Friday, January 15, 2016

Why Writing About Culture Is Important


Whenever I write about the worldview of a cultural icon or a cultural artifact, I brace myself. The ensuing comment streams and Facebook conversations almost always devolve into debates over whether such cultural analysis should happen in the first place.

Many Christians think of cultural artifacts (such as a pop song) in categories of “good” or “bad.” Naturally, some readers assume that my choice to comment on a song or interact with its spiritual dimensions serves as an implicit endorsement. Or they think that comparing or contrasting something as banal as a pop culture phenomenon with the good news of Christianity cheapens the gospel.

On the other side are readers who assume that my critique of a song means I think it is “bad” and should therefore be “banned.” If the song is deficient in the worldview it promotes, it is “dangerous.” These readers then assume that the blog post is an overreaction, a futile exercise in “overanalyzing.” They jump to the artist’s defense.

What both sides have in common is that they miss the point of cultural commentary. Examining a cultural artifact is not a statement on the spiritual state of an artist; neither is it a blanket endorsement or condemnation of a product.

Instead, cultural commentaries are an exercise in cultural literacy, what Kevin Vanhoozer describes as “discerning the meaning of cultural texts and trends in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”


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