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May 2020

Part of This Nutritious Breakfast

You and I are “they.”

We are the “they” we were always warned about. The they who absorb both spiritual insights and pop minutia. The demographic who has memorized the names of the 12 tribes of Israel, as well as the six Brady children. We know the measurements of the tabernacle, and all the lyrics to We Didn’t Start the Fire. The Book of Numbers, and the numbers written on the hatch. The contents of the Ark of the Covenant, and those whose faces melted when the Nazis opened it up. We can name the seven deadly sins, as well as comment on how badly they worked out for Gwyneth Paltrow. We read our Bible daily, our entertainment blogs daily, and we know every single scripture reference that Bono ever sang.

This doesn’t mean that pop culture always has a valid place in our messaging. It simply means that, for better or worse, it’s continuing to leak in.

It’s like the commercials for sugary cereals that came on Saturday mornings when we were children. I’d stare as the psychedelic swirls of Speed Racer as he launched me into an epileptic seizure, and suddenly find myself lusting for Cocoa Puffs. And why not? They appeared delicious, they gave the cuckoo bird spaz powers, and they were part of this nutritious breakfast. It was years later that I actually realized that the photographic image the commercials used to accompany the phrase “part of this nutritious breakfast” was actually a photo of the sugary cereal sitting next to an entire nutritious breakfast. In fact, the sugary cereal was not nutritious at all. It was “part of nutritious” because everything BUT the cereal was nutritious. It was called something it actually was not because of proximity.

The pop candy we inhale is not necessarily good for us simply because we transpose it into spiritual insight. Especially when, to do so, we have to make quite a stretch. However, it has lead to some great conversation starters ABOUT spiritual and life matters. To this end, the list that follows contains pop culture spiritual and life moments from the past few weeks (courtesy of Hulu and Disney+), as Covid has allowed the Murphy family to revisit some past favorites:

  • Spider-Man 3 has taught us that the black sin gunk is hard to get off your body in your own apartment, but comes off much easier in a church. The downside: it will find another host nearby…most likely a guest.
  • As we watch through Lost with the boys, I have to keep reminding them that the castaways are not in purgatory…the VIEWER is for expecting answers to everything.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World’s End has taught us that there are two ways out of hell: 1) flip the boat at sunset, or 2) go to bed at the two-hour mark.
  • The Simpsons is teaching us that saying the Bible doesn’t have any answers gets a laugh from pastors.
  • The Office has taught us that the bed-and-breakfast in hell at which Dwight Schrute is an Assistant Manager pays him $80,000 a year.
  • High School Musical 2 taught us that films can be made for a dollar.

Many an epiphany continues to arrive via the multimedia I daily traverse, but what quarantine life has reminded me of lately is that none of the media junk food I seem to be ingesting more of lately in no way is part of the nutritious gospel message. On its own, it is the opposite of nutritious. Jesus does not need to co-opt Harry Potter as a marketing strategy.

  • So how am I staying near to Jesus during this time?
  • Are my media habits really part of a nutritious breakfast that is life-giving both to me and my family?
  • Does our extra media consumption during this time allow for us to “entertain” the ideas presented, and discuss them in light of the gospel?

When this is all said and done, I just don’t want us to become the “they” we were warned about: those so immersed in culture that the message of Jesus has become secondary.

There is a first and foremost that has transformed you and me: the radical truth of Jesus Christ. Yes, there are many symbols and analogies that will allow us to translate that truth for the imaginations of the crowd and our families, but we can never forget that the message is what changes lives.

The media? That’s just part of this nutritious breakfast.


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