What Happens When Christians Fear Pop Culture?

“Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in your beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you.”

Christian musician Rich Mullins said that in a 1997 concert, and it’s amazing how relevant it is today. Many Christians still are busy building little niches.

Recently, Christian polling firm the Barna Group surveyed young people who’ve abandoned Christianity and asked why they left. One of the most common reasons was their parents and other Christians had an unhealthy fear of the secular world.

Instead of having healthy caution with secular entertainment, Christians have tended to demonize it entirely.

Nathan Followill of the band Kings of Leon gave some insights into this issue. Followill and his brothers grew up in a strict Pentecostal home with no movies, no secular music, and a list of other restrictions that included “no short pants.”

Followill told Relevant magazine in 2010 that “a lot of [that upbringing] was very fear-based to get you to do something as opposed to giving you logical reasons why you should or should not do something.”

As David Kinnaman and Aly Hawkins (who authored Barna’s book about young people leaving Christianity) noted, this fear has had a highly negative impact on artists.

“Many of the church’s brightest talents,” Kinnaman and Hawkins wrote, “have been asked to confine their gifts to the service of the Christian community. As a consequence, many young creatives have headed for the hills; it’s no small coincidence that many of today’s hottest entertainers and artists left behind a churchgoing heritage.”

This fear of secular culture seems to be a problem across denominations, but evangelical Protestants have become especially good at it. Most of the disillusioned artists Kinnaman and Hawkins cited in their book — including Nathan Followill — came from evangelical Protestant backgrounds.

Christian entertainment tends to feed this fear, creating substitutes so Christians can escape all secular media, and multiple writers have commented that Christian entertainment mostly caters to evangelical Protestants.

For example, author Simon Morden noted in a 2011 speech at Greenbelt Art Festival that Christian Fiction is “driven mainly by the preferences of a certain section of Christian America… Christian fiction is essentially Conservative Protestant Evangelical American Christian fiction.”

Ideally, Christian entertainment could be one of several options for Christian artists. Christians could find it acceptable to work in secular entertainment or Christian entertainment, depending on what gifts each artist has.

Instead, evangelical Protestants often assume all artists should work in Christian entertainment. As Kinnaman and Hawkins noted, any artists who disobey this rule are usually criticized.

In some cases — such as formerly Christian artist Craig Thompson — the criticisms can be very brutal.

The darkly comic thing about this fear is it actually feeds on itself. Christian artists are pressured to work in Christian entertainment because secular entertainment is seen as dangerously non-Christian.

Consequently, Christian artists not gifted at making overtly Christian art tend to quit Christianity and become wholly secular artists — which continues the trend of secular entertainment being very non-Christian.

Christians then look at secular entertainment and find it dangerously non-Christian.

Repeat. Repeat.

(This article first published by The Odyssey on January 9, 2017).

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