Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Dan's thoughts before the semester starts....

This morning I was forced to go to an RA in-service. The in-service dealt with ‘pop culture’ and how it is impacting the lives of students in America. PBS’s documentary: “Merchants of Cool” broke down just how in depth that these huge companies, that control up to 90% of the media outlets, study teenagers.

I guess being a young adult I am an expert on ‘pop culture’ as these very people that are working on teenagers today have sold me on what ‘cool’ is also. It is no incident that they have so much influence on the market today, not only do then have a near monopoly but they also spend millions and billions and dollars studying and selling their pitch.

I think there were 5 ideas that I realized today that really challenge me about ‘pop culture’ they are:

1.) There are really only 5 major companies that own all of the smaller companies that dictate to me what I should think, act, wear, eat, look like, etc.
2.) It is no incident that trends move so quickly, those 5 companies are trying to push the envelope.
3.) Christians are just as influenced as everybody else.
4.) These major companies don’t care about happiness, they care about the bottom line.
5.) Cool ceases to be cool, once people realize that it is cool.

If cool is being marketed to me, which it is, MTV (and the like) is the tool. The special made a comment that I never thought of before; MTV is a 24-7 commercial. Everything is selling something to me: the music, the clothing, how I should look, movies, what I should think about social issues, etc.

The disturbing part about this is that the second that we think that we’re cool, and that we are on the edge we find that we’re just in the middle of the crowd and everybody has moved on beyond us further out and further in. So we go off searching for the next “cool” thing. When we find that we must go off and find cool again, and we end up in a big circle. Running around never finding what we’re looking for.

The whole precept of the piece was to show that while this culture is what I know, it is nothing more than a grand scheme to make me think about my self in a certain way, and then buy accordingly. While that may not be a fun thought it is probably the truth. The executives don’t care about me being happy, as long as I think happy is what they’re selling.

Sounds like a pretty dark view of culture. Makes it look like everything I know as less real and more fake than ever before. That who I am is worthless and nothing more than another buck in the coffers of the rich.

But it doesn’t have to look this way. I think that as Christians we must force ourselves to see the good in the world around us. ‘Pop culture’ may be flawed and have entirely incorrect presuppositions, but there is beauty in the world around us and we must look for it.

As a Christian if we put our heads in the sand and give up on the world, we're damning people that we know who are in the world to a fiery hell. We must! We must engage culture, we must show the world that there is so much more than just being cool. I believe we need to stop trying to be cool, because all we are doing is chasing our tails.

This culture will be completely different in 25 years. It will probably be different in 10 years. And I contend that it is different than when I was in High School 5 years ago. If we are continually running around trying to catch up, we’re losing track of what we should focusing on, and that is the healing power of Jesus.

I guess to sum up this little rant, culture is important and we’re always going to be trying to catch up to it, but while we are doing that we need to remember that the message of Jesus, is a message that will meet the student, meet the parent, meet your neighbor right where they are.