Thursday, October 17, 2013

Engaging Culture

"So, they're scared that a polar bear is going to threaten their religion?"

The chorus of voices confirmed this assertion and I squirmed.  The conversation teetered on absurdity, begun with a simple discussion of a recent movie that had come out based on a book called The Golden Compass.  I don't remember exactly how we got there, but I'm quite sure Harry Potter was somehow in the mix and that the so called discussion seemed somehow hollow.  My greatest drive at that point was to prove that I wasn't an unthinking religious zombie that would prefer to burn books for their sins than to engage people within their culture.

Maybe it was because it was an early class, maybe I was a coward, but I failed to do either that day.  Worse than disengaging I attempted to gain approval by bashing other members of the body of Christ for their "overreaction" towards a children's book.  Sadly, I didn't pick up on the logical fallacies being used by our professor, sadly I did not prove to be always ready to give an answer for what I believe, sadly I caved to the people worship I've struggled with all my life, allowing emotionalism to effect my ability to speak with intelligence.

But recently, another book has come out that reminds me of this discussion, that has sparked similar debate and I don't want to be silent.  It's dangerous waters, coming out against art that is easily seen as cancerous, offensive to the holy God of the universe and detrimental to the culture, but after my failure in college silence proves to be nothing more than cowardice.

Let me clarify, to a point I believe we all ought to engage in culture, to read literature and watch movies and view art even if it makes us uncomfortable or challenges our belief system or doesn't seem "Christian" (emphasis on the quotes), but there are certain things I believe we should boycott with strong conviction...not with a self-righteous "I would never read something so depraved and how dare you" sort of attitude, but with a deep sense of humility and a strong conviction of our own propensity towards temptation.

I read Harry Potter (some of you may gasp...not sure there are too many out there anymore).

I read Twilight (my stomach curdles and the English major in me is shaking her head while face-palming).

I even read Hunger Games (the first time I've ever said the movie version is better than the the English major is really flipping out).

But I will absolutely not read Fifty Shades of Grey.

This isn't because of the bad writing (like Twilight), it isn't because I have no interest in it (like Hunger Games initially), and it sin't because it has the appearance of evil (like Harry Potter...please take this with a grain of salt, dear readers), but it's because I know myself.  Given simple public TV fodder I am easily tempted by sin and what a fool I would be to add kindling to the fire.  I haven't read it, so I can't speak from experience as to what the content is, but I've heard enough to know that I should never touch it with a ten foot pole, and I would encourage the rest of the body of Christ to do the same.

When perversion is normalized, romanticized, everyone is put in danger.

I'm not thrusting a sign into the air demanding this novel (trilogy?) to be burned, I'm not condemning others for reading it as if I'm some angel of light untouched by the aforementioned perversion, I'm simply coming from my own weakness and sin, knowing that God has called me to be holy as He is holy (Lev. 11:44) and that given the opportunity I will absolutely edge towards sin rather than flee from it.

On the flip side, we do need to engage culture when we are able.  Though we are to be set apart we are also to be in the world (1 Corinthians 9:19-23), to speak intelligently and with love to those who challenge us, but again we should never do that which will tempt us to sin.

So I have a two-fold urge to my fellow believers; don't set yourself up to be tempted, but learn how to engage the culture with wisdom and love and grace.  Thank God for His mercy in using weak and broken objects such as us!

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