Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Insane and Evil at the Goodson Rec Center

Coming out of the men's dressing room, I sat down and was looking through The New Yorker. Then I gazed at some art work on the walls. Sadly, a huge TV was on. Before I knew it, the area was full of the sounds and sights of a rape-murder scene. It was in a public area. I was shocked by the visceral evil of the scene even as I fled the area as soon as I could, disgusted, shaken--wanting to rid my consciousness of what I just heard.

This culture has lost its sensitivity, its sense of saying "No" and leaving some things alone. There is no more childhood, as Neil Postman said. Everything is out in the open. There is no reticence, no restraint. This TV scene was from a major network and played on a public screen.

Being removed from TV culture, this kind of thing stuns me. And to think of the millions who see it every day and thing nothing of it... As Isaiah said long ago, This people has forgotten how to blush.


Jonathan Erdman said...

I'll take another try.

My original comment was "So?" which was deleted because (I assume) you presumed I was being mean spirited. But that's not my point.

For the younger generation your above description is day to day reality. You can express moral indignation and awe, but in the end the question I have is this: how then shall we live? Your description does not shock me because I live within and inhabit a world you do not understand. My purpose in living in this world (rather than running from it) is to present a Redeemer to those who are interested in redemption.

So, I watch the movies, watch television, surf the internet, read widely of contemporary literature, and try to stay abreast of popular culture. I live the culture and become the culture. I don't run from the culture. You may criticize myself and others for "selling out" to the culture by becoming a part of it and not taking "the high ground" like yourself, but Christ became sin for us and inhabited the world, and he is my example.

Your post leaves me and others with nothing. That's why I ask, in all seriousness, "So?" For all of your moral indignation, you leave the next generation with no real plan for action, except to blog (i.e., use contemporary technology) about the evils of the contemporary world.

My question is a serious one of theology and praxis, and I submit it to you again in hopes that you will engage it. I do not do so in spite; I ask you in passion, but also in the spirit of grace and charity.

pgepps said...

I see a difference between the indiscriminate and debasing indifference to the public, that is, to the many and varied people found in "public," and the engagement and study which your first commenter (and I) engage in.

I also find a difference, and a welcome one, between the engagement with TV culture I enter into, through web sites which replay (licensed) episodes--allowing me to choose and consider, rather than to be passively "fed" what comes.

The "visual culture" is worthy of critique as such; the moral debasement of our public sphere is, too; but I suggest to you that the "broadcast" concept is a hidden factor in turning a person into a fraction of a generic public.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...


That's better. Read 1 John 2:15-17; Romans 12:1-2; Luke 16:15, for starters.

The danger is worldliness. We should be different and control what we take in to our souls. This does not mean being isolated from culture and outreach. I am not!

But some things wound and deaden the soul, such as wanton violence and sexual depiction.

Last night, before the episode I described, I talked to two teenager in a steam bath about philosophy, truth, and God. I don't have to watch TV to make that connection.

The Brooks said...

Dr. Groothuis,

Isn't this person relative?

I just watched a Desiring God conference video where Piper and Driscoll were interviewed on worldliness. Piper was asked why he doesn't interact with popular culture as much as Driscoll does. Piper thought that if he did he would lose his intensity and could become carnal.

I don't believe that Driscoll has lost intensity and does not appear to be carnal.

Is Driscoll's approach immoral or unwise then according to your view?

Katie said...

Perhaps mature Christians ought to submit their own habits to the Holy Spirit? Why must we label Piper right and Driscoll wrong, or vice versa.

Sounds to me like Piper knows his own limitations and thank God for it. His protection of his own soul has clearly benefited many who sit at his feet. Sounds like God is using Driscoll in powerful ways to penetrate a certain portion of popular culture. (although I know people who would definitely label him carnal according to their own standards)

And let us not forget not all the world's lost are indulging in the tv culture, I have some sinful old neighbors in need of God's Son, who wouldn't dream of watching tv, ever. I don't need to be relevant to every human on the planet, just the ones God puts in my path. Amazingly, I trust that He is able to make me able to converse with them regardless of our lifestyle differences if I am open and willing and filled with His love for them.

Have we no wisdom or help from God to discern where we may safely draw the lines of worldliness for ourselves? As Dr. G suggests, we ought to start with scriptures exhortation. If we consider it 'worldly', my guess is scripture says to beware of it. If I can't participate in full faith, I don't.

I see Dr. G's story in part being a lament that this tv episode was aired without restraint or regard to whom might see it, and this at a Community Fitness Center, where there are likely often impressionable, perhaps still sensitive youth. Studies have shown that such images can do psychological hurt.

The comment was meant to jar us to the reality around us, not to send us running from God's purposes, but to grapple with how we as lightbearers can help to restore to our community and our neighbors the ability to blush, to remember there is something good and right in some types of restraint.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

Yes, there is some (repeat: some) person-relativity. Consider the "food offered to idols" issue.

But consider Psalm 1. We should not be shaped by ungodly influences. This happens overtly (false worldviews) and covertly (through forms of culture that undermine our critical faculties, such as TV). Most of the time, popular culture simply takes time away from better things, such as reading, prayer, worship, service exercise, and so on.

See, Neil Postman, "Amusing Ourselves to Death" and Ken Myers, "All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes."

I don't know too much about Discoll, except that I hated the first three chapters of "Radical Reformission" and could read no more. He took a macho posture and wrote far more about himself than about mission. This is common for pastors with large, growing churches. They become celebrities with big egos. Maybe he has changed; that was two-three years ago.

Jim Pemberton said...

Recognizing that my children will exposed to this at some point without me present, I carefully allow certain things to enter their perception with the goal of teaching them how to handle what they see and hear with regard to their spiritual development.

We must be careful what experiences we normalize.

Brent Hall said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brent Hall said...

I'm new to this blog, which is probably why I am confused. However, I didn't understand this post to be arguing for disengaging culture (which some of the comments have suggested). Rather, the point seems to be an outcry, a lament, against the objective evil in our culture. What I am finding stunning is that some of the comments disagree with Groothuis' assement. If a Christian does decides to stay abreast of popular culture (Erdman), there should be outraged at what that Christian finds; we should HATE much of it, especially rape scenes on tv!

"Hate what is evil; cling to what is good." Romans 12:9

Brent Hall