Rihanna & Christians Kowtowing to the World-System

Rihanna & Christians Kowtowing to the World-System February 14, 2023
Regarding Rihanna’s Performance During Half-Time at the Super Bowl and How Christians Are Responding to it.
She’s a beautiful woman, with a lovely smile. Her performance, however, was not so beautiful. Readers learn about the graphic details of what she did (and about the hyper-sexual lyrics) on scores of other websites. I don’t need to get into that. My goal is to make a much larger point: far beyond Rihanna, who is just one of a hundred of her type of singer these days. But (apart from musical tastes; personally, I’m not impressed), for those who think she is of little cultural or musical significance, that’s not true. According to the Wikipedia article on her:
With sales of over 250 million records worldwide, Rihanna [at age 34] s the second-best-selling female music artist of all time. She has earned 14 number-ones and 31 top-ten singles in the US and 30 top-ten entries in the UK. Her accolades include nine Grammy Awards, 13 American Music Awards (including the Icon Award), 12 Billboard Music Awards, six Guinness World Records, the NAACP’s President’s Award, and an Academy Award nomination. Time named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2012 and 2018. Forbes ranked her among the top ten highest-paid celebrities in 2012 and 2014. As of 2022, she is the wealthiest female musician, with an estimated net worth of $1.4 billion.
She has matched Pink Floyd in album sales, outsold the Rolling Stones (who have been recording now for 60 years) by 50 million albums, and surpassed U2, Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, and Bruce Springsteen by 100 million albums.
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You think a person with this influence and fame and accomplishments in her field would be one that little girls in particular would tend to look up to as a role model?
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In discussions of this event and others like it (including outrageous displays at the various awards shows), I have noticed lots of Christians (including otherwise orthodox Catholics) are trying to be “with it” and chic and oh-so-fashionable, in order to not seem old-fashioned and prudish in the eyes of their liberal / leftist / atheist / secularist friends, whose approval and respect and admiration they appear to desire so badly. It’s been a trick of the devil since time immemorial. Man-pleasers rather than God-pleasers . . .
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Somehow, oddly enough, Jesus said we would be hated and insulted (Mt 5:10-12) by all for His name’s sake (Mt 10:22; Mk 13:13; Lk 21:17), not loved and admired by the world. Yes, it’s a generality, and we don’t seek disapproval or try to be utterly unattractive and unappealing as Christians (that’s not God’s will either; we are to “become all things to all men” for the purpose of evangelism), but there was a reason that Jesus said that. The mass hatred is caused by irrational hostility towards the Truth. And it’s the reality that we face if we are wholehearted disciples.
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Note that Jesus didn’t say, “you will be hated by the world because you are an insufferable jerk and a prude,” but — explaining the whole thing — He said, rather:
John 15:18-21 (RSV) “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. [19] If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. [20] Remember the word that I said to you, ‘servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. [21] But all this they will do to you on my account, because they do not know him who sent me.
According to our Lord Jesus (Who knows all things), it’s not what we say or how we act (faults and all) that is primarily driving the hatred; it’s our following Jesus and in doing so opposing the world-system that brings their contempt down upon us. The sad thing is that fellow Christians often do it. Remember, Jesus warned about households being divided, too: “Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death” (Mt 10:21; cf. Mt 10:36).
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If we observe Christians seeking the world’s approval, while at the same time constantly and severely (and with the most ridiculous of broad-brush stereotypes) running down fellow Christians or political conservatives or pro-lifers who take a stand against immoral sexuality and public displays exhibiting that grave sin (as well as many other prevalent societal sins), then something is seriously wrong.
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If we are the recipients of hatred, disdain, or at the very least are condescendingly looked down upon by other Christians because we point out the simple fact that something is clearly inappropriately sexual for children during the biggest TV show of the year, and unfit for anyone to watch, and these people are “ashamed” of us, then so be it. We were commanded to proclaim the truth to one and all (Mk 16:15) and defend it (1 Pet 3:15; Jude 3), and not to “let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold” (Rom 12:2, Phillips version).
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Yes, this show was “not as bad” as others in the past (she actually wasn’t 3/4 naked and instead looked like a construction worker!), and one couldn’t hear the vulgar words during the (purported) “singing” (thank heavens: I read what some of them were), but of course that’s not my point or (in my opinion) the crucial point at all. Christians don’t form opinions of things based how “relatively bad” they are (classic relativism and subjectivism), but rather, how they line up with God’s revealed eternal moral standards.
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I’m not ashamed of those standards and never will be. Chipping away at them is what is destroying our civilization, and we see the rotten fruit and the tragedies every day as a result, all around us. And if any Christian is ashamed of me because I’m not willing to kowtow to the world-system and the devil’s “do whatever feels good” so-called “morality” or to the race baiters who can’t see anything but a person’s color and make absolutely everything about supposed racism, or to be the most popular and rapturously admire person at a party of atheists and leftists, then feel free to get away from me (insult if you wish), and I wish you all God’s blessings. Be sure to turn off the light on the way out.
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My friend Diane Korzeniewski made some further related comments about this topic, too, in a Facebook post (dated 2-14-23). I wrote over there: “I agree 100%. You hit upon some themes that go together nicely with what I was highlighting. All of this badly needs to be said. Let the world think what they will of us.”
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ADDENDUM
“Ame” wrote in the combox: It’s good that you are not interested in the lures of the world. I think it would be more edifying to the reader if you would teach them how to go about that humbly in every-day life instead of trashing other people like a certain parable that Jesus taught.
There’s a place for that; sure. My article was in the vein of a strongly worded “prophetic jeremiad” or a “wake-up call” which, of course, is a totally biblical and permissible thing, too. It’s (I think, justifiably) polemical in that it is a response to the all-too-common charge that conservatives and more traditional Christians [run down as “Holy Joes” or “fundamentalists”] are too judgmental and legalistic and too unnecessarily concerned about sex in entertainment, etc. That’s polemics about us which I consider to be largely false and unjust (though it would apply to some extremists). I counter-reply that the more “liberal” or so-called “tolerant” approach to such things is what is far more unbiblical and out of line with discipleship, in terms of what Jesus taught us.
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Essentially it’s a commentary on Romans 12:2, which has to do with the Christian’s relationship with the world: how do we transform the world without becoming too deeply immersed in it, and compromising our values and integrity? That’s always a very serious and complex question to be dealt with. And I am also grappling with what it means to be “hated by all” as Jesus said, and conversely, the implications of being too loved and admired by nonbelievers. It’s all quite biblical. If you describe it as “trashing” then I think you are ultimately going after Jesus and Paul, who taught us to think and act in these terms. I’m trying to follow their model.
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Photo credit: Kasio69 from Canada: Rihanna performing Diamonds World Tour at the Air Canada Centre, 19 March 2013 [Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license]

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Summary: Rihanna’s Super Bowl concert is a springboard to discuss Christians kowtowing to the world-system & desiring to be loved by all, contrary to what Jesus said.

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