Jesse Carey is the Interactive Media Producer for CBN.com . With a background in entertainment and pop-culture writing, he offers his insight on music, movies, TV, trends and current events from a unique perspective that examines what implications the latest news has on Christians.
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Read recent articles from Jesse Carey:
Johnny Cash's Last Words
When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned
The Business of Redeeming
Fame's Fleeting Promise
Part of a Bigger Plan
The God of Second Chances
The Soloist: Love Conquers All
Angels and Demons: A Sublime Detective Story
Kings: Can NBC Do the Bible?
The Twitter Manifestation
No Country for 'Slumdog Millionaire'
Michael Phelps and Ted Haggard: The Connection
Kurt Warner: Beyond the Field
24: Jack Bauer's Moral Dilemma
Godless Advertising Rolls On
The "Mean" Side of Jesus
John Lennon: One of Jesus' "Biggest Fans"
Vigilance Through the Fire
John Lasseter: Stories that Live Forever
Confessions of a Swing Voter
When Hollywood Attacks
A Non-Religulous Response
Unshaken Faith in Shaky Times
The Hope of the Olympics
Church Conflict: Can We Agree to Disagree
Back to School: You've Been Left Behind
Saved by a Basic Instinct
Don't Be Religulous!
Bolt's Retreat to Simple Truths
WALL*E-Mart: What Are We Teaching Kids?
House: Hollywood's R-Rated Faith
5 Favorite Inspirational Films
Movie Review: Disney's Bolt
Kirk Cameron Talks Fireproof
The War on Christmas: Sound Off!
The Secret of the Magi
Batman: This Present Darkness
The Tipping Point of Faith 2.0
The Emerging Church Explained
The Evangelical Identity Crisis
Grace for This American Life
Hollywood Heroics and Blockbuster Faith
Grand Theft Auto: Choose Your Battles
Brian Williams' Unintentional Theology
Five Books of Great Spiritual Journeys
A New Kind of American Idol
The Enlightenment of Ted Turner
The Unlikely Success of Tyler Perry
This week, I came across a really thought-provoking column by a philosophy professor and writer named Tom Morris. Morris, who has written several popular books that combine classic philosophical ideas to cultural reference points (If Aristotle Ran General Motors, Superheroes and Philosophy: Truth, Justice, and the Socratic Way), wrote the column for Huffington Post (the piece itself is pretty apolitical).
Titled, “Keeping Up With the Kierkegaardians”, the column poses the question, what would a reality show about philosophers look like? Ultimately, Morris admits “there's a good reason why there aren't any reality shows about philosophers”; that’s because, well, they’d be pretty boring. As much fun as it would be to see a room full of professors pondering life’s big questions, what American TV viewers would much rather watch (if you judge by Nielson ratings) are reality shows about gossipy housewives, ill-behaved celebrities and crazy twenty-something springbreakers.
There are no shortage of writers and thinkers who could fill hours of primetime TV with deep thoughts about the Leap of Faith and the meaning of life, but instead, our culture seems much more content with the former.
Why is this? Morris writes, “One of Søren Kiekegaard's spiritual predecessors, the seventeenth century scientist and philosopher Blaise Pascal, wrote in his personal notes, ‘How hollow and full of trash is the heart of man!’"
This reminded me of the verse in Jeremiah, that tells us “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
As Morris points out, there’s something about the human condition that draws us to trashy TV and the unpleasant behavior of others. Despite all of the alternatives in entertainment we have, we’re all—to some degree—drawn to the unsavory. The trashy. The outrageous. The sinful.
In his column, Morris doesn’t suggest abandoning reality television. Rather, he says. “So my recommendation is this: Feel free to become a bit more philosophical about the shows you watch on TV, the movies you see, the music you listen to, the things you read, and what you see in the world around you as you move through the day.”
Though I don’t think it’s necessarily beneficial (or very healthy) to fill your time with trashy reality shows, I do agree that as we experience culture, people—particularly Christians—should be more introspective and analytical with the world around them.
For Christians, understanding culture doesn’t just offer us spiritual insight (like comparing the popularity of reality shows to Jeremiah’s thoughts on sin), but also evangelistic ones.
A few months ago, I wrote an article about Paul’s interaction with the pop-culture of his day:
In the book of Acts, we read about the story of Paul visiting the city of Athens. “While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols” (Acts 17:16). Paul was eventually invited to explain the good news of Christ to the philosophers of the city. But, unlike what some Christians tend to do at times, Paul did not start by condemning the people of Athens for their practice—he actually commends them, because he saw that they were searching for truth!
“Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you” (Acts 17:22-23).
Later, Paul does ask them to repent for worshiping false gods, but he first uses what they already understand as a cultural entry point to help them understand the truth. Later, he even quotes one of their own poets to point back to God. “As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring” (Acts 17:28).
Paul saw that though many of the things that the people of Athens did were based on their own false understandings of god and life, God wanted to redeem that desire to find the greater truth. Paul realized that though idolatry was wrong, by examining why they worshipped the way they did, he could reveal to them the truth they had been looking for.
You don’t have to watch The Real Housewives or Dog the Bounty Hunter to gain a deeper understanding of cultural worldviews; but, when you do see a movie, watch a television show, read a magazine, or hear the latest top-40 song, don’t just pay attention to what it says—look at what it is saying. What's behind the trends? Understanding where people are at, can ultimately, help you communicate where they should be going.