CAPC’s Approach to Culture: The Whole, Glorious Truth
“Should Christians avoid popular culture or engage with it?”
That question now feels outdated, a throwback to a time when we were growing accustomed to mass media. When Christ and Pop Culture first began in 2007, popular culture seemed to many of us like a threatening aspect of the world that the church had to compartmentalize and minimize. We figured we could speak into it without any of it getting onto us. We concluded that we could create and engage culture without cooperating with it.
We can no longer convince ourselves that we are merely dabbling in popular culture. The truth is, we’ve always been a part of it.The forward march of mass media has forced us to reckon with the prominent role media now has in the world, not only in the lives of the unchurched, but in our lives as well. While before, evangelical pastors and leaders avoided speaking about their entertainment consumption (beyond the occasional Mel Gibson film), they’re now having open and public conversations about Mad Men and Breaking Bad. The number of “bands made up of Christians” versus “Christian Bands” has drastically increased. The shift is not one of practice, but of acknowledgement. We can no longer convince ourselves that we are merely dabbling in popular culture. The truth is, we’ve always been a part of it.
We are in the world. And being in the world is messy. It results in a million personal, legal, ecclesiological, and social dilemmas that have no easy, biblically prescribed answer. It requires more than pat answers and easy-to-follow rules. It requires more of our leaders, more of our thinkers, more of our churches, and more of us as individuals. None of us are exempt.
For a while now, most of us have interpreted this reality as a call to arms, a command to work harder to understand and confront cultural transgressions. We’ve armed ourselves with thoughtful, incisive critiques and practical tips for spiritual survival, and we’ve reminded one another, over and over, to always remain vigilant and sober minded. These are all good, true, and noble pursuits, but they are not the whole truth.
Christians are called to an almost paradoxical embrace of vigilance and rest. God has given us peace, and he has given us a mission. Christ has died for us so that we might live life more abundantly, and so that we might die to self. These are more than two sides of the same coin. They are divergent yet complementary mandates, and not one of us is exempt from either. The gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t meant to make us mean or exceptionally tolerant. It doesn’t exist to put us at complete ease, nor does it exist to shove our heads in the sand. The gospel gives us peace with God, and hope for the world. It makes us more aware of His grace, not less.
The world ought to consider us to be true and truthful friends, not sycophants or pietists.Pairing this reality with the doctrine of common grace means that cultural acceptance and appreciation should be just as much a discipline as cultural discernment and critique. We ought to be known for the ways we embrace and tell the truth, the ways we delight in and project beauty, the ways we support and exemplify goodness. The world ought to consider us to be true and truthful friends, not sycophants or pietists. The world will hate us, but that doesn’t mean they can’t respect us. And if we demonstrate hate or disrespect toward the world, our brothers and sisters in Christ ought to remind us of our principal calling: to love our neighbor in thought, word, and deed.
Christ and Pop Culture exists for exactly this purpose: to remind.
So often we grow complacent, lulled into a spiritual stupor by the apparent beauty of a sentimental story or a rousing action scene. Other times we adopt a needlessly militant stance toward the world, rejecting not only its work, but God’s. It’s easy to get caught up in our relationships, in our appreciation, in our critique, to the point that we forget to acknowledge goodness, righteousness, beauty, and truth. Christ and Pop Culture’s goal is to call those things to mind. We want to direct your attention to God’s graces wherever they exist and to highlight the beauty of God’s involvement and light in even the darkest places. We want to remind those who already appreciate that beauty of the dangers inherent in cultural cooperation and the many ways that beauty can be used and perverted to deceive.
We believe in this mission not because we excel at it ourselves, but because we struggle with it every day, and we believe all Christians should actively pursue the same struggle.
Seven years after its launch, Christ and Pop Culture will, Lord willing, see more changes and growth than any other year. At least that is our prayer.
Today is a first step in that new direction. With the unveiling of a new website, we’re focusing our efforts on accessibility, clarity and community. Every aspect of our new website is meant to clarify who we are as an outlet, to inspire the reader to actively interact and think through cultural realities, and to provide ways that we can spur one another on. We’ll be featuring prominently our three weekly columns, written by three of our all-star writers, Erin Newcomb, Martyn Jones, and Brad Williams. We’ll be offering up a conversational podcast every Monday, Wednesday and Friday as a model of how other Christians can be actively thinking through popular culture. We’re also spotlighting the best of CAPC in the sidebar on the right, both features and comments.
Christ and Pop Culture’s purpose is to edify the Church, glorify God, and witness to the world by encouraging and modeling a biblical presence within culture. We want to be characterized by thoughtful criticism and appreciation while resisting the extremes of thoughtless condemnation and uncritical embrace. We are utterly convinced of the need for an outlet like ours.
What we are uncertain about is the audience. In the next few weeks and months, we’ll be rolling out a number of opportunities for you, our readers, to join us in this mission and support the ways in which we have chosen to help the church accomplish it. Our only prayer is that you consider supporting our work insomuch as you find it to be valuable. Our only aim going forward is to continue doing the very best we can with the resources we have, and to hopefully see those resources increase along the way.
We started Christ and Popular Culture out of a desire to help the church thoughtfully approach the kind of culture that all of us take part in. Since that time, mainstream culture has broadened significantly, making most of us “cultured” but few of us thoughtful. Christ and Pop Culture, for as long as it exists, is committed to encouraging and modeling cultural appreciation and critique with Christ’s work at the center, and Christ’s church as its patron.
I want to say I really appreciate the work you are doing. I find many of your articles helpful and hopeful. As an evangelical who is also a mainline minister, I began engaging a specific segment of pop culture in 2007 and it has grown and transformed beyond what I initially expected.
I notice you often use the term “common grace” which comes from a more reformed tradition. I’m a part of an Arminian tradition where we use the term prevenient (preparing) grace which is geared more specifically toward redemption. This means I continually must look at all of culture and find that glimmer of Christ in it, no matter how marred by sin, and draw it out so that He might be found in the strangest of places.
While our terms may be different, our goals are the same. To see a hurting and confused world meet the Risen Savior. May you find grace upon grace working in this blog and in all that you do.
Completely agree. Thanks for the kind words, Derek!
Please write shorter if you want to keep up with pop culture consumers.
K wil try 2 rite shrtr nxt tm
I totally agree. Well said. For the longest time the church has been forging ahead to get back into the mainstream culture to be an influence for the kingdom. But as you have well stated, it gets messy. There are many places the church would like to draw a black and white line to stand behind and although I believe this is needed, it can not be done in the same way it was done in the old church. I believe we have to use a bit more emotional intelligence when engaging with others in today’s culture. We don’t have to compromise but we do have to think about our approach so that our voice remains relevant. The stakes have been raised in the business arena and as well as for any stance who wants to be taken seriously in our society today. We as a church need to get in gear and rise to the challenge. We are integrating and that is fantastic. As we learn how to maneuver our way through it I believe we can show up and be seen for His glory.
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