“Could it be that this all of this op-ed commentary about pop culture serves more to fill our empty places—those places deep within us that desire to make and say and express but are completely disengaged within the context of the kind of lives most of us live as consumers, not makers. Have we all become so obsessed with commentary and critique because actually making and creating is just too damn hard?”
Wise words from one of my favorite authors:
When suspicion is the water in which we swim, then power, might, and tyranny start to look like lifeboats.
Closer to home, though, the source of mistrust might be more quotidian and bottom-up. In some ways, our distrust is the outcome of our own perceived cleverness. We’re so smart and “in the know” that we end up not trusting anyone who isn’t us. We see through everything, cultivating a knowing distance above the fray, deflating any manifestations of passion and sincerity as scams and facades. So the enlightened posture of the hipster has more social consequences than we might realize. The cause in this case is subjective: a corrosive individualism swells our self-interest, with ripple effects of suspicion. Our loneliness—”bowling alone”—is not a result of mistrust, but a cause. Where cynicism and irony are the last virtues, the web of trust is torn. It’s lonely in the cage of wink-and-nod “authenticity.”
RHE: For much of my life, being a Christian was all about believing the right things, finding the right denomination, living the right life. My faith had, in many ways, been reduced to intellectual assent to a set of propositions. It took watching that faith completely unravel in the midst of the doubts, questions, and frustrations of my young adulthood to realize that you never really arrive at “right.” “Right is not the point. What I longed for with church, and what I think a lot of people long for, is not an exclusive club of like-minded individuals, but a community of broken and beloved people, telling one another the truth and taking it all a day at a time. What I longed for was sanctuary — a place to breathe, to be myself, to wrestle with the mystery, to confess my sins and explore my doubts, to experience God rather than simply believe in God. The liturgical church, and especially the sacraments, have offered me that sanctuary, but I also believe sanctuary can be present in any number of traditions, including evangelicalism. One need not attend a church that uses sacramental language to experience the power of the sacraments — to break bread with one another, to baptize, to confess sins, to offer healing and support. But I have found that it is in those moments when we recognize God’s presence in ordinary, tangible things — bread, wine, water, words, suffering, singing, a gentle touch, a casserole on the doorstep — that we create church, we create sanctuary.
A lovely read about Easter, vocation, and “holy friends” who call us to be all that we are in Christ. Recommended.
We hope and pray for friends who can help us discern our vocation. Vocation is lived through the grace of ordinary living in family life and daily work. And vocation is lived through an extraordinary witness to the possibilities of a new country. Either way, we can lean into the possibilities for life abundant.
We will discover and rediscover our vocation as we seek to live as Easter people, bearing witness that even in our despair, God finds us, calls us by name, and invites us to tell others: “I have seen the risen Lord.”
When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.
You see, school isn’t just about education any more. It is about meeting the needs of the “whole child,” and that requires a lot of work, and adequate resources. Public educators are truly on the front lines of pressing social issues such as poverty, hunger, homelessness, broken families, depression, and mental illness (obviously this list could go on). It is not a question of whether or not that is the role of an educator — that is the reality. In fact, it makes sense for this to be a function of our schools. Educators spend countless hours with students, so they are in an ideal position to identify and help address the needs, and concerns, of their students, families, and communities. The issue is that without adequate resources, it is extremely difficult, even impossible, to adequately meet the needs of the whole child, while at the same time, ensuring they master academic standards. Both need to happen, for ALL children.
This is a great article. I’m so tired of Christians being satisfied with bad, “preachy” movies and books and music because those feel “Christian enough” while truly Christian, challenging art shoots over the head of the average person.
It’s a childish view of the work of the artist, grounded in our Protestant failure to value story and image as highly as we love propositional, systematic statements. And while we are certainly People of the Book, we need to realize that God is telling a single, amazing, vast, nuanced Story of Redemption, one that encompasses within itself everything from erotic poetry (the Song) to apocryphal visions.
Recognize that “Christian art” finds its Christian-ness down in the bones, not on the surface. LikeTo End All Wars is one of the most “Christian” films I’ve ever seen, but it’s rated R.
Let’s support better art.
A couple great quotes from the article – please do read the whole thing:
Any person even vaguely familiar with Evangelical subcultures will recognize the trend of copying and sanitizing whatever pop culture is doing. This trend belies a certain impulse within Evangelical Christians to separate the entire world into two categories: sheep and goats, wheat and chaff.
A good deal of contemporary Christian art is predicated on the sacred/secular divide: As Christian film critic Alissa Wilkinson noted, “Christians, and evangelicals in particular, have been really, really prolific in making pop culture products that parallel what’s going on in mainstream cultural production.”
The end result is that the Christian product seems like a knock-off, a cheap alternative.
Even if Hollywood films do contain embodied messages, they’re not always as explicitly drawn out as they are in Christian movies. That’s because, says Godawa, many Evangelical Christians, who are people of the Good Book, have come to value words over images. “They don’t know how to embody their messages in the story,” he says. “They have to hear the literal words [of the Gospel].”
As with the bifurcation between sacred and secular, so, too, do contemporary Christian artists divide form and content, believing that what a piece of art says is of infinitely more importance than how it says it. The thing communicated is more urgent than how it’s communicated.
Of course, this perspective overlooks the fact that how a thing is communicated is the thing that’s being communicated. To put it in Marshall McLuhan’s terms, “The medium is the message.” That is, when you communicate an idea through the medium of film, the aesthetic quality of the film subsumes the idea, fundamentally altering its narrative shape.