As a Christian man who enjoys literature, and who lives in a culture who enjoys sports, television, games, and movies, it only made sense to pick up the study series by Christianity Today called Faith and Pop Culture. The entirety of the book is focused on how Christians are to interact with the entertainment culture of today. Too often the Christian culture performs a predictable, and almost amusing, response to this modern reality. (1) There is the shock and horror reflex. (2) Outright condemnation and boycotting of the secular entertainment arts. (3)A bunch of muttering and isolation occurs, often coupled with (4) a stint with 100% Christian-made art forms (only Christian music, radio, books, jewelry). (5) Eventual compromise as the individual(s) become desensitized and tantalized by the wider world of entertainment (that honestly often far exceeds the talents of Christians alone). It does not have to be this way. While it is true that Christians are to be in the world but not of the world, it is also true that all truth can be used to portray God’s truth, and thus the different forms of entertainment do have value. They are excellent venues of communication, and Christians should be excellent communicators because as Christ followers our lifelong employ is to communicate the love of Jesus and the truth of His salvation.
Christianity Today’s Study Series Faith and Pop Culture was made recently in 2008, and therefore still very relevant to today. It’s main focus, as the title portrays, is for a Bible Study or small group to discuss how their faith is to interact with pop culture. Every chapter contains a thought provoking article chosen from the Christianity Today magazine database. Once read there are options given for group discussion and reflection, often centered around pertinent Bible passages. Each chapter gives the group a chance to discuss the largest forms of entertainment today: movies, books, sports, television, and video games. There are also respective chapters dedicated to the value of ‘family friendly’ entertainment, Christian influence in the entertainment industry, and whether entertainment is compatible with a life of faith.
Before you delve into this study, however, I must give caution. Do not gather a group of Christian buddies together to merely glimpse through these pages and glance at the passages. Only open this book if you really mean it. The chapters will take more than one sitting each. The articles will require reading them ahead of time in order to process through them. The questions will take time to answer. The dedication will need to be high in order to truly grow from it and mold your thinking. This is partially because as Americans we come heavy laden with presuppositions and biases about entertainment. This group study is not meant to affirm and/or justify what you already believe. This group study is meant to challenge the way you think about entertainment. It is meant to be a commitment of time and effort. Please take this study, and as a group take it seriously, and be teachable. Take notes, write in the book, ask questions, be honest. I do wish the book provided more space for writing notes, but there are spaces between questions and the occasional blank page dedicated for notes.
I highly recommend this study. No Christian in Western culture lives in a bubble, therefore every American Christian will encounter the entertainment industry.
As a final aside, notice how I had to specify Christians in Western culture. The things Christians struggle with varies greatly from country to country. There are billions of people in the world who have no access, means, or even desire, to take advantage of the different forms of entertainment available. This book assumes you live in an American-like culture. As such, this book will make no sense to a Christian bedouin on the outskirts of the Arabian desert, or a Christian tribal leader in Papua New Guinea. Entertainment is a blessing and a curse for Americans, Europeans, and other countries who have it readily available. Not to say that different forms of entertainment are not available in non-Westernized cultures, nor that there is an absence of struggle there. I simply wish the study series addressed the stark contrast of quantity seen between the American entertainment industry compared to other parts of the world, and how this effects Christians worldwide. It would have made for an excellent concluding chapter.