We’ve had a lot of noisy pop culture incidents in the past year. But the most important ones are often the quiet ones. I’ll explain, next on BreakPoint.
I know it’s already been over a week since the Grammy Awards, but what happened during this last week since speaks volumes, if you ask me.
I know this may be painful, but think back with me to Miley Cyrus’ performance at the VMAs, or even to last year’s Super Bowl halftime show with Beyoncé. In each incident, women were portrayed pretty blatantly as sexual objects on national television.
And each event generated a lot of cultural feedback—both positive and negative. Internet memes, talk shows, New York Times columns either lampooned these artists for their tasteless exhibition or celebrated them for “courageous, groundbreaking” artistry. And the noise went on for weeks.
But there’s been relative silence in the days following the Grammys. Think about it: The Grammys gave America its first same-sex wedding ceremony on national network TV. It was a big deal, but you would never have known this from the media. Sure, a few Christian voices and conservative media outlets pointed out the deceptive messages embedded in the performance. The religious accoutrements like stained-glass windows, traditional Christian vows, a choir, and Queen Latifah serving as minister—all to the tune of Macklemore’s “Same Love”—essentially declared that no matter who you’re attracted to, God approves.
But in a country where same-sex “marriage” is still not legal in more states than it is legal, there’s been hardly a peep from secular commentators about it. Why is it the case that other than the immediate tweets of praise during the show, there wasn’t much response to it outside of the Christian subculture?
The answer to that question tells us that this event—far more than Miley or Beyoncé—tells us about our culture’s condition.
C. S. Lewis wrote that the most dangerous ideas in a society aren’t the ones argued, but the ones assumed. For most of us—myself included—it’s tempting to take up arms and jump in the trenches every time a loud and headline-grabbing controversy breaks.
But if Lewis was right, it’s not the moments of intense crossfire that are the most culturally significant. They come and go. But it is those times, like the Grammy Awards, when culture doesn’t react, that really signal where we are.
Why do I say that?
The answer to that question includes decades of sitcoms, music, films, and a little book called “After the Ball.” In it, Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen prescribed twenty years in advance the media and pop-culture campaign that could, and eventually did, normalize homosexuality.
These authors, rejecting what they called the gay-right movement’s “outworn techniques,” proposed instead a campaign of “carefully calculated public relations propaganda…” These included portraying same-sex relationships as normal, healthy, even charming. And screenwriters for shows like “Will and Grace” and “Modern Family” followed, consciously or not, their blueprint. The results have been undeniable: more and more states continue to legalize same-sex marriage, and even television shows targeted at children now warmly portray gay parents.
And as recent controversies illustrate, expressing views that just a few years ago represented a majority of Americans can now come close to ending your career.
Last month, surrounded by triumphant music, bathed in the light of a religious façade, accompanied by heterosexual couples and cheered on by millions of fans, a handful of gay couples proclaimed their love is no different than anyone else’s. And the nation barely noticed, because it all seemed, well, just so normal.
And that’s the power of culture: not just to proclaim right and wrong. The real power of culture lies in what it portrays to be normal. And people in that culture become the proverbial fish, who don’t even know they’re wet.
This is why our faith must include loving God and people, not just with our hearts, but also with our minds. It’s also why, as Chuck Colson often said, politics is most often downstream from culture. And it should encourage us to choose our battles carefully. After all, we just don’t need to panic every time someone twerks.
Why the Grammys Mattered more than Miley: Loud vs. NormalThe next time we feel like reacting to the latest cultural outrage, let's choose to engage by first demonstrating love for others.
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