Those of us in the Western world are living in a time & culture which would be easy to analyze, answer, and shape. Most of us aren’t concerned about mere existence and survival.
Yet we often choose to consume culture & let our lives be overtaken with its worries.
It’s important to be aware of the context of culture: ideas, worldviews, philosophies, morals, and the physical outworking of those things. People do not change their morals or worldview merely by single contacts with those different from their own, but rather through prolonged and consistent experiences that confirm each other over time.
That’s why media is powerful. Media is both a reflection of culture, and a catalyst. That makes it both one of the most easy and the most difficult parts of culture to analyze.
What Analysis Is
We can examine things like art on a deeper level than simply seeing whether Scripture speaks to it or not. We can ask of media: Is this good or bad art, and why? We can compare it to the nature of God and Truth. By analyzing an aspect or product of culture and its context and worldview, we can understand why Jazz is confusing, Picasso is bizzare, and villians are glorified in certain films.
To analyze art and media, I think, is simply to examine the story being told on a deeper level, being aware of the philosophies that drive it.
Reasons for Analyzing Culture
- It prevents you from mindlessly consuming and accepting whatever ideas come your way.
- It makes you more aware that every person has a worldview which comes out in all he touches — especially art.
- It allows you to understand the context of a culture, and compare it to absolutes.
- It allows you to understand the ways a particular piece of art not only reflects but influences culture, and possibly why the art can be labeled as either good or bad craftsmanship in itself .
- It lets you understand the shifting waves of culture around you compared to the foundation of Christ on which you stand.
- It gives you the ability to speak to the context of the culture, and adapt your life and methods to best answer the difficult issues of it — while not falling into the same ideaological traps (whether philisophically or artistically).
- It helps put aspects of life, particularly art, in context and helps sharpen the understanding of what is good art and how to make it.
The Un-Reasons to Analyze Culture
These are not good reasons for analyzing the art & media of a culture:
- To be contrary — to criticize anything & everything that might come out of culture or be widely accepted by it.
- As an excuse for consuming culture.
- To construct conspiracy theories.
Should We Merely Analyze?
Art can be enjoyed, as with any other aspect of culture — like food, holidays, etc.
Analysis is great for building an awareness of and ability to answer a culture, but does it contribute anything useful?
I would say that reviewing/analyzing culture is not equal to active/proactive contributions to it. Reviewing is merely reactive commenting, which is much easier to do, but makes little to no impact.
Analysis is a tool to discover and ponder ideas contained by culture & media, and the most powerful way to practically utilize it is to help us discern the direction of a society and purposefully move ahead of trends. It is useful for calling attention to danger, but that is not its primary use if we are to have a positive and definite influence.
We must shape culture, not merely react to it.
So should we listen to those who merely analyze culture, but don’t show an inclination to actually shape it?
Final Thought: A Renewed Mind
A while back, I saw Romans 12:2 in a new light.
“Do not be conformed to this world…”
After noticing a particular word choice in a German translation, I dug a little deeper. Often we think of this phrase to mean “don’t act in the same way as the sinners around you.”
The Luther translation reads: “Und stellt euch nicht dieser Welt gleich…” or, “And have not the same mind as this world…”
The Greek word here for “world” is αἰών, which carries the meaning of “age” (as in the “spirit of the age” — or zeitgeist).
Thus: instead of having the same mind & living out the ideas of the culture & age in which we live, we are to be renewed in mind by the Spirit.
This renewed mind allows us to look around at the culture and its facets, aware of its philosophies — while never being shaken or moved from the foundations of absolutes and Truth.