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What Is Hip?

Let's not kid ourselves that salvation depends on the ability to discuss Austin Powers movies

Many Christians who love popular culture remember bleak decades in which attending a movie was the very definition of worldly compromise. Times have changed radically, and not entirely for the better. If many of our fundamentalist brothers and sisters once shielded their faith by ignoring popular culture, many evangelicals today opt for comfortably numb consumerism.

When we do engage the culture, we tend to be unimaginative. Too much of evangelical movie criticism amounts to compiling lists of offenses, indulging in unreflective subjectivity ("I liked it"), or applying Bible verses to films that make no pretense of spiritual insight. Contemporary Christian music offers evangelical alternatives to virtually every genre, including such frothy projects as boy bands.

Christians need not relive the days when piety meant spurning entire art forms. Still, an opposite danger is to assume that Christians must respond to (or imitate) every crass, morally bankrupt gimmick promoted by the entertainment industry.

To state it bluntly, millions of Christians will complete their lives in obedience to the Lord without ever exploring the existential questions posed by Phone Booth or Lockdown. Thoughtful Christian reflection on pop culture is always possible. Whether it's always necessary is another question. How many Christians truly need help in discerning whether Dude, Where's My Car? or Natural Born Killers have much to say about leading a meaningful life?

Further, we need a more developed understanding of cultural engagement. Is it not cultural engagement to volunteer in a soup kitchen, to cast an informed vote, to reclaim city blocks overtaken by prostitutes and drug-dealers? And don't these costly forms of cultural engagement make more ...

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