This summer Hollywood released Batman Forever—and spurred the latest wave of Bat-mania. But the film hadn't even hit the theaters before millions of dollars in Batman merchandising—toys, T-shirts, and beach towels—landed in the stores. It's a vivid example of America's mass-produced culture. Modern technology has made popular culture all-pervasive. As Ken Myers warns in All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes, the danger is that popular culture may blunt our taste for the higher things. Think back to college days when most of us were required to read the famous anti-utopian novels: George Orwell's 1984, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Orwell was predicting what the future would be like under communism; Huxley was predicting the future in the West. Both books have proved to be disturbingly accurate. Orwell foresaw a Communist government that would ban books; Huxley foresaw a Western government that wouldn't need to ban them—because no one would read serious books any more. Orwell predicted a society deprived of information; Huxley predicted a society over-saturated by information from the electronic media—until people lost the ability to analyze what they saw and heard. Orwell feared a system that concealed the truth; Huxley feared a system where people stopped caring about truth and cared only about what made them feel good. Today, these two scenarios sound frighteningly familiar. Orwell's book describes life in a totalitarian state, most prominently the collapsed Communist regime. But Huxley's book opens a window on our own society— where the Christian message is not forcibly suppressed; instead it is swamped by triviality. How can Christians respond? How can we safeguard our distinctive message in a mass- produced society—where cartoon characters like Batman appear overnight on everything from beach towels to children's underwear? To begin with, we can just say no: Unplug the television and the boombox. But that is only the beginning. The best way to overcome banality is to demand something better—to seek out, as Paul wrote in Philippians, whatever is noble, right, pure, admirable, and to "think on these things." Paul is commanding us to discipline ourselves to reflect on excellence. And he doesn't limit that to spiritual things, either. The command applies to everything—the music we listen to, the books and magazines we read, the films we watch. We are to train ourselves to love the higher things, things that challenge our mind and deepen our character. And we need to start early. Parents who regularly use television as a baby sitter end up with teens hooked on boomboxes and MTV. But parents who read to their children, introduce them to enriching music, and play games together are planting a love for excellence. Children raised on good culture at home find it much easier to resist the peer group and popular culture when they are teens. So don't let yourself be shaped by a mass-produced culture. Resist Huxley's brave new world by thinking on what is noble, right, pure, and admirable—by nurturing, in yourselves and your families, a love for excellence.


Chuck Colson


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