The king said to Daniel, ‘May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you!’

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Dissapearing God

I hate sounding old.

                                        I mean, I REALLY hate it,
                                                                                  but some things just need to be said.

I am becoming more convinced that we are a nation of followers, and not in a good way. 10 years ago, there were movies, songs, and TV shows that featured God prominently. Now there are next to none. God is not dead, just extinct in pop culture.

It all started for me a  couple of months ago, when a friend of mine (another pastor) called me laughing hysterically. In between laughing, he tells me that a women from his church had gone into his office professing CREED to be her new favorite band. She made him listen to three songs from the late 90s band, despite his insistence that he remembered the band clearly. For those of you who don't remember the late 90s, Creed was this intense, loud, guttural band that unabashedly sang songs about God. And they were popular. 

This song, "Higher" was a top 40 hit:
So let's go there
Let's make our escape
Come on, let's go there
Let's ask can we stay?

Can you take me Higher?
To a place where blind men see
Can you take me Higher?
To a place with golden streets

Here's the thing- music young people listen to today is mostly terrible. Music we listened to 10 years ago was mostly terrible too, but at least it had a message. Creed was mediocre at best, but at least the world was talking about God.
And they weren't the only ones. Six Pence, Lifehouse, POD, Reliant K, Switchfoot- all of these were big bands with big hits, and all started out in "christian rock."

Those songs are relegated to the "Mix" radio station,  aka the station for people who liked the music 10 years ago.

On a top 40 station, you're likely to hear this:
Today I don't feel like doing anything 
I just wanna lay in my bed  
Don't feel like picking up my phone, so leave a message at the tone 
'Cause today I swear I'm not doing anything
Not exactly inspirational. It's no wonder why churches aren't packed when there are social messages floating around in people's brains like that one. 

Before you all go quoting Mumford and Sons in the comments section, music isn't the only genre I find lacking. TV and Film are easily as agnostic. 
Here's a list of shows I watch today:  
How I Met Your Mother
Big Bang Theory
Modern Family
The New Girl
The Office
The Walking Dead
Mad Men

Not a one of these shows has a main character who actively believes in God, Christ, church, or prayer. And yet nearly all of these shows try to portray American youth culture.  

Emphasis on the word try. 

 According to the pew research poll, "Among Americans ages 18-29, one-in-four say they are not currently affiliated with any particular religion." 

When asked the question, "Do you believe in God," nearly 96% of all Americans answered "yes". Atheists and Agnostics make up only 4% of the US Population.

Why isn't God talked about anymore? Call me an old-timer, but I remember TV shows amd Movies that regularly developed plots on faith and religious culture. Remember The Simpsons, Joan of Arcadia, Touched by an Angel and *7th Heaven? Are there any prime-time shows like this anymore? How many crime scene shows have replaced them? Cold Case, Bones, The Following, Breaking Bad, and Dexter- these are not social upgrades!

Remember films like Dogma, Keeping the Faith, Bruce Almighty, Angels in the Outfield, All Dogs go to Heaven, and Raising Helen (I remember that one because Kate Hudson falls in love with Pastor Dan)? A main-stream movie like this hasn't been made in 10 years- since The Passion of Christ. 

It's like Mel Gibson scared everyone away from the genre.

Pop culture has lied to you by telling you that religion is not important to people. By the most conservative estimates, 20% of the US population attends worship every week. But look for one in five characters on television who fit that description, and you'll be up all night. We like to say that we water down religion in pop culture to not offend people and not be controversial, but by doing so we have made our characters less interesting, less dynamic, and less relate-able to the billions of people who believe in God. TV characters are more likely to be two dimensional, blown over by whatever whim or impulse their quarter-life-crisis interrupted their trip to the mall.
What's worse- in order to make up the gap in interesting people, 
we turn our dials to Serial Killers 
because they have depth
because they believe in something.

If the goal was to not offend people's religions beliefs, consider it a failure.  I'm offended.

I never thought I would miss Creed, and I still don't, but I miss feeling like there is a place for me in popular culture. 

If you agree, slap on your WWJD bracelet and let's get people talking about God some more.       

-Rev. Daniel Pugh



  1. I couldn't tell if "laughing historically" (hysterically?) and "Those songs are regulated to" (relegated?) were intentional and I'm just not smart enough to get it, or if they're typos.

    And dude, you are a long, long way from being old. Take a few deep breaths and enjoy the fact that we are living in interesting times, exciting times, potentially dangerous times. Ye ha!

    God Bless
    See you There!

  2. Hey Thesauros,

    I made those edits. Thanks for your interest, and you're right, being old and feeling old are different. But God calls us either way.

  3. I often wish for more literal representations of God and Christianity in culture, but then I remember "The Chronicles of Narnia, "The Lord of the Rings," and even "Star Wars," and I think: how do I see Christ shining in our broken [pop] culture? And then I remember....[commencing librarian/TV/Christian nerdiness now...]

    From 2004-2010, there was a major, critically acclaimed, prime time TV show that "regularly developed plots of faith and religious culture": LOST. Granted, it was only one show, but it was peppered with religious allegories (a Messianic figure with the surname "Shephard," a pre-season photo that posed the cast in Da Vinci's "The Last Supper," multiple references to the Abrahamic traditions, et al). LOST made me think about my own beliefs, even subconsciously, and it reiterated, through different narratives, that we all desire redemption and Grace.

    So, while LOST is only one example, it's a start. Oh yeah, and Mumford and Sons. ;)

  4. Anna,

    you are always so thoughtful. Thank you for sharing. Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings are still present in our society, and both have intrinsic Christian messages. I do think that Star Wars is Messianic, and about balance, but I'm not ready to call it Christian. The guy born without a father in S.W. is Vader, not Luke.

    I was with you on Lost, especially in the early seasons. At one point they were going to build a church- and when Mr. Echo died, so did the religiosity. From then on, it felt to me "spiritual, but not religious" and the names from the Abrahamic tradition were increasingly replaced with Philosophers. You're right, though, LOST is the most religious show if the past 10 years.

  5. Why do you think there is such a massive shift away from God and church? It seems that so many things that have anything to do with Christianity are being diluted or attacked. Boy Scouts, Christmas, marriage, etc.

  6. Hi A,

    thanks for asking the question. I suppose my main point is that- while there may be a shift away from God and church- it is gradual. The "massive" shift away from God is one of the lies that Hollywood tell you.
    In general, people shift away when they don't feel like they need to believe in God. Some say they can prove there is no God, other just don't care. But the problems in our world abound. Most of the problems in our world are self-inflicted, what we in Christendom would call sin. There is enough food on the planet to feed everyone- but some still go hungry. We can save our planet from our own green house gasses- but we don't. We know how to not become obese, but we ignore the advice. It baffles me why more people don't seek communal places like churches to help solve some of these problems. People are more self interested than ever. Believing in God or the church involves humbling one's self, surrendering one's self, and that's not popular right now.
    So, as you said, we dilute christian values and symbols to make them more passive- and dare i say- boring. Hospital food is terrible because it has to be bland so as not to offend. In a world where we cannot offend religiously, we turn our TVs to serial killers in order to kick life up a notch.