By Megan Twietmeyer
I took a communications/media course once when I was in college. I went to a private Christian college, so the course dealt with Christians and how they should interact with media and pop culture. My professor said there were different levels of interaction with culture. I think there were five levels. Ignoring/avoiding, co-opting/copying, and redeeming culture are the three I remember. I grew up with the first and second view of popular culture. In my mind truth/goodness and secular were polar opposites. I didnt watch The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (or I wasnt supposed to anyways) or fawn over New Kids on the Block. I instead watched Superbook and Flying House and listened to Audio Adrenaline and Newsboys.
As I grew older I learned there were other artists, tv shows, and movies out there. I still remember the first secular CD I bought- I was in high school. Since then Ive struggled with listening to secular music and watching things that arent pleasing to God (whatever that means). That doesnt mean I dont listen to artists like Eminem or watch movies like The 40-Year Old Virgin. I do. I just do those things and feel guilty at the same time. What my professor said those few years ago though opened my eyes to the possibilities that God could speak through a multitude of sources.
I randomly picked up Dogville at my local library a few weeks ago. Id seen the cover before, but was never really interested in watching the film. I decided to give it a shot. Well let me tell you something this film is graphic, vile, and violent. It was one of those things you watch and are really glad your mom and/or grandmother arent in the house because theyd be horrified. A short description of the film is that there is a young woman, Grace (played by Nicole Kidman), who is fleeing mobsters. She arrives in Dogville, a small town, and is befriended by Tom (Paul Bettany).
The residents of Dogville accept Grace into their community as long as she carries her weight and does her share of duties. Grace is hiding something though and while a skilled film viewer might be able to guess the secret, the results are still fantastic and incredible. The town of Dogville and the surrounding communities can and will never be the same. When the film ended all I would say was: God thank you for being merciful cause I sure am not. (Youll understand if you watch the film.) The idea behind the concept that culture can be redeemed is that something that is shocking and awful can still be useful for learning and growing and Dogville is a great example.
Another unexpected collision of truth and media came through The Dark Knight. Talk about a dark film! There are even entertainment shows that suggest The Dark Knight is a cursed film because of all the evil it portrays. Spoiler alert: As I watched the film I became completely engrossed in the intense action sequences and somewhat cheesy dialogue. The Joker tries to show Batman just how evil the city he is trying to save is by placing explosives on two ships and the detonators for those explosives on the opposite ship. One ship is filled with innocent travelers; the other with hardened criminals. Instead of being horrified at the Jokers actions, all I tried to do was guess which character would push the trigger first and kill the people in the boat across the harbor.
Imagine my shock. I was stunned when the prisoner, saying Im doing what you should have done a long time ago, threw the detonator out the window. I wasnt expecting that. That man was a criminal after all. Why would he care about innocent peoples lives? Why would he, a man who has been doing the wrong thing, do the most courageous and decent thing? It didnt make any sense; he didnt fit into my view of who he should be. Then I remembered that Jesus and the fact that he ate with tax-collectors and prostitutes. Jesus didnt box people into a certain way of behaving just because of their past actions. He accepted them for who they were. My self-righteousness definitely took a blow after watching The Dark Knight.
Gods a big God. Its clich I know, but its true. He uses all sorts of avenues to reach out to, teach, and minister to humanity. I realize that as Christians we are called to be in the world and not of it. I also realize that just because God can speak through the unlikeliest of sources doesnt mean that I should go and get the dirtiest film out there and try and figure out what grain of truth I can glean. Still I sit back and am amazed that God was able to speak to me through films that are not Christian. I heard a pastor talk about Jesus and how he traveled all around the Sea of Galilee. The man said that honestly the traveling didnt make much sense because Jesus could have just stayed in one spot and had the sick and needy come to him; it would have saved him a lot of walking. Jesus met people where they were at and conveyed truth through ways they could grasp, such as stories and signs. I suppose I shouldnt be so surprised that he still works that way.