False Imagery

When the 2018 Met Gala photos went up, I found myself clicking through the best dressed shots. Despite not caring about fashion nor being an avid consumer of celebrity lifestyles, I was lured by headlines like ‘Rihanna is the new young pope’ and ‘Jared Leto channels Jesus’.

It wasn’t until much later that I decided to actually look into the theme and discovered it was ‘Heavenly Bodies— Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.’ Suddenly it started to make sense.

If I’m being honest, even before knowing the theme and the context, I had accepted that these celebrities had adopted religious symbolism just for the sake of it. Let’s be real—for a long time now secular culture has adopted and adapted religion. While not every example of this might be as blatant as Rihanna’s pope get-up, we can see it in an increase of shirts and necklaces having crosses etched across them. We can hear it through the songs of secular artists.

We can see it in shows that touch on the spiritual just enough to get you thinking—but not enough to cross into what real faith is.

It’s as though culture is trying to both explore and reject Christianity at the same time. Utilising just enough Christian lingo to make us think it’s safe, positive and helpful in our faith journey while actually being all smoke and mirrors.

The way that Christians and Christianity are portrayed in the media has often frustrated me. Growing up, any shows containing Christians portrayed them as geeks, nerds or religious slaves. My teenage years were spent avoiding speaking out about my faith, not wanting to be judged as judgmental or written off before I got a chance.

Now it seems society is swinging the opposite way. Having a faith has become ‘cool’. Terms previously reserved for church nerds are rapped about; secular artists are exploring issues like sin, saviours and prayer. But here’s the question: are they exploring or exploiting?

While there are many examples of secularism integrating religion and religious concepts, lately the most prominent method is through music. Artists known for their worldly lifestyles have started dropping spiritual terms into their lyrics, songs titles and even albums.

Example A: Drake’s song, God’s Plan. Featuring Drake’s classic lyrical style but boasting the name ‘God’ in the title, it has wiped over both mainstream and Christian circles.

One of the most quoted lines is: she say ‘do you love me?’, I tell her ‘only partly’, I only love my bed and my momma, I’m sorry. I’ve seen this everywhere and I’ll be the first to admit this line is catchy. However in that one line we can see the entire intent of Drake’s song. It focuses on self, not on others and definitely not on God.

Love is a core part of Christianity but it’s also very under-represented in secular media.

Coupling this line with the music video, which focuses heavily on generosity—but not on that which is unseen. Rather, Drake is at the centre of it. From this song you’d be easily forgiven for mistakenly thinking that Christianity is purely about wealth, personal well-being, self-gratification and glory. It pushes a selfish, secular message. It features God in its title, perhaps in an effort to give it more weight.

There is nothing about selflessness, humility or sacrificial love—common characteristics any Christian would claim as pinnacle to their walk with Christ.

Love is a core part of Christianity but it’s also very under-represented in secular media. Songs and music videos like this distort what real love is—ultimately giving a love a material focus. While it is important to be generous, there is no greater love than that which God has for us (check John 3:16) and as John 13:34–35 BSB says, we’re called to share His love: ‘A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.’

When we don’t have a real relationship with Jesus all we’re broadcasting is potential ideas and theories. Let’s face it—ideas and theories are a poor replacement for the hope and faith that Jesus brings.

Watered down Christianity seeps through our culture. We stand by while it’s spiked by secular concepts. What we’re left with is shadow Christian, a vapour of what Christianity actually is.

So what do we do? If this is the way society is headed, how can we actually make a difference and guarantee we’re not buying into a false take on Christianity?

BE WISE
One of the most effective things we can do is get to know God’s Word. The stronger a role God’s Word plays in our life, the easier it becomes to discern want is misleading or not of His character.

Matthew 10:16 NIV says: ‘I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.’ We need to pray for wisdom and discernment, not just as a once-off but as a daily practice.

BE AWARE
We can’t kid ourselves. Chucking a curtain over this won’t hide it and avoiding it won’t fix anything. Familiarise yourself with what’s going on, don’t live blind and just accept things for what they seem. Dig deep.

Just like the men from Issachar (see 1 Chronicles 12:32) we need to understand the times and it’s from this understanding we’ll be able to work out our next steps are.

BE RENEWED

A classic but so very important scripture is that of Romans 12:2 NIV: ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.’

Allow God to have a say in the sites you’re clicking on, the music you’re listening to and the shows you’re watching. Be prepared to give them up if He tells you to. That might sound tough and you may feel like you’re missing out but the truth is the things we focus on are the very things we end up absorbing. We need to make sure we’re giving time to the things that will build us up and help us on our journey with Christ, not hinder us.

Think about your actions, your conduct. Everything we do speaks a message but as Christians we’re not just reflecting ourselves. So isn’t it worth listening to the One we are reflecting?

About the author

Lauren Bickley

Lauren Bickley is a Radio Host and Communication student with a passion for young people. Dabbling in a few different languages and meeting as many people as she can, she believes everyone has a story and through radio, she wants to spend the rest of her life hearing them.

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