The advertisement in the airline flight magazine shows a smug CEO who boasts, "I 'read' 15 books on my flight from New York to L.A!" Thanks to a book-synopsis service, the busy executive can get the gist of leading bestsellers in minutes. Increasingly, magazine articles come with brief abstracts for readers in a hurry. Newspapers and even weekly news magazines have fallen victim to Mc-journalism first introduced by USA Today.
We live in an age of exploding information and expanding communications technology. Not surprisingly, we also live in an age of "information anxiety," the fear that one will become hopelessly out of touch with the postmodern juggernaut. In New York, Washington, and Los Angeles, the upwardly mobile dare not show their faces in public without a quick perusal of the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, or Variety. These publications define the "reality" of their respective professional communities.
Every pastor, teacher, parent, and mature apprentice of Jesus needs to develop a cultural radar. A system of reading and reflection helps us master the proliferation of information we encounter daily, decide what is important, and evaluate its meaning.
A meaningful cultural radar needs to be reasonable in its demands on time and money. It needs to touch on all aspects of cultural formation, specifically those that are outside of one's particular interests or professional responsibility—politics, economics, sociology, and technology must all be covered. Elite culture must be balanced with popular culture, fringe with mainstream, and traditional with futuristic.
We can each develop our own cultural radar, but over the years, I've found the following resources to be particularly fruitful sources of information ...1
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