February is the perfect time to get serious about your new year. In January people are sad that the old year died. By February we’ve had time to work through our feelings and collect our thoughts. Now we can get down to the hard work of making this new year sparkle.
For your edification and enjoyment, I have compiled this list of pop culture resolutions. These are based on my own reflections of how to use pop culture to my benefit this year. After reviewing the list, please print, sign, date, and post a copy at all your pop culture learning stations.
1. This year I will ask myself, “Why am I excited about this?”
I like to crack jokes about the movie trailers that come on before the feature. My secret though is that more often than I care to admit I get excited about movies that probably should never have been produced and have zero artistic merit. How does this happen to me? I’m a sucker for hype, I guess. Hey! That old TV show is a movie! Hey! That SNL skit is a movie! Check it out! A gathering of cut-rate actors! Hey! Talking Animals!
Most of the time, I come to my senses before paying up but that is not always the case. For example, Adam Sandler movies are an idiot tax. I am an idiot. He had a couple of movies I laughed at when I was younger and lacked discernment and multiple times since then I have been duped by the con game in the vain hope of recapturing my youth. So ask yourself this question and if your answer is anything like mine, run away.
2. This year I will ask myself, “Does this work for me?”
When any new technology enters the public consciousness there begins a hearty debate on that technology’s worth. Some say, “avoid at all costs” while others say, “embrace with both arms.” I try to find balance but that is not always possible. I had this problem with Twitter. I was open to it, believing that Twitter’s value would lie in how I used it. That was the right idea. What I had not realized was that Twitter fed these maniacally obsessive quirks I have. I wasted a lot of time, my own and others. I had to stop and rethink what I was trying to accomplish. Twitter wasn’t working for me but after going away I came back with renewed focus. Sometimes the solution might be as simple as changing how you use the technology. Other times you may need to throw it away like your old Blockbuster membership card.
3. This year I will ask myself, “Who or what influences my thoughts?”
“Taking every thought captive” is cited enough, but how often it is practiced is another matter. Usually, the concept is applied to those ideas that seem to spring forth in one’s own mind or at least those of unknown origins. We would also do well to consider those persons or products that effect our thinking. Even when the source has proven reliable, it is better if we check the data ourselves. To take someone’s word for it is to fall short of the intellectual rigor God requires of us.
There can be a number of motivating factors for permitting undue influence. One of these is personality. There have been writers and musicians in my life who, because of my great appreciation for them, have influenced me to sympathize with (and in some cases accept) positions that otherwise I would not have. This is very dangerous for the life of the mind and spirit. This threat is posed when we let these influences in unchecked. We’ve got to put those influences under the white light and let them sweat it out a bit.
4. This year I will ask myself, “Does this compel me toward fear or trust in God?”
A born escapist, I have been taught to face facts in the name of truth. However, I have learned that the act of facing facts is not the only consideration. A person ought to weigh not only the veracity of claims presented but also the nature of the presentation. The biblical commendation to “speak the truth in love” has a reverse application. There are a number of writers and thinkers whose words, however true, do not serve my spirit. They do not help me to be more charitable, humble, or gracious. They inspire fear instead of confidence in Christ. Because of this, I have concluded they are not for me. I don’t avoid bad news but I don’t obsess over it either. News programs, books, blogs, and tweets are but tools to equip. If any of these only tear down and rile us up, we should forsake them and seek out better options.
On that last note, I’ve got to confess. I have that list of people whose broadcasts and writings I avoid but I don’t practice compassion for them. While I am within my rights to state my case against them, I never leave it at that. I enjoy hating them. I bask in their ridiculousness as if it were the sun. I carry on about how awful they are, ignoring that fact about myself. It isn’t easy to love your neighbor as yourself when you have projected them to be monsters.
Public figures are like Facebook friends who never censor themselves. Imagine the horror of all your thoughts going LIVE! Be thankful that you have a filter. Of course, you can’t dialogue with public figures. While the job of the public is to call out these persons when they do not speak intelligently, we would be wise to remember calling out and seething with hatred are not the same.
You might also try applying this principle to fictional characters. Use film and books as a means to contemplate what compassion looks like in different situations and for different people.
6. This year I will ask myself, “How does my love of pop culture reflect the heart of God?”
I faced a major moral dilemma last year. I no longer knew how to enjoy things. Fun, I understood. What I didn’t understand was what amount of time and or money was appropriate to spend on entertainment. In light of eternity, it all seems kind of a waste right? The answer seemed clear: I should never spend another dollar on a movie, a book, an mp3, or a videogame. Obvious though it seemed, there was something wrong with that. I just couldn’t figure out what.
This dilemma arrived subsequent to larger questions about my identity and purpose that I was working through then. In a popular YouTube video, Paul Washer had made statements to which I knew no good answer. If he was right, it seemed my appreciation of literature, music, and film was self-serving. If he was right, it seemed the only proper response was to deny those parts of myself and become an old-time missionary. If he was right, that was the answer for every Christian but that is not the answer for every Christian. Some of us are preachers, others of us are artists. If art is a valid career, we are not wrong then to spend some of our money toward entertainment.
Very few of us forget to do that. By our nature, we seek to be entertained. We have to discipline ourselves to pursue substance, to promote quality, and to ponder the deeper truths of life. We should use pop culture to better understand the world and its inhabitants. Knowing that God desires to rescue just as He seeks to create, we should sacrifice out of our own money to give toward global missions and humanitarian relief projects.