First things first Before we can ask what God has to do with popculture, we have another question to ask first: What is popculture in the first place? Defining pop-culture Wikipedia defines pop-culture (or popular culture) as “the entirety of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes, images, and other phenomena that are within the mainstream of a given culture. Wikipedia is itself now part of pop-culture. The Christian’s conundrum The Christian’s conundrum If pop-culture is all of the media and ideas of a culture, how should Christians interact with it? We’re supposed to be “in the world, but not of it.” “They are not of the world just as I am not of the world” (John 17:16). The Christian’s conundrum “Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” – Romans 12:2 Think differently. The Christian’s conundrum “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:3 Thinking differently It’s nothing new. Christians have been trying to “think differently” about popculture for a long, long time. Not everyone’s a fan Tertullian (also not a fan) Alcuin (not a fan) Why are we even here? What has Ingeld to do with Christ? What has Athens to do with Jerusalem? Pop-culture: What’s God got to do with it? A lesson from St. Paul While Paul was waiting for them [Silas and Timothy] in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. A lesson from St. Paul Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.” (All the Athenians and the foreigners who live there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.) Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men 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. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.” A lesson from St. Paul “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth, and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.” “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” A lesson from St. Paul “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 man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” At that, Paul left the Council. A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others. (Acts 17:16-34) What can we learn from St. Paul? 1. What is the first thing Paul does in this story? He starts letting people know he’s a Christian. He’s not hiding that; it’s central to who he is, and people know that right off the bat. 2. What can we learn from Paul here? We need to make our faith obvious to the people around us too. That doesn’t mean preaching on the street. It just means letting people know. What can we learn from St. Paul? 3. Who does Paul talk to? The Jews and God-fearing Greeks in the synagogue, and the Athenians in the marketplace. 4. Who do we talk to when sharing Christ? Family, friends, and occasionally strangers. We let them know about our faith, and ask God to work in their hearts, so that they’ll invite us to explain our message more clearly. What can we learn from St. Paul? 5. How does St. Paul use the Athenians’ culture to share the Good News? He finds the good things in their pop-culture. He talks about his big idea in the places they talked about ideas. He speaks encouragingly about the good things in their religions. He quotes their poets. 6. How does he go beyond their pop-culture? He finds what’s good (and thus God-inspired), but then adds what they’re lacking. “Some of your poets have said, “We are God’s children.” If that’s true, then…. etc, etc. What can we learn from St. Paul? 1. Be open about your faith. 2. Build relationships with people, so that they’ll invite you to share that faith. 3. Find what’s good in the pop-culture around you to open the doors to conversations about faith. 4. Show how the Good News of Christ goes beyond what the culture offers. Back to Beowulf What Beowulf did in a story, Christ did in real life – for you and me. John Ronald Reul Tolkien JRR Tolkien What’s God (and Christianity) got do with The Hobbit? The Eucatastrophe “Eucatastrophe is a term coined by J. R. R. Tolkien which refers to the sudden turn of events at the end of a story which ensure that the protagonist does not meet some terrible, impending, and very plausible doom.” The Eucatastrophe Harry Potter Shadows of truth Not allegories, but glimpses of truth wrapped up in popculture. They give us the opportunity to talk about Jesus: the true answer to evil, the true defeater of death, the true Sacrifice who died and rose again to save us when everything seemed hopeless. Miley Cyrus And now something a bit more challenging. The Sacrifice of Isaac Genesis 22:1-19 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about. The Sacrifice of Isaac Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” The Sacrifice of Isaac “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and the wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. The Sacrifice of Isaac When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” The Sacrifice of Isaac Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD will provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” The Sacrifice of Isaac The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time, and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me. Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba. Differences? Why do you think they made changes? Are they important? Why or why not? Noah 2014 Get ready to ask the same type of questions in 2014, when Noah comes out. Go with what you like You might not be interested in medieval legends, Greek poetry, fantasy, pop-music, or biblical epics. That’s fine. Find what you do like, and go with it. I’m a big fan of Doctor Who. You might enjoy Monsters University. Or maybe you’re a country music buff. But whatever popculture you consume, think differently about it. Think Christianly about it. And share your insights with your non-Christian friends. You’ll be surprised how effective pop-culture can be as a tool to share the Gospel.