discerning individuals of the culture around them was a growing need in my eyes.
Part of this need stemmed from the fact that most of my students fell into either one of two categories: that of a cultural glutton, or that of a cultural anorexic. The cultural glutton is a person who consumes pop culture too passively, without any sort of discrimination whatsoever. The cultural anorexic, on the other hand, is one who withdraws from culture altogether, thinking that it is deficient, imperfect, and overall below him (I’ll address the cultural anorexic more in the next post).
For those who fall into the first camp (cultural glutton), one of the biggest dangers is that one fails to realize that an uncritical devouring of pop culture also leads to the devouring of ideas and values that eventually influence the way one thinks, reasons, and feels about the world around him.
Think about it – since everyone has a worldview and operates from their worldview, it comes as no surprise that each person’s worldview influences and shapes everything he or she does. From directing movies to writing lyrics, if a person chooses to create, that creation will be an expression of that person’s worldview.
And this is true regardless of how the worldview is packaged. Whatever the medium may be—a movie, song, television series, painting, or even architecture—each medium contains a message, and that message is directly tied to its creator’s beliefs. So whether it is the recent movie Interstellar and its humanistic overtones or the television series Walking Dead with its ethical and moral dilemmas, every artistic creation in pop culture is communicating with its viewers and challenging or confirming the beliefs and values they hold.
Thus, for our students who lean towards the scale of being cultural gluttons, we should help them realize that not only do they have a worldview they operate from, but that their worldview is influenced, whether consciously or unintentionally, by passively taking in everything that culture has to offer. We need to open their eyes to the fact that pop culture can’t be consumed merely for entertainment or atheistic appeal—even though there is often both of these elements present—but needs to be approached with a discerning heart and mind.
In the end, we want to present our students, moving on from our ministries, as maturing individuals who are grounded in the Christian worldview, capable of, as 1 Peter 3:15 says, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…”