Monday, February 3, 2014

"The Challenge" Day 14: On dragons, families, and the power of media

Don't know what the K-LOVE Challenge is and why I'm doing it? No problem! You can start at Day 1 and learn all about it!

Sorry it's been a few days. I've known what I wanted to post on, in general, but was processing a bit. Still don't have it quite nailed down but the perfect is the enemy of the good. Or, in this case, the coherent is the enemy of the "well at least I posted something."

Last post I quoted Pete quite a bit, and he and several others posted some great follow ups on my Facebook page. Hope he doesn't mind me quoting him again:
"Family friendly" actually implies that everywhere else "there be dragons here" - patently false fear mongering.
"Family friendly" is, explicitly or implicitly, how I've heard a lot of CCM stations describe themselves. K-LOVE often has little blurbs from listeners who will say things like, "It's great to be able to listen to the radio with my kids and not have to worry about what they'll hear."

There are a bunch of things to say here, and they go in all sorts of directions, so forgive me. There's a sense in which I think Pete is spot on--that calling Christian radio "family friendly" is a way to say that anything that's outside of our little Christian box is scary and dangerous. And while Jesus certainly had some particular things to say about those who would endanger kids (something about millstones and necks and the sea, I think), Jesus also had some particular things to say about those who closed themselves off in pure religious boxes. He also had some particularly challenging things to say about families--stuff about divisions and turning against one another and hating mother and father--which, while certainly in need of a lot of interpretation, at the very least make me a bit suspicious when "Christian" and "traditional family values" are assumed to be synonymous.

On the other hand, there are a few dragons out there, aren't there? Dragons like sexual objectification, based on understandings of beauty so unrealistic and oppressive that Jennifer Lawrence has to be photo shopped in order to be magazine cover ready. Dragons like graphic violence as entertainment. Dragons like greed being worshiped. Dragons like the Hit Song of the Summer being about rape. And not in like an awareness raising way. In like a "this is the soundtrack to your rape" way.

I don't think that to try to ignore these things, or to try to create a "nice, safe" world where nothing hurts, is the best answer. But I'm not sure that uncritical consumption is the answer either (not saying that's what Pete was saying--it's just what I'm chewing on). Because I think that media and art are really, really powerful stuff, and can have real effects on us.

Case in point: Leigh and I watched 12 Years a Slave the other night. Let me first say this: every USAmerican who can stand to should watch this movie. It is incredibly made and acted and it shines light into ugly, ugly, ugly places of our collective past that continue to affect how we relate to each other today.

But when I left the theater, I felt like I needed some sort of cleansing. I felt dirty, or more accurately, I felt poisoned. Like a bitter, angry liquid had replaced my blood. That film had an impact, a real, physically felt impact on me. It took me a day or so to even be able to talk much about it.

Now, 12 Years a Slave was designed to disturb, to trouble. To lead to reflection. But what about all of the incredibly violent and objectifying stuff that we consume without reflection? Isn't it a bit naive to think that none of that can affect us? Isn't there some sense in being discerning about the types of media that we consume?

I don't think that said discernment should be confined to a sort of religious-secular divide, though I don't judge K-LOVE-listening parents who would really rather not have to explain to their kids what Bruno Mars means in the lyrics to "Gorilla."

When I was little, my dad didn't let my sister and I own a radio. In his car, we always listened to mix tapes that he would make. They had all sorts of stuff on them -- Michael Jackson, Iron Butterfly, Pink Floyd, gospel music, and for some reason Mary Chapin Carpenter. I probably owe my sort of weird, eclectic musical likes to those tapes. They certainly weren't K-LOVE. But, in my dad's unique way, they were kid safe.

There's nothing wrong with having "family friend and kid safe" radio. It's just that if that's the only form of Christian expression we let ourselves have access too (although K-LOVE never describes itself as "Christian," an interesting tidbit that will be the topic of my next post) then I think we're limiting ourselves too much.

Or, to pull from a message I gave at AU about two years ago on Psalm 102:
Scripture, and the message of the gospel, is so much fuller than that. It covers the entire range of human experience and emotion....I have trouble imagining a Christian radio station whose tagline is “Hold the stones dear, and have pity on the dust.” It’s not exactly an uplifting slogan. But in a deep way, it is a hopeful slogan, a testament to a God who does not leave us even when we feel we have left God, even when we feel that there is nothing left.
Now playing on "God's Great Dance Floor" by Chris Tomlin's Perfect Hair

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