How are Christians to view pop culture as expressed in the media today? Many Christians would argue for a position of separating ourselves from it because it is bad. David Dark argues that we as Christians can gain a new awareness of ourselves through pop culture icons. We can be reminded of our failures, our sins of selfishness, and the moral bankruptcy of our culture. Many people (including believers) can be left empty and longing for a peace that culture, with its innovations and seeming maturity, cannot provide.
The author provides an insightful survey and synopsis of numerous shows, songs, and cinema works of The Simpsons, Radiohead, Beck, The Matrix, and the Coen brothers. He begins his overview with a chapter devoted to Flannery O’Connor. It seems strange that O’Connor’s work is included in a book on pop culture icons. I believe her writing, which began to be published over fifty years ago, will outlast much of the work that the author covers in this volume.
Dark maintains that the pop culture productions he reviews, when properly and thoughtfully viewed, can catapult us out of our realm of self-satisfaction to a more clear understanding of ourselves as sinners. Believers, in our striving after holiness, must continue to deal with various sins.
It is important to be aware of pop culture and how it finds expression. This knowledge aids us in evangelistic conversation and also reminds us of man’s moral bankruptcy. Pop culture artisans can show society’s vanity and empty search for fulfillment. Ultimately, that fulfillment comes only with the creature’s (the sinner’s) restored relationship with his Creator, God the Father. This restoration is through Christ alone.
In these pages Jesus is not presented as the propitiation for sinners, the only basis for redemption. The author does point out that Jesus by His life and execution demonstrates an authentic way of living and viewing life. Our own fallenness is so deep as to mandate an explanation of the path and purpose of Jesus’ goals: was He an example for us or a substitute for sinners? Clearly Scripture teaches that Christ was the sinner’s substitute.
The author correctly raises a concern that too many Christians do not engage culture. They isolate themselves and lose opportunities for witness. We need to be able to knowledgeably witness to friends, neighbors, and coworkers immersed in pop culture. Dark’s hours of research and his resultant synopsis give us new understanding. A final warning — I do not recommend that the reader’s time be devoted to studying every episode of The Simpsons or other pop culture. A person’s look at the subject should be balanced by continuous growth in God’s Word and His ways.
- Byron Snapp
Byron Snapp is a graduate of King College (B.A.) and Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div.). He was Associate Pastor at Calvary Reformed Presbyterian Church, Hampton, Virginia, from 1994 until his retirement in December 2014. He is a native of Marion, Virginia. He has had pastorates in Leakesville, Mississippi, and Gaffney, South Carolina. He served as Assistant Pastor in Cedar Bluff, Virginia prior to his ministry at Calvary Reformed. He has served as editor of the Presbyterian Witness and was a contributor to A Comprehensive Faith and Election Day Sermons. He is currently a member of Westminster Presbytery in the PCA. He and his wife Janey have 3 children and several grandchildren.