Friday, January 22, 2010

Media and the future of Christianity part 1

Christianity seems to be in retreat in every aspect of our culture today. In many ways, we have insulated ourselves from the world, which has lead to the creation of a Christian subculture. Many will argue that we no longer have a place in the public square and that we’ve lost our ability to communicate and dialogue with those who do not believe the same things that we do.

In light of the seeming retreat of Christianity in our culture today, we who care about our Christian faith need to consider what Christianity in America will look like over the next 40 years and how we can change the face of how our faith is perceived by the culture. But first, we must understand what has shaped Christianity in the post-modern era that we find ourselves in today.

George Barna, a well-known researcher, has been studying cultural trends as it relates to Christianity since 1984. His recent study conducted among 16 to 29 year olds shows that a new generation is emerging that is more skeptical of and resistant to Christianity than of people of the same age just a decade ago.

Barna’s new study confirms the findings of Thom S. Rainer in his book, The Bridger Generation, published in the late 1990s. Rainer studied four generations that helped to define the culture of the 20th Century. What he found is alarming. Seventy-one million people born between 1984 and 2002, roughly 1/3 of the U.S. population, labeled as Generation Y is projected to overwhelmingly reject a Biblically-based worldview. Rainer also states that only 4% of this age group will embrace a Biblical world view—one that puts Christ in the center of their lives.

Statistics show that morals and values have been on the decline for years. What has fueled the moral decline?
Our culture is facing mass problems—abortion, disunity in the body of Christ, consumerism, the decline of the family, and the teaching of evolution in American schools. One thing is for certain, whatever issue is causing the moral decline in America, it is fueled by the mass media—which includes television, movies, the internet, and news.

By the age of six, the average American child will have spent more time watching television than he or she will spend speaking to his or her parents in an entire lifetime. More than 6 hours a day are spent watching movies, television or videos. Dick Rofle, Head of the Dove Foundation (which identifies movies and videos meeting family standards) states, “When you spend that much time watching something, you have just developed new role models and a new window on life. And I think that’s the destructive value of some TV and movies…. Viewers get the wrong impression and a distorted view of what life is really like.”

Recently, the cable television industry sponsored a study that was conducted by Media Scope. In their findings, Media Scope stated that society reflects the values of film and TV.

George Barna has been quoted, “Young people’s belief system is the product of the mass media.” Barna also conducted a landmark 2004 study which offered surprising results about the connection of faith and lifestyle choices. His findings have led him to conclude that faith seems to have little or no impact on one’s lifestyle choices, including so-called born-again Christians. Could this be a direct impact of media and its influence, not only on the culture, but on Christians as well?

Most experts agree that we have entered into a post-modern and post-Christian society. What started this transition, and how can the Church have a better understanding of cultural relevancy?

To begin with, the Church needs to break out of its Christian subculture. We have Christianized everything. For example, in the late 1970s, Christian recording artists started signing with emerging Christian record companies, which launched a new era of contemporary Christian music. Subsequently, this has lead to the creation of an entirely new industry and subculture. Up to this time, recording artists who were Christians released their material on mainstream labels, such as Capital or RCA. Their music was bought by Christians and nonChristians alike. The lyrics weren’t watered down for a secular audience. The message they were presenting in their music was a Biblical view on life. Early artists who pre-dated the rise of contemporary Christian music had a significantly greater impact because they had access to a broader audience. The creation of the new contemporary Christian industry ended all of that.

Next, we need to understand the concept of cultural relevance and how we become culturally relevant to the people we are trying to reach? We need to recognize who they are, what their needs are, and how to identify with their lifestyle. We have moved from a “one dominant” culture to a “multicultural” society—from Western influence to Eastern influence, from a low-tech society to a high-tech society, from communicating primarily with words/books to communicating through images/film and from a Christian world view to a society with many world views, including Eastern religion, New Age, and secular. The Church is trying to communicate with the world in a language few understand today because the vast majority of the current generation has no point-of-reference in relating to Christian faith. LOOK FOR PART 2 ON MONDAY.

1 comment:

  1. I agree whole-heartily with your blog post. The world is changing dramatically and we have to work harder to get our young people involved and push for our communities to come together and support each other during such hard times. I'm working to promote ethics and mentorship through my Detroit market healthy living column and my art business. My work blends photography, art and inspirational words with spirituality to heal and help those going through hardship! Keep your blogs coming, we need them!
    Kathryn J. Willliams,