Snowlet Fever

"They're cute, they're brightly colored and they're flying off the shelves," declared USA Today. The newspaper was talking about the Snowlet—the owl-like creature designed to be the mascot of the Winter Olympic Games. The cuddly Snowlets have turned up around the world on everything from T-shirts and key rings to dolls and clocks. A vivid example of our mass-produced culture. Modern technology has made popular culture all-pervasive. As Ken Myers warns in his book All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes, the danger is that popular culture may blunt our taste for the higher things. Think back to college days when most of us were required to read the famous anti-utopian novels: George Orwell's 1984, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Orwell was predicting what the future would be like under communism; Huxley was predicting the future in the West. Both books have proved to be disturbingly accurate. Orwell foresaw a Communist government that would ban books; Huxley foresaw a Western government that wouldn't need to ban them because no one would read serious books anymore. Orwell predicted a society deprived of information; Huxley predicted a society over-saturated by information from the electronic media until people lost the ability to analyze what they saw and heard. Orwell feared a system that concealed the truth; Huxley feared a system where people stopped caring about truth and cared only about what made them feel good. Today these two scenarios sound frighteningly familiar. Orwell's book describes life in a totalitarian state. But Huxley's book opens a window on our own society, where the Christian message is not forcibly suppressed; it is swamped by triviality. How can we "unswamp" that message in a mass-produced society where Olympic Snowlets appear on everything from bookmarks to toddler pants? To begin with, we can just say no: Unplug the television, turn off the boombox, refuse to buy Snowlet T-shirts. But that is only the beginning. The best way to overcome banality is to demand something better—to seek out, as Paul wrote in Philippians, whatever is noble, right, pure, admirable, and to "think on these things." Paul is commanding us to discipline ourselves to reflect on excellence. And he doesn't limit that to spiritual things, either. The command applies to everything: the music we listen to, the books and magazines we read, the films we watch. We are to train our tastes to love the higher things, things that challenge our mind and deepen our character. And we need to start early. Parents who regularly use television as a baby-sitter end up with teens hooked on boomboxes and MTV. But parents who read to their children, introduce them to classical music, and play games together are planting a love for good things and for excellence. Children raised on good culture at home find it much easier to resist the peer group and popular culture when they are teens. So don't let yourself be shaped by a mass-produced culture. Resist Huxley's brave new world by thinking on what is noble, right, pure, and admirable—by nurturing, in yourselves and your families, a love for good things—for excellence.


Chuck Colson


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