Living the Joy of the Gospel in Our Marriages & Families

 

Every single Christian couple has an opportunity to be a culture-maker, a culture-builder, insofar as they live vibrant, joy-filled, attractive marriages and family lives.

Friday’s Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v Hodges, which legalized marriage between two people of the same sex across the country provides an opportunity for me to unpack the second facet of Cruciform’s exploration of the intersection of Christianity & culture, namely, culture-building.

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Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner and What It Means to Be Human

 

Michelangelo, The Creation of Adam, 1511-1512

 

If one of the central purposes of Cruciform is to offer a Christian perspective on (American) culture, I suppose it’s time I wade into the cultural issue of the day: Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner.

Actually, I’m not going to comment directly on Jenner himself. Instead, I want to look a bit deeper at what his attempted change in sex from man to woman and the discussion it’s generated means about how we answer this question today: what does it mean to be human?

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Communicating in an Age of Distraction

The Light Phone

 

We’ve now come to a place where what we once called “dumb phones” are heralded as a technological advance and novelty.

A few weeks back I came across this article about a new phone called “The Light Phone,” a cell phone that is lasts for an incredible 20 days on one charge. But that’s not what’s most notable about the Light Phone; what is most notable about the Light Phone is that you can do one thing and one thing only on it: have a phone conversation.

The Light Phone, in other words, is a dumb phone, and frankly, it’s even dumber than dumb phones, because you can’t even text with it! No apps, no mobile web browser, no music… just. a. phone.

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We’re Not Worthy, We’re Not Worthy!

 

 

Despite the title of this post and the image above, this is not a post about Wayne or Garth, but rather one that continues the discussion begun in last Monday’s post on Avengers: Age of Ultron.

As I mentioned in that post and in other posts on Christianity & culture, one of my goals with Cruciform is to occasionally offer examples of engaging culture by thinking deeply about the presumptions, messages and questions-posed by the music, movies and other cultural artifacts we encounter. This is what I call playing “movie critic” (as opposed to “movie maker,” i.e. cultural engagement by creating new culture).

In last week’s post I looked at some of the more subtle philosophies presented in Avengers. In this post, I’d like to look at one of the more humorous plot points in this blockbuster and its implications…

 

****(Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t seen the film and don’t like having your surprises spoiled, stop reading this post now!)****

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Cultural Case Study: Avengers: Age of Ultron

Theatrical release poster

Two things up front: first, this is going to be a messy post. Second, I’m hoping that a good discussion in the comments will enhance the post and perhaps even make the entire thing  — post and comments together — somewhat less messy.

Let’s begin.

As stated in recent posts and as implied in the subtitle of this blog (“Exploring the Intersection of Christianity and Culture”), one of my central purposes for Cruciform is to consider how we can engage culture in two ways: by evaluating the culture in which we find ourselves, and by creating new culture. Or to use a metaphor: to be a “movie critic” or a “movie maker”.

In this post I’d like to engage in the first form of cultural engagement (“movie critic”) in a more literal sense by looking at the last Marvel Studio’s blockbuster movie Avengers: Age of Ultron.

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The Taste for Beauty

 

A few weeks ago I came across a fascinating post by Fr. Dwight Longenecker entitled “Why You Need Poetry”.

Now, I have to confess: I’m not into poetry. And that’s not for lack of trying… I was exposed to it in school, and many an article like Fr. Dwight’s has prompted me to try to get into it.

But so far, no luck.

And yet, I’ll keep trying, for reasons like those spelled out by Father in his post. For I know that there’s a “muscle” in my spirit that is in danger of atrophying: it’s my aesthetic sense, my ability to delight in things, to recognize not only the truth or goodness of things, but their beauty as well, my ability to be in awe of a piece of beautiful music, of a compelling story, of… a poem.

There are all sorts of reasons why this sense is one that I cannot let atrophy any further, why it’s important that I foster my aesthetic sensibility, my taste for beauty, and in future posts I expect to detail and explain those reasons.

For for now, I’ll mention two: first, as I’ve mentioned previously, I want to be more discriminating, more critical in how I consume what our culture offers us, and to do so requires that I strengthen that taste for beauty, that I develop a more discerning palate, if you will.

And second: God delights in my delight. He delights when I am awed by beauty, whether it be the beauty of His creation or the beauty created by His creatures.

And that fact — that God delights in my delight — is itself something that I am in awe of.

Critical Cultural Consumption

One of the things I struggle with is Critical Cultural Consumption: how to “consume” things that the culture offers me (movies, music, tv, books, etc.) but in a thoughtful, intentional way (i.e. critical in the best sense) in which I take the good, true & beautiful while leaving the bad, false & ugly.

I alluded to this struggle in my last post when I referred to two of the ways that we as Christians can engage the culture: by evaluating existing culture and by creating new culture, or, to use the image I proposed at the end of the post, by being a “movie critic” or a “movie maker”. As I mentioned there, being a “movie critic” entails that “sifting” process of separating the wheat from the chaff, the good from the bad, the beautiful from the ugly, the true from the false when we engage or even simply “consume” things in our culture.

I know that leaving the bad, false & ugly is necessary… consuming everything the culture offers me without any thought or discernment is like eating without paying any attention to the nutritional value of the food.

Theatrical Poster

 

And while the monastic or Amish approach — leaving the world behind almost completely and consuming almost nothing from the wider culture whatsoever — might work for some, I think most of us are called to be what’s in the title of the previous post: in the world, but not of the world. That’s where the level — or better, manner — of engagement becomes a bit trickier to get right.

As I said, this is a balance I can struggle to get right… this will be one of the recurring Culture topics here at Cruciform. But in the meantime, I’d love to hear any thoughts that any of you might have: how do you maintain that balance in your own life?