Enjoying Culture without Being Consumed, Part 2

Enjoying Culture without Being Consumed, Part 2 April 11, 2008

This is part two of a series. Read part one here.

Enjoying Culture without being Consumed is a delicate balancing act, and I’m not claiming to be the tight-rope walker I ought to be. But I believe that we can gain our equilibrium if we remember a few truths:

  1. Enjoying the world around us is not bad. In fact, we are told to think on things that are worthy of praise, so whenever we encounter a cultural creation that we can praise–whether made by a believer or a non-believer–we can and should praise it! This takes time and energy, but it is not wasted time and energy. The time we put into watching a good film can help us relax and be more productive at other times; it can give us insight into the world around us and therefore make us better witnesses and lovers of our neighbor; or it can simply be a pleasurable experience–a gift from God.
  2. The entertainment and culture provided by the world is generally focused on making us more attached to the material things of this world and to the idea that genuine contentment and fulfillment can be found in culture alone. This means that it asks more and more of our time. Entertainment (and our media-centric culture in general) is a jealous lover who will take any form, be anything in order to keep all of our time and money. To prevent our thoughts from wandering on to other concerns when we are away from the Internet or TV, the media gives us celebrity gossip and drama, manufactured events that give the illusion of importance. What we fundamentally must understand is that the media culture around us is constructed to tie us to the things of this world and consume our time–which makes it diametrically opposed to the urgency of the Gospel.
  3. Millions of people have serious spiritual and physical needs around us, and as their neighbors it is our duty to love them and meet their needs. Christ has told us this, Paul has told us this, and we know it to be true if we’ve ever simply interacted with the people and world around us.
  4. The duty to these people is urgent, “because the days are evil.” The need is serious and the time is short.

At this point in the article I should give you Four Steps to Being Urgent, but that would be disingenuous. Like much of the New Covenant, we are given a lot of freedom in the time we spend on entertainment and the time we spend ministering to those around us, but that freedom demands constant discernment. At different times in our lives, if we are sensitive and discerning, we will have to completely shun the culture around us simply so that we have the time to minister to those in need. At other times, we might be using the culture around us to minister to those in need. Still other times we might just enjoy and praise what is excellently made in this world, thanking God for the creative abilities He gave us.

There is no simple law we can have to guide the way we balance our time except: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” It is my hope, and prayer, that as we discuss the latest film, game, TV show, etc, that we never lose sight of the urgency that Christ has called us to, so that we never elevate the culture around us to be more valuable than it really is, while still enjoying and praising it when it is excellent.

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  • David Dunham

    Well said Alan. It is easy for me to get frustrated with many churches for not engaging the culture and being in the world in order to minister to those of it. But I must be on my guard constantly that I am not becoming of the world, that I am not losing the “urgency of the gospel.” If I do then those churches I get frustrated with have every reason to call me “liberal.”