When I tell people I am a Christian AND a journalist, they rarely “get” it. I have become accustomed to the few steps back, the grimace mixed with a look of surprise, and the awkward, “you aren’t recording this conversation?” question that follows. Early on in my career, I would quickly emphasize the point that I wanted to conduct myself with integrity in this profession. People would then stare at me with a disbelieving and almost pitiful look. I could sense the wheels turning in their heads, the ones that calculated I would become a part of the Hollywood machine that would inevitably;
Consume me, causing me to forsake my faith in Christ or,
Eat me up and spit me out, until I finally realized that the evil of Hollywood was far too BIG for a naïve Jesus-loving girl like me.
Thankfully in my travels, I have come across a few people who immediately jump to the often hidden third option which I like to think is:
I become a contributor to the shaping and shifting of the ‘Hollywood’ culture, joining many members of the community to reflect Christ in a broken industry.
Whether you, like me, are a person who works to create content for society or are a consumer of this content, I find that it is all too easy for us to “give up” on popular culture. Instead, we create our own way of life; it comes in ‘Christian’ music, ‘Christian’ books, ‘Christian’ movies…and I could go on. In pointing this exclusive paradigm out, I’m not saying it is bad. I frequently contribute to and read Christian publications, I have my favorite musicians on Christian music labels and I can jump up and down to the latest Hillsong album with the best of them. Yet in embracing this culture; often to protect ourselves from the valid evils of Hollywood, we neglect popular culture. What’s the problem with this? I would argue everything.
The notion of popular culture is that society shapes it. That is us. The church, made of us religious folk, is a part of popular culture because we live in a secular world. Due to this, we are mistaken if we believe God has given up Hollywood for dead, because we are a part of shaping it. No, that doesn’t mean we accept everything the media throws at us, but it does mean that we refuse to hide from it. We are called by God to be the salt and light of the earth. We need this salt and light in areas that are somewhat ‘exclusively’ Christian; it means we are able to cultivate a consumerist culture within the church that embraces wholesome and God fearing content. But we must not ignore the fact that this same light needs to be shone within popular culture.
When I started my career as a journalist, I had assumed that popular culture was devoid of Christ, that it was a forsaken stomping ground owned by the Devil. I existed to be the ‘cavalry’, a solitary light in a modern day Babylon. I think this mindset permeates the way we see our lives. It is the ‘them and us’ mentality which can excommunicate people before they have even heard the message of Christ, simply because they belong to a culture we refuse to be affiliated with.
Popular culture is more than just the lights of Hollywood, it is the way we speak; the conversation we bring up with our colleagues; it is the content we choose to watch and the choice of what news source we read. If we are the shapers of our culture and we matter to God, then popular culture has to matter to God- because it involves people.
Whether you are a follower of Christ living in Beverly Hills or you live in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, you are a part of shaping and shifting popular culture. You are the hands and feet of Christ in a broken world, to show love to people who feel unlovable. As Christians, we must refuse to hide ourselves in a cocoon of ‘Church culture’ full time. Rather, these cultures should be flowing into one another; each shaping what comes out of the other. This does not mean we let the darkness of Hollywood shape the church, but rather we become humble enough to become a part of this culture in order to help refine and change it so that the world can experience Christ.
Christians need to embrace pop culture because the people that shape it matter to God. Whether you are a writer, a music maker, an accountant, a teacher or a minister- we are all a part of the culture that is informing and changing the world. Because of this, let’s not hide away from popular culture but instead choose to step into it, representing Christ in a world that he so longs to save.