Pop Culture and the Normalizing of Anti-religion

For some time, I’ve seen trends in the way pop culture turns society’s values upside down. TV has become a favorite vehicle for this process.

First comes humor or sympathetic inuendo, then regularity, and eventually a politically correct attitude and legal protection.

Take abortion for example. First came the stories of back alley abortions. In this case, legal protection came next. Then regularity, or normalcy, followed by a politically correct attitude that sneers at pro-life.

Or pornography. First “adult bookstores” and people that frequented them were joked about. Then TV programs like Cheers and Friends normalized viewing porn, and now it is considered free speech and protected by our constitution.

Go back further to divorce which once was considered something shameful. Along come shows like The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family, and we started talking about blended families as a normal part of the culture. Laws that once limited who could file for divorce soon became “no fault,” and now it is a rare occurrence even for a pastor to suggest divorce is something God hates.

We could go on to sex outside marriage or gay rights or animal rights or spanking children or any number of topics. You get the idea.

Well, the latest subject under attack is … God. Or so it would seem. A new movie is out, starring a good number of A-list actors, called The Invention of Lying. Today our paper (the Whittier Daily News) ran a review. The premise, it seems, is innocuous enough. The characters in the story world do not know about lying. Consequently everyone tells the truth, all the time (no fiction or tact—evidently, “telling the truth” means a person has to say whatever is on his mind). Until one loser writer invents lying.

At that point, however, the movie, according to the review, turns from silly to thoughtful because it begins to address The Biggest Lie—religion—exploring what that one lie can do to help or limit the human race.

Did you catch that? This is not a discussion about whether religion is a lie or not. That, apparently, is a given. We’re moving on, in other words, in the cultural upheaval process, to normalizing this belief.

Coincidentally, I saw something similar, albeit on a smaller scale, last night on a TV show called Lie to Me. Two of the “good guys” were sent to a cult to see if the leader was perpetrating tax fraud. In the process, one of the good guys makes a disparaging comment about prayer or God—I don’t remember which. The other good guy said, What’s wrong with praying when you need help? Good guy #1 says any other time people talk to someone who isn’t there, it’s called delusional. Then the show moved on.

The statement sat there unchallenged.

Seems I remember hearing that book buyers need to hear the title of a book seven times before it really starts to register. I wonder if it’s the same with “God is a lie.”

How long before our culture is adding to the “truth bucket,” alongside such fallacies as gays are cool, God is a lie and so is religion?

Published in: on October 6, 2009 at 4:07 pm  Comments (7)  
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Christianity Today Weighs In on Science Fiction

ct-lghomeThanks to an email group I’m a member of, I found an incredible article in Christianity Today entitled “Sci-Fi’s Brave New World”.

The essence of the article is that science fiction is a central component of pop culture and as such has played a much larger part in forming religious attitudes than most of us are aware. The following quote from the fine article written by James A. Herrick (Scientific Mythologies: How Science and Science Fiction Forge New Religious Beliefs , InterVarsity Press, 2008 ) gives you the essential thrust:

But we must be clear: Arguments against Christianity and in support of rival worldviews now arrive daily as embedded components of visual and written fiction. Pop-culture fiction, not academic nonfiction, is now the cutting edge of public discourse on spirituality.

The thing I like best is Dr. Herrick’s call to action. What should be the church’s response? That’s a question I think that is overdue. Interestingly, the first point in his suggestions is a diligent exercise of discernment. Regular readers here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction know that I’m doing a standing ovation with that one. 😀

Next Dr. Herrick suggests we need to give an answer—form an apologetic, if I understand his point. And finally we need to

attend more diligently to the presentation of her true myth in public settings.

His closing line says that we need to adhere to the one and only true myth (a term he uses as C.S. Lewis did), that is God’s Story.

Good, good stuff. I encourage you to read the entire article.

But my question is, What place does fiction have in the response to this infusion of errant thinking into our society through pop culture?

As you would expect, I think it should play a big part. People love stories. Why, then, don’t we Christians tell stories infused with truth? Stories that pose the science fiction questions. Or fantasies that reveal who Good is.

Stories have been forming our culture for a long, long time. It’s not good enough for Christians to be reactionary and give a Christian version of Twilight or a Christian version of the Matrix or a Christian version of Heroes. We need to be visionary. We need to write the Next Great Thing, infused with truth. That’s the apologetic that everyday people will hear. That’s the greatest response we can give.

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