I feel like it’s always the Twitter account of First Lady Obama that gets my political juices flowing but oh well. On Tuesday First Lady Obama tweeted that she and Amy Pohler of the NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation” (of which I am a huge fan) will be teaming up with the Miami-Dade county Parks Department to work with local children and teach them the importance of being active. I’m sure you’re currently thinking of how cruel I must be to choose this of all topics to pick on. Cruel as it may be I felt that I had to say something!
Have you ever noticed that every four years when the presidential elections take place there are suddenly a lot of commercial on television with celebrities extolling the qualities of their preferred politician? Moreover, have you noticed how politicians during this time (and increasingly not only during this time) will frequent late night shows and sitcoms as celebrities? (See Joe Biden & Amy Poehler on Late Night with Seth Myers)
What is going on when this is happening? Why is the line between celebrity and politician being blurred more and more?
The reason is because our national culture is a “pop” culture.
Now, before we can break down why this is the cause of the celebrity/politician complex we must first understand what “pop” culture is.
The first thing to understand about “pop” culture is that it is not really a culture. Culture, in Biblical terms, is something that is communal and inter-generational. We see this clearly in the opening chapters of the Bible where God commissions Adam to essentially make a culture. “Eat”, “plow”, “fill”, etc. These are the things that God is telling Adam to do and God clearly does not want Adam to do them alone, therefore God makes a helper suitable for Adam. Furthermore, the culture God commissioned Adam to make would not just be for he and Eve. In fact the culture that God told Adam to make was so comprehensive that it would be necessary for Adam and Eve to have offspring, not only share in the culture but, to expand and complete the cultural mandate that God had commanded.
Given this very short overview, we can see that true culture is both communal and inter-generational.
Let us now look at the distinctives of “pop” culture to see how they measure up to Biblical culture. In “pop” culture we see an ever increasing focus on independence. The easiest way to see this is in the content of “pop” culture. If you listen to the radio you will constantly hear lyrics praising individuality, self-expression, and “being true to oneself”. But the content is not the only place where “pop” culture shows its true colors. Look at the modes of “pop” culture: Television, Computer, iPhone, etc. All of these devices are garnered toward further individualization. Peter Leithart wrote a wonderful blog post on the iPhone expressing how it is in a way a culture in itself created by the owner. Finally, “pop” culture is most certainly not inter-generational. In its essence “pop” culture thrives best with mass consumption and quick turnover (like fast food). One does not listen to the latest Lady Gaga album and think how they will cherish listening to this with their grandchildren.
Now that we can see the distinct sensibilities that “pop” culture praises, it should come as no surprise that our nations political and celebrity realms are continuing to mix more and more. Our nation no longer believes in legacy or inter-generational exchange (except when it comes to Social Security where coercive inter-generational exchange is used). We live for ourselves and we do not much care about a communal experience of culture unless it lies in complete unity with our own personal culture that we have constructed ever since third grade public school. Therefore, the producers of “pop” culture merely study the base desires of the populace and construct content that they will quickly gorge down.
The political realm, seeing this tactic in “pop” culture used so effectively, has adopted it and thus incorporated an approach to politics that is eerily similar to reality television where the viewers text in their votes to see who gets voted off the island or into the Democratic Primary’s.
Ultimately, it is the church’s adoption of “pop” culture that has allowed for such societal degradation. Rather than being salt (preservative) and light (alternative) as Christ commanded. We have desired the food of Egypt. Similarly to the Israelites, after settling in the land and demonstrating victory over the God’s of the Cannanites, we have decided that we would rather worship Baal ourselves than worship the one true and living God. And just like the Israelites our fate will be that of theirs: slavery. Slavery to the passions of the world which one cannot argue has already begun taking deep root in the church.
We must return to a thoroughly Biblical understanding of culture that focuses on community and legacy if we are to see the damage of false worship removed in the days of our children and grandchildren.
Food for thought.