As light relief from reading books on gender and sexuality over Christmas I turned to Dan Strange’s book – Plugged In. It’s about how Christians can and should engage with our culture, and he gives some helpful principles on how to do it.
But why bother? Well … One of the books on sexuality that I read makes the point that whether we like it or not, realise it nor not, we are encultured people. We drink from the wells of our culture; it can shape how we think and live and if we are going to protect ourselves and other Christians we need to think it through and be aware of the messages our culture sends and we receive.
So what are the messages our culture is giving? What messages lie behind the soaps and films we watch, the books we read, the sport we play and the music we listen to? And what is the Christian response to these messages?
I like superhero films and series, and was watching one last night. One of the supporting characters was being encouraged to act on her feelings, to genuinely be herself. The programme played on the emotions – it was set up to have you cheering when she put her feelings above what anyone else thought of her.
The message was pretty blunt, more a slap in the face than a creeping up on you. Be your authentic self and don’t be ashamed of it!
And when you’ve seen that, you start to realise that the same message comes through all over the place in the series. We’re all different, with different feelings and gifts and we should just let them all out! Be yourself. And if you don’t you’re just suppressing who you really are – and that’s not good. We’re all heroes when we live out who we are! (This is just one message from the series, the one I’m focusing on here.)
How do we deal with this from a Christian point of view?
- Give in and just accept it?
- Turn the television off and keep ourselves separate from anything that isn’t 100% Christian (Caveat – it may be right to turn something off if it causes you to sin: see this link that Dan highlights: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/twelve-questions-to-ask-before-you-watch-game-of-thrones )?
- Or engage with it critically?
Clearly Dan thinks the latter, and rightly so! Christians can’t separate themselves off completely, so we need to engage at the very least to protect ourselves, others, and to understand and critique the worldviews of others and point them to Jesus.
And he gives us four steps to do so based on Paul’s speech to the Areopagus in Acts 17:
“1. Entering: Stepping into the world and listening to the story: “For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship … ” (v 23)
2. Exploring: Searching for elements of grace and the idols attached to them: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: To AN UNKNOWN GOD.” (v 23)
3. Exposing: Showing up the idols as destructive frauds: “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone-an image made by human design and skill.” (v 29)
4. Evangelising: Showing off the gospel of Jesus Christ as “subversive fulfilment”: “So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship-and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.” (v 23)”
Dan expands on each of these headings, and then, if you want to see this approach unpacked, he gives four examples, drawn from essays his students have given: adult colouring books, birdwatching, zombies and the Japanese domestic toilet (yes, really).
What are your hobbies? What do you watch on television? What do you read or listen to? What messages do they send? And how could you respond to that from a Christian perspective as you enter, explore, expose and evangelise? Dan’s book will help you do that: https://www.10ofthose.com/uk/products/24811/plugged-in
Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.