Like most young parents I find myself sizing up our culture with an increasingly critical eye, and like most, I find that the TV is a constant focus of concern. Violence, foul language, sexual imagery and more are indiscriminately fired buckshot into crowds of millions; crowds of wide-eyed kids seated Indian style before the barrel’s opening and soaking up every word, image and idea. Perhaps “indiscriminate” is a poor choice of words. Really the marketing behind most television programming and advertising allows producers to tailor content and packaging to a specific target audience for maximum effect. Whether the hearts and minds of my kids are specifically targeted or simply hit by stray bullets is not a moot point. It is significant and concerning, but these are tired talking points that others have articulated better before me.
There is something else, however, which worries me. The sheer volume of stories my kids consume has aroused a concern in me which I call the “main character” problem. With a few notable exceptions, the stories that are packaged for my kids tend to center around a main character. This is true regardless of whatever media is used to tell the story- TV, movies, books- they all do it. Even paintings and photographs tend to focus on a central figure or object. If the story is well crafted we feel and experience what happens to the main character as though it were happening to us. We are intended to identify throughout the story with the main character. Increasingly, Americans view life and the world through this foggy egocentric lens- we are all Truman. I shouldn’t wonder than that my kids tend to view themselves as the main characters, and this life as an unfolding drama centered on them. Mom, Dad, siblings and others all fall into the role of supporting cast or antagonist. I know that they are very young and that being egocentric is a natural stage of development, but what concerns me is the number of adults who retain these childlike traits well into adulthood. We have become a nation of main characters and I think this may be directly linked to the amount of media we consume. We are all chiefs and no Indians and the result is that no one seems willing to play the role of supporting cast in their marriages, communities, friendships or even their churches unless they stand to be noticed or appreciated for it.
Of course, to be prideful and self centered is a part of every person’s make up, but I think that this has never been so unashamedly indulged and unchecked in our culture prior to these days.
...sounds a little preachy. How do you know that, Josh?
I don’t, but I suspect it is true. I don’t want to be guilty of idealizing the past or reviling the present, but the contact I have had with the World War II generation has left me with the conviction that they, as a generation, possessed humility in greater measure than this current generation.
Ecclesiastes 7:10 says “Do not say, "Why were the former days better than these?" For you do not inquire wisely concerning this.” True, and if I may paraphrase and modify a line from President Nixon, “If I could choose any place and any time to live in I would choose the United States of America, 2009.” Sorry President Nixon, I know I butchered that. I think the current I-LOVE-ME-SOME-ME-culture allows for the message of the gospel to stand out in greater relief, and this represents tremendous possibilities. True ambassadors of Christ will not be able to hide, and will not be lost in, the crowd of a cultural Christianity that belonged to bygone days, and I think that some sincere naked contact between cultures is going to take place. Christ is equal parts attractant and repellant, and so are His people, but count it all joy! Stand tall!
I am not a main character.
I am not even supporting cast. Who can claim to be a support to the almighty? Who can add to His glory? Who does he need?
He doesn’t need me. He doesn’t need you, but we are all God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which he prepared in advance for us to do, and I delight in that fact.
In truth, we are all supported cast.